RIM gets new marketing chief to make BlackBerry cool again

Research in Motion (TSX: RIM) on Tuesday appointed a new chief operating officer (COO) and chief marketing officer (CMO) as RIM prepares to launch BlackBerry 10 smartphones later this year in hopes of reversing a decline in its global smartphone share.

The new RIM COO, Kristian Tear, served most recently as executive vice-president at Sony Mobile Communications and previously as corporate vice-president of Sony Ericsson, Western Europe. He will oversee all operational functions for handhelds and services, including research and development, products, global sales, manufacturing and supply chain, RIM said in a statement.

(WATCH THE VIDEO: Why BlackBerry should ditch the physical keyboard)

The new CMO, Frank Boulben, was former executive vice president of strategy, marketing and sales for LightSquared, an LTE venture that had worked with Sprint until March when the deal was canceled.

Boulben will oversee global marketing efforts at RIM, a job that CEO Thorsten Heins ranked as a top priority when Heins in February replaced RIM’s co-CEOs, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie. Balsillie has since left the RIM board, as well.

At the time of his appointment, Heins said: “We need to be more marketing-driven, and we need to be more consumer-oriented because that is where a lot of our growth is coming from.”

RIM has not had a full-time CMO for more than a year, since Keith Pardy left in March 2011, prior to the PlayBook tablet launch.

Analysts consistently point out the need for RIM to move BlackBerry 10 smartphones to market early enough this fall to take advantage of seasonal sales. Heins didn’t commit to a date for a BlackBerry 10 launch as he unveiled a prototype handset called the Dev Alpha running the software at BlackBerry World last week.

RIM developers seemed to like the new 4.2-in. Dev Alpha prototype and its software with “conversations” layering, predictive text and precise photo-capturing. However, BlackBerry 10’s reception by the public and the number of new apps created for it are seen as keys to RIM’s success over the next year.

BlackBerry 10 smartphones are seen as vital to RIM’s efforts to halt global market share decline. In the first quarter of 2012, RIM’s share of the global market was 6.7 per cent, down from 13.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2011, according to IDC.

The appointments of Tear and Boulben are the biggest decisions Heins has made in keeping on the path to reversing the market share decline, analysts said.

Independent analyst Jeff Kagan said the new executives and RIM must update their technology as well as the RIM brand, a job that falls primarily to Boulben. “They have to expand the brand, similar to what AT&T did when it was acquired by SBC several years ago. It too was a well-known, but tired, brand. They reinvigorated it and today it is successful once again. That’s what RIM brought Boulben in to do.”

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