How RIM's Missing Marketing Came Back to Bite

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Re: Resting on one's laurels
cmophil   4/7/2012 11:34:14 AM

My guess is that they hedged all their bets on the enterprise thinking that Androids and iOs wouldn't penetrate that market. A few years ago, when I heard a rather large multi-national law firm enabled iOs support, I thought it's over for RIM.

Barbara Krafte
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Re: Innovation
Barbara Krafte   4/6/2012 6:57:27 PM

Mitch - Obviously not the minicomputer.

It's less about DEC technology and more about people and vision - its own and it's customers - present and future.

Its own: Long before there was a Google or Zappos, DEC was an entrepreneurial company that offered a culture of innovation and empowered employees - unheard of at time. Its corporate headquarters was an old wool mill, which some former employees refer to as sort of Googleplex.

It's customers: It was customer-centric at a time when most computer companies didn't have any notion of customer service.

Future customers and the future proofing of its smart employee base: The company set out to market and/or donate computers to be available on college campuses around the world. In a time where university computing equaled punch cards and big black boxes, and no such thing as a GUI, DEC gave engineering and science students an amazing new experience what they referred to as interactive computing. It was used as a recruitment tool as well as investment in future sales to new tech companies.


Mitch Wagner
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Barbara Krafte - I only learned relatively recently about IBM's innovation in appealing to business executives -- what we now call "the C-suite" -- rather than engineers. Because I grew up in the world IBM made, it never occurred to me that there would be another way to market corporate computing. 

This video is both fun and very relevant to the current discussion: The development of the first rotating-disk storage at IBM in the 1950s. The marketing angle is relevant even today, 60 years later. IBM was trying to help companies solve the problem of managing business information. 

Mitch Wagner
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Barbara Krafte
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Mitch -

Hats off to IBM. They pioneered marketing. They're one of the few companies whose place in Tom Peter's Search For Excellence is still relevant.

Forgetting their marketing roots almost lost the company, but it was also the reason for its renaissance. They are one of business' premier marketers and held up as a model, too often ignored by companies like RIM, Wang, Dec, etc.


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Re: Resting on one's laurels
Ryck   4/6/2012 11:03:30 AM

In RIM's case, the company suffered from two fatal flaws related to a changing environment:  first was the consumerization of smartphones.  As smartphones moved to having applicability and value to non-business types, the smartphone is no longer relegated to the corporate domain, so there was a large market to be tapped, and; secondly, the BYOD movement shifted the buying decision, even in a corporate setting, to individuals who make decisions on a personal, rather than a business, basis.

Barbara Krafte
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John Barnes  - good points.

Besides Palm, I agree the closest recent parallel to RIM might be Wang. Although the reasons are much more complicated, there are four fundamental underpinnings for the decline of companies like RIM, DEC, and Wang:  

1. Disregard for fundamental changes in the market

2. Solely reliant on a single innovation

3. Marketing strategy disconnected from the business strategy

4. A fundamental disregard for the customer

3. and 4. are two sides of the same coin.

In Wang's case among other things, their decline had to do with its exceptionally bad customer service and the refusal to recognize what the buyer wanted. Jim Collins (Good to Great) points to a compelling factoid behind why most companies fail in  latest book, How the Mighty Fall: "Decline, it turns out, is largely self-inflicted, and the path to recovery lies largely within a company's own hands." Companies, like RIM, would be wise to embrace it.


Mitch Wagner
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Re: Resting on one's laurels
Mitch Wagner   4/6/2012 10:26:31 AM

Good point, Barbara. RIM essentially provided one service: Mobile enterprise email. When they got a lot of competition there, they couldn't keep up. 

 A solid marketing foundation is like having money in the bank. You can always rely on it when times get tough.

Well said!

Barbara Krafte
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Hello Infiniti,

I agree with your comments with one exception. What RIM did extremely well they did when they had no competition. Any company can do well in a world where they write the rules. Once the pressure was on, they got sloppy and I think so blind sighted by Apple and Google, they became careless  (the system wide outage last fall being one example).

Without a marketing strategy except one based on a product with a single solution targeting a narrow audience, they were pretty much doomed. A solid marketing foundation is like having money in the bank. You can always rely on it when times get tough.


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Tech companies easily fall into this weakness of concentrating on the technicals with complete disregard to the enabling environment. One thing they need to remember though is that you innovate to sell. You innovate for people that are out there. Therefore you have to keep in touch with them through marketing.

Should you lose touch, someone else takes over with a perfect substitute product. By the time you re-emerge with your new genius product, you might have a problem finding someone to use it.

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