Alicia Keys vs. Ari Gold – who is the real Blackberry brand ambassador?

You Don’t Know Blackberry’s Name

Following in the footsteps of a string of major companies appointing celebrities as “brand ambassadors”, Blackberry (the company formerly known as RIM) yesterday appointed Alicia Keys as their Global Creative Director. Sure, it’s a bit of a copycat tactic (Pepsi with Beyonce, Intel with Will.I.Am etc.) and sure, Alicia still uses an iPhone – but you can’t deny that it has attracted some welcome media attention to the new BB10 platform launch.

But the biggest question for me is: why didn’t they choose Jeremy Piven instead?

For those of you who have managed to miss the phenomenon that is Entourage (shame on you), let me explain. For eight seasons of the hit TV show, Jeremy Piven played the character of Ari Gold, the Hollywood super agent who took on a life of his own and coined such pop culture phrases as “Let’s hug it out, b*tch” (see the many fan sites for more nuggets of Ari Gold wisdom).

One of Ari’s defining characteristics is of course his love for Blackberries – at any given moment, Ari can be seen with a Blackberry in each hand and another “Batphone” in an ankle holster. In one famous episode he even hid a Blackberry in a restaurant bathroom for secret access, Michael Corleone style. Even as other characters appeared with the latest iPhone models over the years, Ari stayed loyal to his beloved Blackberries. In a world of fast paced technological change, Ari was a beacon of BB solidarity, sneering at what he deemed lesser devices. Make no mistake, the way Ari talks about his “’Berries” made it clear that he equates these devices to his manhood, and anyone who doesn’t have ‘Berries made them inferior in his eyes.

The sheer number of fan forums and websites dedicated to Ari Gold’s Blackberry obsession shows that this point is not lost on the audience – a quick Google for “Ari Gold Blackberry” is evidence enough that Blackberry and Entourage fans alike have already latched onto this organically. Add to this the hype that will no doubt build with yesterday’s announcement of an Entourage movie being green lit, and you have to imagine that Ari Gold fever will hit its peak over the coming months.

In short, Ari Gold is a pop culture icon that gives Blackberry a shot of cool.

At a crucial time in the company’s history where they are betting the house on this launch, one would love to think that Blackberry tried to get Jeremy Piven – maybe even in character as Ari – to get involved as the “brand ambassador of the people”. It would be a refreshing point of talkability that uses their relaunch as an opportunity to reinject some “cool” into the veins of the brand and distract people away from the inevitable feature comparison against iPhones and Androids (a race they will have a tough time winning as they play catch up).

To quote Don Draper, another famous TV icon: “If you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation”. As Samsung and co. move in for the kill, it’s more important than ever for Blackberry to play to their strengths and capitalise on the image that gained them loyalists in the first place.

Blackberry needs to rekindle the Torch, rediscover their ‘Berries and do something Bold. Opportunites like this don’t come around every day, and this one was Golden.


  1. have the right idea! Interview with Jeremy Piven talking about his love of Blackberries:

  2. Ari would be hilarious. However, I reckon chicks would have hated him, not cared or saw no relevant connection to them. So he’d only be selling the blackberry dream to dudes. And is Entourage big in the Asian market? I think their biggest market? It may be…! And think of it the other way around, would dudes buy a blackberry if Sarah Jessica Parker (Carrie from Sex In The City) was the face of it? But I agree the strategy would work if they we’re only targeting dudes. But…. Ari And Carrie in the same ad, now that could’ve been different. The two dynamics of both characters, both big shows and both audiences coming together.

    And they have taken a let’s-get-a-globally-appealing-celeb-on-board-to-do-the-work approach. A familiar formula. But it can work it’s nuts off. I remember the whole creative department working on the Pepsi brand brief at TBWA, helping the LA office out. Choosing the next face was part of it, as well as a new campaign and line. Beyonce as the face and “Live For Now” both came out. Which so far has worked pretty hard for Pepsi. And they do love a good celeb endorsement, check out this epic celeb battle back in 2006. Big budget, big celebs, big impact.

  3. I was just reading an article about the launch that used the phrase “Not your fathers Blackberry” … Really mystifies me why they would raise attention to a negative like this … I agree with the sentiment that they shouldn’t enter a battle on features … this will be a pretty tough fight for them to win ..

  4. I can’t speak for all women but I reckon Ari has definite appeal – certainly more appeal than a woman who doesn’t even use a Blackberry as her primary device. Massive opportunity missed!

  5. “As it turns out, the majority of BlackBerry’s 80 million global customers right now — 56% — are women.”

    “We entered the market through the corporate side that is male dominated, like finance, and probably that perception has remained, and we haven’t done anything in marketing to change it really,” Boulben told Mashable in an interview.

    While the company was working on BlackBerry 10, its marketing team set out to identify the segment it most wanted to focus on, and ran down a list of traits: people of action, achievers, multi-taskers, people who are very connected and “want a tool more than a toy.” In the end, Boulben says the team found these traits tended to be “slightly more skewed to women than men.”

    With these two points in mind, Boulben says BlackBerry decided to re-think its marketing approach to avoid coming off as “too male-oriented.”

    Friday Feb 1 2013

  6. Chris raises a good point: if BB10 not your father’s Blackberry, what is it? If iPhone is “it just works”, Android is “features and power”, Windows phone 8 is “ecosystem”… what is BB10? It feels like it’s trying to be a bit of a mix of all of the above, trying to keep everyone a little bit happy. Does Alicia Keys’ involvement mean they are positioning BB10 as “music”, competing against iTunes and Google Play? It’s not really clear at all.

    In the meantime, if I have an older BB and I’ve been a loyal customer for years, I’m now being told that I’m daggy because I’m clinging to a platform my father would use.

    Fingers crossed that a clearer, single-minded strategy emerges over the coming months.

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