CEO John Legere’s take no prisoners approach to boosting T-Mobile’s market share ran into a fierce firefight in recent days with a small but fanatical faction of his own army of users — the folks who still swear by their BlackBerries — as well as with BlackBerry CEO John Chen.
Responding to what CMO Mike Sievert calls the “pretty amazing” passion of the “BlackBerry Loyal” yesterday, the contentious No. 4 mobile carrier offered an olive branch to its users even while continuing to assert “a different point of view on the matter of choice” that Chen expressed in a blog post on Tuesday titled “BlackBerry’s Response to T-Mobile’s Anti-Blackberry Campaign.”
The battle was enjoined with an email T-Mobile sent last week enticing existing customers to abandon their BlackBerries and switch to an iPhone. “The promotion did not sit well with some users, who took to Twitter and other sites to express their displeasure,” writes the Financial Post’s Matt Hartley. “Some of the complaints were directed at T-Mobile chief executive John Legere.”
“I’m hearing you loud and clear,” Legere responded on Twitter Sunday, as CrackBerry’s Kevin Michaluk reported. “Let me work with the team and get back to you.”
The product of all that effort was revealed yesterday.
“We’ve been working overtime here to find the best possible way to show BlackBerry users exactly how much we appreciate and respect your passion for and loyalty to T-Mobile and to BlackBerry,” T-Moble CMO Sievert said in his blog post before announcing the bottom line: “Starting this Friday, we’re offering $200 credit toward a new device when you trade in your current BlackBerry and upgrade to one of the latest, greatest devices.”
But wait, there’s more. For “existing T-Mobile BlackBerry customers trading-in and choosing a new BlackBerry Q10 or Z10, we're offering an ADDITIONAL $50 off.”
In between all this, BlackBerry CEO Chen posted a blog item Tuesday thanking its dwindling but ardent cadre: “By expressing your outrage directly to T-Mobile through tweets, calls and comments in the media and on blog posts, you sent a powerful message that T-Mobile could not ignore,” he wrote. “Your partnership with our brand is appreciated by all of us at BlackBerry, and draws a sharp contrast with the behavior of our longtime business partner.”
Chen also expresses outrage that the company was itself caught off guard by T-Mobile’s “clearly inappropriate and ill-conceived marketing promotion.”
“The episode has shed some light on the mobile carrier's fractured relationship with a dying brand,” writes CNN Money’s Jose Pagliery. “T-Mobile stopped stocking its shelves with BlackBerry devices last year, citing weak demand.”
“If they're not selling the old stuff, they could put more marketing dollars into more successful devices," IDC's mobile phone research manager Ramon Llamas tells Pagliery. According to IDC data, 57% of mobile phones sold last year used the Android OS, 39% were Apple iPhones; 2.5% were Windows phones and only 1.5% were BlackBerrys.
T-Mobile’s “brash” Legere “couldn't resist getting in a few final jabs, observes the Los Angeles Times’ Andrea Chang. “On Wednesday, hours before announcing the new BlackBerry offer, Legere tweeted: ‘Was going to engage John Chen on Twitter, but turns out he's not here. I'll check MySpace.’”
“A couple of hours later, he sent another tweet: “If you want to stay on #blackberry, our offer is the best out there. Feel free to call me next time, Chen! ;)”
I wouldn’t look for Chen on WhatsApp either, but he and other BlackBerry shareholders should be texting smiley faces about Facebook’s $19 billion bid for the mobile messaging application — a “staggering” offer our Gavin O’Malley reported on yesterday.
“The deal sent shares in BlackBerry up as much as 9% in trading after the bell because it put a rough valuation metric around the smartphone maker's own BlackBerry Messaging service,” writes Reuters’ Euan Rocha.
“BlackBerry Messaging, or BBM as it is more commonly known, was a pioneering mobile-messaging service, but its user base has failed to keep pace with that of WhatsApp, in part because BlackBerry had long refused to open the service to users on other platforms,” Rocha continues.
BBM was so popular in some countries that “pop stars wrote songs about it,” Will Connors reports in the Wall Street Journal’s “Digits” blog. Chen has indicated that BBM is integral to BlackBerry’s future and that he “he plans to make BBM a more enterprise-focused messaging tool, though he hasn’t provided any details about how he plans to do this.”
Details, details, details. Are they even still relevant in a world of texting and tweets?