Marketing isn't RIM's big problem

I'm not sure why some analysts have chosen to spin the departure of Research in Motion's chief marketing officer on the eve of the company's PlayBook tablet launch as a good thing.

(Also see: RIM marketing chief to leave, shares fall nearly 3%)

But an eWeek article quotes two analysts who say the resignation of CMO Keith Hardy "for personal reasons" might be a plus for the Canadian company.

One analyst told eWeek, "This gives RIM a chance to revitalize its marketing, something it has not always been great at in the past. As the market heats up and competition is all around them now, RIM needs a fresh approach. This gives it that ability."

Another said in a note to clients, "Due to [RIM's] market share losses in the U.S., a new marketing approach could be beneficial. Especially in front of QNX, new handsets, new tablets, new apps, new ecosystem [equals the need for a] new message. Making a switch now makes sense."

Now, maybe Hardy wasn't doing a good job. I have no way of knowing. But I think these analysts are putting way too much stock in RIM's marketing efforts to reinvigorate the company's competitive posture. Yes, marketing is important, but as I wrote last Friday, the BlackBerry maker's problems stem not from a lack of marketing, but the entry of two formidable competitors -- Apple and Google -- into the smartphone arena.

Specifically, it's the incursion of Droids and iPhones into the corporate world -- RIM's long-time stronghold -- that is costing it market share.

Here's the thing with marketing: While it can make people aware of a product, and even desire that product, it can't make people like the product once they try it, especially if there's another product out there that people like more.

How many people over the past year went into a Verizon store with the intent of getting a BlackBerry, but walked out with a Droid? Was that because of marketing? More likely, it's because customers looked at some phones, tried some out, talked to a sales person and then made a decision. Because people know whether they like a phone. They don't need a marketer to tell them.

The other weird analyst take on the Hardy's departure notes that Hardy will "will stay on for six months to transition." Well, if the guy's marketing efforts were so misguided, how is that going to help? He's certainly not going to provide the impetus or guidance for "a fresh approach."

My guess is that RIM -- or more specifically, co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie -- needed to demonstrate to shareholders and the board their willingness to make big changes in order to regain its footing in the mobile computing market. It's a lot easier to force out a senior-level executive than it is to make your products more competitive and get them out the door faster.

FYI, since the announcement early last Friday that Hardy is leaving RIM, shares (NASDAQ: RIMM) are down 5.6 percent to 64.60. I guess not enough investors have heard what great things the CMO's departure means for RIM.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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