The Playbook is being Marketed to Fail

I don’t think this iteration of the BlackBerry Playbook will do very well, and I blame RIM’s marketing team.

If you’re not sure what the Playbook is, let me explain — and thank you for proving my point. The BlackBerry Playbook is a tablet computer released last week by Research In Motion, the company behind BlackBerry phones. It’s chief competitor in the tablet space is the iPad, followed by the handful of Android tablets that are currently available.

It’s a great device. The hardware is plenty powerful, and the software is certainly good enough for a 1.0 release. It supports native apps written in several languages, and web apps that can take advantage of HTML5 and Adobe Flash.

The Playbook has a lot going for it, but the one thing it’s sorely lacking is a marketing strategy. Without this, it will fail.

People need to know you have a product before they can buy it.

I spend a lot of time on this Internet thing. I read too many blogs, I stalk people on Twitter, I waste time on Facebook. As a tech-savvy 20-something year old, you’d think I would be the target market for a sexy new tablet. But alas! Everything I know about the Playbook, I learned from friends that work at RIM. Is that how the marketing team was expecting to reach me?

What’s their plan for everyone else? Let potential customers hear about it through word of mouth — weeks or months after launch — if at all?

That doesn’t work anymore. If you’re going to compete with someone like Apple, you have to be loud about what you’re doing.

And that brings us to an even bigger problem with RIM’s silent strategy:

When you don’t make your product sound great, your customers don’t either.

iPad users don’t need to think to explain why they love their iPads. They need only recite whatever Steve Jobs and the rest of the Apple Marketing Messiahs have told them about it.

What are potential Playbook users going to say when they talk to their iOS brethren?

“It has Flash”?

Fail.

Specs don’t sell products. Potential users want to know which tablet will improve their day-to-day life, not which one has more RAM. And that’s marketing’s job.

We’ve seen this before.

If RIM isn’t convinced that a lack of marketing will kill their product, maybe Google can sway them.

Remember when Google Wave launched? It was going to replace email, and add awesome features, and be everything to everyone!

Not a single person I knew could explain what it was in one sentence. What followed was confusion, lacklustre adoption, and ultimately, termination.

I loved Google Wave. It was a fantastic product that was constantly misunderstood because there was no marketing message to support it.

And as I read article after article, I can’t shake the feeling that I know where the Playbook is headed…

This post also appears on the Macadamian blog.

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  1. I have to disagree. First reports are that the PB sold over 50,000 units on its first day and is on track to sell 500,000 in this quarter.(Not as much as iPads but way more than Xooms or Galaxys). RIM has increased factory orders 100% and 4G version will be out in June. see here: http://www.enterprisemobiletoday.com/daily_news/article.php/425788/4G-BlackBerry-PlayBook-Coming-in-June.htm
    The fact is that RIM is letting its retailers do a lot of the advertising. PBs are on the front page of the Futureshop and Best Buy flyers although we are starting to see some TV ads. Much to do was made about the small lineups at stores on opening day but then again PBs were launched in 20,000 retail stores vice a few hundred Apple stores for iPads. Preorders were also allowed for PBs but not iPads. The fact remains that if you have an iPhone you likely will get an iPad but if you have a Blackberry(and there are 50 million of us) then you will need a PB.