RIM criticized for 'Be Bold' superhero blog and graphic

Apparent try to boost appeal to youth causes renewed concern about RIM's future

Research in Motion's tumultuous year seems to keep getting worse, as ridicule springs up over a company blog post and graphic featuring so-called "Be Bold" superheroes -- an apparent attempt to boost the appeal of its RIM Bold smartphones to the youth market.

The RIM blog post, which appeared shortly after RIM's new CEO last week said he's looking for a new marketing chief, contained an infographic of four youthful superhero characters -- "Gogo Girl, The Achiever," "Max Stone, The Adventurer," "Justin Steele, The Advocate," and "Trudy Foreal, The Authentic." -- that were dubbed the Bold Team.

Some bloggers on Tuesday called the blog and infographic an advertising campaign, and laid on the ridicule.

"The new BlackBerry ad campaign Is proof RIM has entirely lost it," ran a headline on a blog post on Gizmodo. The post added: "A company which is shedding customers quicker than the Costa Concordia lost passengers, seeing its stock price fall week-on-week, and drafting in replacement CEOs, you'd expect to put some effort into advertising. Obviously not. RIM Is completely out of touch."

RIM did not respond to a request for comment on the blog or the overall criticism of its post, which carried over to other blogs and their readers, some of whom cited declines in RIM innovation and market share among young users.

RIM, whose devices still have a strong presence in large businesses, especially outside the U.S., has tried for years to market to consumers.

Just after his appointment as CEO last week, former RIM COO Thorsten Heins said he wants the company to focus more on consumers and that he was launching the search for a chief marketing officer.

The Bold Team blog post appeared just four days after Heins was appointed, giving many the impression that the company had either started in a new marketing direction or had just made another misstep.

In fairness, the Bold Team concept doesn't seem to have much life and might not last any longer than the infographic used in the blog, some commenters noted.

"Until this is officially a RIM ad, it's a bit unfair to pick on them," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. "Also, we are way too U.S. centric when we look at this stuff. There are many parts of the world where something like this [graphic] would probably actually play well."

The four characters and their underlying profiles were created upon an aggregation of resolutions tweeted to RIM from participants in a Times Square New Year's Eve party who had been asked to tweet how they planned to "Be Bold in 2012."

Some of the tweets were serious in tone.

RIM included some of the tweeted resolutions in the infographic, including one from @mmbeachbum that said: "@BlackBerry I will be bold by completing a 100-mile bike ride despite ... missing some ribs from cancer surgery."

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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