Written exclusively for Berryfication.com by Greg Wesson (@lombaki)
There’s a special BlackBerry out there. At over $2000, it’s the most expensive stock BlackBerry 9900 you can buy; the BlackBerry Porsche Design P’9981. The reviews have been mixed at best. The basic consensus is that, outside of status, it’s pretty much silly to pay so much more for basically the same phone just because it looks different. Perhaps, though, BlackBerry has made the first step into a whole new market.
Let’s take walk down memory lane outside of the smartphone market. In 1986, Honda created a new car company called Acura. The cars they produced looked a lot like a regular Honda, but they cost more because they were a “Luxury” car. Today, Acura is vibrant self-driven separate company making the parent company, Honda, more money. That doesn’t sound like a stupid idea to me.
So what about the P’9981? Could BlackBerry have stumbled onto something here? Is it possible that BlackBerry could create an entire spin-off line of luxury devices? I’m thinking they could. Think about it. It’s really an untapped market. No company has a line of luxury devices. You just have to give the consumer a reason to pay for it. In the case of the P’9981, exclusivity is the key. In the future, that’s not going to hold up, but topped specs and a special design could.
What makes a luxury car is design and features. What is an option on a Honda is often a standard feature on an Acura. They share a lot of underpinning parts making the cost to manufacture reasonable, but the extra features and the namesake create the ability to charge a premium price. Take a GMC Yukon. Remove the logo, add features, redesign the body a bit, slap on Cadillac Escalade decals and you can make more money. It’s simple and effective. What it requires, however, is marketing. There is where BlackBerry could drop the ball.
We know marketing isn’t BlackBerry’s strong point. I don’t have research numbers on the sales of the P’9981, so I’m not sure how well BlackBerry is doing with their exclusive 2AA pinned luxury phone. Truly, though, it doesn’t really have to do well. What it has to do is set the idea in motion. Once people grasp onto the concept of the Luxury smartphone, then the devices will sell themselves.
To be honest, I don’t understand how the luxury car market survives, but I’m not their demographic. I wouldn’t be purchasing a luxury smartphone either, but there are plenty of people who would just like to say they own a luxury device. People will pay extra money for premium coffee, extra features on a television, and top quality on watches or cars. There is no reason that demographic won’t pay more for similar extras on a smartphone.
BlackBerry has a chance not only to reinvent itself with BB10, but also to create its own new market with a luxury line of devices. Could it flop? Sure. Could it make BlackBerry the hottest thing on the market? Absolutely. It’s a risk, but there’s a potential major payoff; not only fiscally, but as a brand as well. What do you think? Could a luxury line work? Would it help BlackBerry return to its former glory? Or would it just be a distraction for their current focus of getting back in the game? I’d like to see them try.