BlackBerry and Hollywood: A Tale of Brand Identity and Resilience


Table Of Contents


Exploring the Intersection of Tech Innovation and Entertainment Marketing

Embarking on a journey with BlackBerry, Hollywood Branded witnessed firsthand the rise and challenges of a brand that once dominated the tech world. This saga is more than a business case; it's a narrative deeply entwined with the glitz and storytelling of Hollywood. As BlackBerry transformed from a symbol of professional power to a case study in market adaptability, its relationship with Hollywood Branded evolved, reflecting the broader dynamics of brand identity in the competitive world of entertainment.

This story offers invaluable lessons on innovation, resilience, and the importance of listening to consumer demands. In this article, Hollywood Branded explains the intricate dance of managing a brand's identity in the fast-paced world of entertainment marketing, using BlackBerry's journey as a powerful example.

BlackBerry and Hollywood A Tale of Brand Identity  and Resilience

The Rise and Fall of BlackBerry in Hollywood's Spotlight

I had a really hard time getting myself to press ‘Play’ to watch the docu-drama indie film, “BlackBerry”.  Why? Because that brand was a big part of my core identity, and that of Hollywood Branded, for a long long time. Over a decade in fact.  It still hurts that the brand died such a death due to lack of early adaption and innovation to expand beyond business users to a consumer target.  It was SO CLEAR that mistakes were being made, and the executive team just kept missing all the signs by choosing not to listen to consumer demand. The reality is that ultimately, despite so many tech advances, the brand did not do a good job reading the fortune teller’s tea leaves.

BlackBerry: The Movie 

I was curious, though about the movie, and decided to read the script instead thinking it would be easier to do. Somehow I thought that would be easier, as I devour scripts as part of my job every week.  And it hooked me.  Three-quarters of the way through, I found myself on yet another plane ride. I’m now at my highest airline status yet, thanks to practically living on planes ever as of this year, and there’s not much I haven’t watched under new releases. With few choices, I pulled my big girl pants on, took a deep breath, and watched BlackBerry: The Movie.

Seeing some of the day-to-day players I worked with fictionalized on screen was surreal.  The film overall was pretty accurate, but other elements, like some of the inflated egos and drama from them, were not so much. But it was an entertaining movie and a story well told on screen.

A Little HB History

BlackBerry was my first big client when I launched Hollywood Branded. I was introduced to the brand by mega-agency Starcom, whom I had worked with for years on Kellogg’s account. Hand in hand, we went to BlackBerry together and sold them in on our product placement program. We solved the issue of needing an agency with feet on the ground in Hollywood, who would work well under both an agency and brand’s direction. It’s something we pride ourselves on, and not many agencies can say they play well in the sandbox with other agencies.  We do.  It’s all about building mutually beneficial partnerships.

BlackBerry signed up on sight. And it was my first really big win as an agency owner. I could now hire employees. Which I did, and had start – 2 days before the writer’s strike took Hollywood by surprise, and I had to pay people for three months to do… not much.  Scripted shows and movies were shut down, and reality shows were starting to be filmed.  Before the end of the strike we finally became busy as Hollywood realized reality shows were the answer. That’s when The Kardashians and Paris Hilton launched their series and the new world of docu-drama reality programming truly was launched.

We killed ourselves for that brand. We hustled our way across Hollywood, getting BlackBerry into the hands of every celebrity, agent and manager as well as to the producers, directors, prop masters and set decorators of the hottest shows on TV and the biggest movies. We built global advertising campaigns featuring licensed or co-promotional content, that appeared in the American Airlines walkway at JFK (that was a cool moment to see) to Times Square – and on TV.

We did a really good job and I daresay no one could have done a better job at covering Hollywood than our team did.  It’s why I’m still so proud of the work we did to this day. We made a difference and we pretty much shut down the majority of other mobile phone competitors, except Apple’s iPhone who we challenged every step of the way.  

We Lost The Brand

Then… we got axed overnight. A really nasty learning opportunity for an agency owner who doesn’t have immediate systems in place to replace the loss of ¾ of our income. It was a bad decision to have so many eggs in one basket, and a learning lesson on needing diversification to ensure safety of the agency organization. It was heartbreaking and I took our being terminated extremely personally. It not only was an emotional hit – we lost our payroll. Starcom told me to let it go – to not legally fight BlackBerry over our contract that stated they couldn’t actually terminate us without cause. And there was no cause. It was just poor business planning resulting in a chop across all marketing activities. But I listened to that advice, swallowed hard, and took it. 

That might not be the same strategy I’d take today, and it’s not always the path I take now. When clients misuse our agency due to their own internal management ineptness, we do not take kindly to it. It takes a lot of work and agency hours far outside what are typically billed for to dial in a brand partner and get a program running. That's why agencies require longer contracts - to make sure the heavy lifting at the front is economized over the time of the relationship.  It takes time to become profitable versus simply a bad investment decision by our team.

Then We Got The Brand Back - Twice

In this case, however, within eighteen months, we were hired by the new management of BlackBerry, who wouldn’t have hired us if we had pursued legal action, to continue our work in product placement. So back we came again.  And then – the same thing.  This time, though, we were terminated because the whole company went belly up. 

Then eighteen months later again, TCL came back to us to have us continue the Hollywood magic of their newly licensed BlackBerry devices – getting them back in the hands of stars again on screen. And then, sadly, what may be for the last time, we were terminated for a final time when the brand disappeared from existence.

By now, after a lot of years, I can clearly see a path of poor decisions that lay in the wake of BlackBerry, with less emotion tied to each new layoff – it wasn’t personal. We did excellent work. It’s why everyone keeps re-hiring us.

The simple truth is that the brand and its leaders, innovators, and marketers all failed to see their own big picture.

And She's Out... Nope. Just Down For A Count

It's no wonder that I have often said that I feel like a clown punching bag. Punch me and I’ll pop up again, bobbing and weaving, ready for more. Always with a smile on my face, with some deflating at the folds from where the hardest punches have bent me over and left a mark, in one direction or another.  Taking the punches. Becoming more and more… resilient. Able to deal and not get knocked out completely of the game I’m in as a female owner of a creative branded pop culture agency in Hollywood.  That is in fact, when I tell my stories, what people always respond with. Wow. You are so resilient. 

And I am. It's why Hollywood Branded has managed to survive in a very not-easy industry for sixteen years. 

That’s what BlackBerry failed to do. They did not ensure their resiliency with the market and the blows of technology advances and human preferences.

So how do you make sure your brand is resilient?

Understanding Resilience in Brand Marketing

If there's one thing I've learned in the rollercoaster world of brand partnerships in Hollywood, it's that resilience isn't just a buzzword – it's a survival strategy.

So, what exactly is brand resilience? A brand that can adapt, bounce back, and thrive amid changes and challenges. It's about being nimble - constantly ready to pivot and land on your feet, regardless of the flips or turns that caused you to fall or stumble in the first place. In marketing, this means not just weathering storms but celebrating them and dancing in the rain. It's about foreseeing changes, embracing innovation, and staying relevant to your customer base, no matter what the world throws at you. Resilience is the key to not just surviving, but flourishing.

New call-to-action

Eager To Learn More?

Stay tuned to next week when I dive into examples of brands that truly are resilient - and those that have folded due to their lack of being so. In the meanwhile, take a read of some other articles our team has written to help up your marketing game.

Here are five blog articles from our team at Hollywood Branded that dive in more to mutual beneficial partnerships through product placement and brand resilience:

  • "8 Ways Brands Share Product Placement Exposure For Sales": This article offers insights into maximizing product placement exposure creatively to promote a brand. It highlights various strategies, such as adding a socially driven promotional campaign and sponsoring premiere parties, with examples like Coffee Beanery’s partnership with "Dolphin Tale 2" and Chinese smartphone company OPPO’s integration with "America's Next Top Model"​[link]

  • "BlackBerry Product Placement Success Reported By Fans": This post delves into the success of BlackBerry's product placement strategy, focusing on its positioning as the smartphone of choice for powerful business people and politicians in films and TV shows like "House of Cards" and "Scandal". The article discusses how Hollywood Branded crafted a product placement strategy that showcased BlackBerry in the hands of characters fitting their brand image​. [link]

  • "The Power Of Product Placement Over 40 Years": This article explores the evolution of product placement and brand integration, touching on the idea of 'branded content' as an ultimate target for marketers. It discusses how brands and productions can create unique partnerships, extending beyond traditional media to include digital and social channels, citing the example of BlackBerry's long-standing product placement program​.[link]

  • "How To Do Product Placement In Hollywood TV and Film": This piece highlights the importance of building strong relationships with key decision-makers in Hollywood for successful product placement. It provides insight into how brands like Apple and BlackBerry have effectively integrated their products into various TV shows and films by leveraging these relationships and making their inventory readily available for prop masters​. [link]

  • "The Future Of Product Placement And Brand Integration": This article discusses the impact of streaming platforms on traditional commercial advertising and the increasing value of product placement and brand integration as a form of advertisement. It highlights how product placement needs to be strategically positioned to match the company’s image, with examples of successful placements by brands like BlackBerry, JBL, and Popchips​. [link]

These articles provide a comprehensive understanding of the strategies and impacts of product placement in entertainment marketing, particularly in the context of BlackBerry's approach and the broader industry trends.

Want to stay in the know with all things pop culture? Look no further than our Hot in Hollywood newsletter! Each week, we compile a list of the most talked-about moments in the entertainment industry, all for you to enjoy!

New call-to-action