In other regions of the world, Research In Motion (RIM) manufacturers of the Blackberry line of smartphones is facing challenging times. The iPhone and smart phone brands based on the Android Operating System have significantly eaten into its market share. For instance, this year, its share of the U.S. mobile phone market was about 19.7% compared to Apple and Android’s 27.3% and 43.8% respectively.
Compare this to places like Nigeria where Apple and Android’s marketshares are dwarfed by the Blackberry’s rising popularity. Business Day estimates that there are currently about 2.4 million Blackberry users in Nigeria.
It goes without saying that Nigeria’s young and working class population is very loyal to the brand. Young Nigerians go to great lengths to purchase one as has evidenced in the popular Nollywood movie Blackberry Babes. But why are they?
“What is your BB Pin?” The BB Pin question among young Nigerians has quickly become the ultimate one minute sizing up request. To be asked the question, one must have been considered cool enough to potentially own a Blackberry. Replying with a negative response takes some percentage points out of one’s coolness quotient. Such is the power of the Blackberry brand in Nigeria.
The average Nigerian is more likely than not obsessed about status. Through Blackberry Messenger, RIM has succeeded in creating an elite club of Blackberry owners that non-Blackberry owners are expected to envy. Unlike the U.S. where the smart phone manufacturers focused on businesses, its strategy in markets such as Nigeria appears to be to focus on the middle class and capture the aspirational appeal that its smartphones provide. In setting its price points, prices have been set so that it is not to cheap as to loose its aspirational appeal and yet not too expensive as to make it inaccessible to Nigeria’s middle class populace.
Perhaps the BB Porsche will change all this as it is rumoured to retail at a price point of about N450,000 per device. But even this pricing might not be enough to deter Nigerians from the Blackberry bug.
One of RIM’s winning strategies in the Nigerian market has been its aggressive marketing strategy with mobile operators who have in turn aggressively marketed the brand to Nigerians. The strategy is a win-win one as RIM benefits from the marketing prowess of industry leaders such as MTN and mobile operators benefit from the additional data sales that the partnership brings. Also, instead of tying the device to one single carrier, its decision to partner with most if not all of the industry players was a smart marketing play.
Watch one of MTN’s Blackberry adverts below
The messaging behind the brand’s marketing was also crisp. Since Blackberry phones are marketed not on its own but as an offering from telecoms carriers, the brand gained the perception as the default smartphone. Targeted demographic marketing also helped seal this perception.
All of this has led to a love for the brand by the customers of Nigeria’s major telecommunications companies.
3. Data Plans
This reason is tied into point two above. Blackberry data plans are a huge deal in Nigeria because they can often mean the difference between access to the Internet and lack of access. Over the years, telecoms companies have repeatedly crashed its Blackbery plans to capture more consumers. If mobile broadband wasn’t such a big deal in the country this might not have succeeded as much as a strategy. However, as a market where majority of Nigerians are increasingly experiencing the web via their mobile phones this point is particularly important.
Already MTN has crashed its Blackberry Complete plan to about N1,500 in Nigeria while Airtel has crashed its rates too to about N1,400.
Beyond the Blackberry’s use as a status symbol, it is also for many of its users, their gateway to the Internet.
As such, Nigerians are likely to stay crazy until another smartphone addiction weans them from the BB.