cell phones

Blackberry // Don't Believe the Hype

BlackBerry is blowing it. The long-standing mobile email champ took the early lead by focusing on product, making devices that worked and appealing to consumers' practical, rather than emotional needs. That's fine when you're the only - or the main - game in town. But like it always does, the game has changed. And BlackBerry hasn't done the work to integrate the brand - not just the product - into its customers’ lives. The one notable branding effort has been a John Mayer tour sponsorship, a clear demonstration that it doesn't understand its customers.

For the creative class, and what's more accurately described as the cultural class, BBs have been a staple in the tech arsenal, along with Apple laptops of various incarnations. Before it loses too much ground to you-know-who and the other you-know-who, RIM needs to begin a conspicuous and consistent demonstration that it values the lifestyles of the folks in which its products play such an important role.

Rebelize it:

- Collaborate with interesting visual artists to make limited-edition cases, skins, and other accessories. Then host art openings to launch those products and get them in the hands of the real influencers. Send out invites via BB Messenger or direct PIN messages so only BB owners and their +1s are hip.

- Do the same with music. Commission custom ringtones or original recordings and then host listening parties. Involve BB owners in deciding what artists to support.

- BlackBerry is about business, right? So facilitate growth in your users’ businesses with a series of networking events and conferences, then extend that community online. Do you think people are going to jump on the latest trendy phone if you’re actually helping their businesses?

There's lots more work to do, but this is a good start at building real relationships with people who care about the brand and will gladly lend their influence if approached in the right way.

Gen Art Fresh Faces of Fashion // On the Run

Peonie swimsuit, photo from Gen Art Last week I went to Gen Art's Fresh Faces of Fashion at the Peterson Automotive Museum. Love that place. You definitely feel like you’re somewhere special. We threw Scion's first LA event there back in 2002, and had a line of about 4,000 people wrapped around onto Wilshire Blvd. Fire marshal wasn't too happy, but it all worked out. There's something about free drinks among one-of-a-kind cars that just feels right.

I've always been a little skeptical of Gen Art. Not really sure why, but it sort of felt like too much hype. So I've never been. I went this time to support minha camarada, Maira Caren, who premiered her swimsuit line Peonie.

As fashion events go, this was pretty good. Just precious enough to remind you that you're somewhere stylish, but not too stuffy at all. It probably helped that I ran into some good friends.

What was not so good was BlackBerry’s sponsorship. I hate to keep picking on them, but they keep getting it wrong. First, there were the promo models with cigarette trays carrying demos of the all new BlackBerry Curve. That is, the year-old-plus Curve. Come on, people, the point of Gen Art is that it attracts fashion-forward, tech-forward consumers. If they’re buying two-year-old phones, then by definition they’re not trendsetters. Why not have sneak peek Storms, or at least Bolds there for people to get their hands on?

Even then, is a fashion show really the right place to check out a phone? What exactly am I supposed to learn about the phone in this environment? There was also an artist painting a live mural — not a terrible idea at a Gen Art event, but what does that have to do with BlackBerry? As if to create some kind of “authenticity,” the mural incorporated pictures of the phones. That’s as lame as it sounds.

I will say, one of the reasons I'll go to more Gen Art events is as I mentioned above, I ran into a lot of folks I hadn't seen in awhile and learned they're up to some great things. Check them out - Rickey Kim from 944 and Evilmonito, Danny Zusman from Adcamp, Jennifer and Yosi from Evolutionary Media.