Blackberry has completed an intriguing branded arts campaign, comprising of three arts and entertainment projects created by three leading artists in collaboration with their legions of fans.
Blackberry’s "Keep Moving" campaign enlisted graphic novelist and writer Neil Gaiman (Stardust, Coralie & The Sandman), director Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Desperado, From Dusk til Dawn) and musician Alicia Keys, who is also Blackberry’s global creative director.
The plan was for each of these creative forces to collaborate with their fans to create a piece of Blackberry branded art and entertainment to showcase the Blackberry 10 range, which includes a new touchscreen smart phone.
The link? The new Blackberry is designed to keep you moving…"so we gave it to some people who never stop. Some incredibly talented and ambitious people who are always looking for the next exciting challenge."
When it announced the launch, Blackberry said the campaign would “engage BlackBerry users in exclusive and compelling experiences created by inspirational and multi-faceted artists, writers, designers, filmmakers, musicians, and athletes.”
Keys, Rodriguez and Gaiman would be the first three BlackBerry Partners “leveraging the power of the new platform to create original content and special user engagements. The essence of these creative projects is that they are collaborations between the artist, BlackBerry and BlackBerry users around the world.”
For Alicia Keys, it would be a song for every city she performs on her global tour which would be inspired by her fans and feature their images. The song and video would appear at Keys concerts and are also available on The Keep Moving site.
For Rodriguez it was a short film, Two Scoops, created in collaboration with fans who would audition for parts, and provide the vision and design elements of the storyline. The completed film is available on the site and has attracted 160,000 views on YouTube.
While Gaiman would create a beautiful book of stories inspired by ideas from his fans and featuring illustrations created by his fans. The book is available online as well as a bound limited edition book which features the stories on translucent paper and comes wrapped in wax paper and sealed with a special crest.
Each project was accompanied by a series of online films telling the stories of each of the projects and keeping fans engaged with the projects.
Blackberry has long been the phone for business people. Before smart phones took off it was the Blackberry that was desired for emailing and internet access and its unique design remains a firm favourite with many.
It’s fair to say that since the arrival of sleek looking touchscreen phones, its not been the phone of choice for the creative set. More likely the brand has been shunned by creative types in favour of the iPhone.
But the tides have turned. The ubiquitous iPhone is losing street cred and facing increased competition, and while Samsung makes major gains in market share, the door is also open for challenger brands.
Enter Blackberry. It’s been a big year for the brand, which dropped its RIM (Research In Motion) brand in favour of the more high profile Blackberry name it also launched its new smartphone, which has more than a passing resemblance to the iPhone.
No doubt Blackberry hopes to try and replicate some of the success of the iPhone, so it’s only fitting that they look to target Apple’s original core target audience – creative types.
Back before Apple exploded into the mainstream, it was 'the' brand for creatives, the artistic types who loved the brand for its challenger, anti-mainstream attributes. These attributes that are well and truly gone for the mass mainstream brand.
These are the attributes Blackberry is hoping to align with its brand. The strategy is clear target the creative types and align the brand with creativity, creation and expression.
It’s an interesting move given the brands dominance with the business community, but clearly with the two new models, Blackberry is hoping to continue appealing to the business types while also drawing in the new creatives.
Blackberry is not the first brand to go after the creative types and enlist artists and musicians to create something in the name of their brand for a campaign. This is a well worn strategy and they most certainly won’t be the last brand to do this.
What stands this campaign apart from others is the choice of artists, particularly Neil Gaiman and Robert Rodriguez, both of which command very unique audiences.
These are not the big name celebs that you get to endorse your product, these are credible and talented artists and and by partnering with them Blackberry gains some of their credibility.
Strategically they are genius selections, I mean, if you want to find a way to engage audiences with your brand and its stories, why not enlist some of the world’s best storytellers?
Both have huge cult followings with legions of fans who adore the artists and their distinct creations. Gaiman alone has a Twitter following of 1.8 million people, Rodriguez has more than 156,000, but most importantly their fans are loyal, engaged and desperate to be involved in whatever these artists are doing.
Cue the "Keep Moving" Project, it's increadibly savvy of Blackberry to target such niche and cult fans, but in doing so it gives them instant credibility as a phone for talented creative people. These are highly credible artists who have created authentic and meaningful projects and in the process have immersed their fans in the Blackberry brand.
Conversely Alicia Keys’ contribution is notable in how lacking it is in credibility and meaning. Keys has a huge mainstream audience base and her inclusion in this campaign is clearly due to her role as Blackberry’s Global Creative Director, however it does undermines the integrity of the other two projects.
While Gaiman and Rodriguez’s creations were driven by fan interactions and genuine collaborations, Keys was shallow and superficial.
The only interaction from fans was uploading their images into a premade film reproduced for each market with different photos. It was a less exciting version of Pepsi’s campaign to have fans appear in Beyonce’s Super Bowl half-time performance – which had a significantly larger wow factor.
Unlike the genuine engagement of Gaiman and Rodriguez’s projects, Keys felt like a faceless marketing campaign.
As Branded Arts and Entertainment goes, the Keep Moving Project is a mixed bag for me. Across the board the videos created by Blackberry for each project are superb pieces of storytelling. They are evoking and moody with just the right mix of inspiration and gushing awe.
The contribution from Alicia Keys to my mind barely rates a mention. The film by Rodriguez is a great effort and will appeal to the target audience. He invited fans to be in the film with auditions as well as encouraging them to provide the ideas and sketches for weapons and monsters in the film.
However it is Gaiman’s contribution ‘A Calendar of Tales by Neil Gaiman & You’, that I am particularly taken by. I love every aspect of this. Gaiman posed questions to his Twitter followers and used their responses to inspire his stories. He then created a story for every month, which his fans created illustrations for. It really is a beautiful creation. The website, downloadable e book look great and I’d give my right arm to get hold of a copy of that beautiful book, although I'm sure I'd have to fight off Gaiman's army of adoring fans. This project alone would have been enough to make this campaign a success and I'm sort of disappointed they didn't as it's really quite unique and beautiful.
However the big question is, will 'Keep Moving' make people buy Blackberry phones?
I’m not sure how far along the purchase process this will take people, but I am sure that this will certainly challenge peoples perceptions of the brand. It certainly made me think twice about the Blackberry brand. This campaign will introduce the brand and its products to new and different audiences. In doing so it will increase consideration among audiences which arguably would never have considered the brand before.
For these reasons I think this will be a success. I’m intrigued to see the next phases of this campaign to see how Blackberry continue to build on this with different creative partners.
With 'Keep Moving' Blackberry has created a credible branded arts and entertainment platform. If it continues to make brave and bold choices in the artists it works with this will be successful. I give it 4 stars.