BlackBerry, in its continuing efforts to stem the tide of losses and reinvent itself in a hyper-competitive mobile market, has decided that it no longer needs the global creative director services of Alicia Keys. It was announced yesterday that January 30 will be her last day, one year after the company made a big show of appointing her to the role.
The move comes as BlackBerry looks to rebuild its customer base as the device of choice for businesses. In all honesty, with the exception of a few ads and promotional materials, it’s a little hard to pinpoint what all Keys did during the course of that year. Which isn’t really an indictment of Keys or even BlackBerry. It just goes back to the basic question of why a company chooses a celeb to be the face of its brand.
This title “global creative director” is a glorified spokesperson job. And bringing on Keys brought BlackBerry lots of criticism for that very reason. But then you had to ask yourself whether Keys was the best choice one way or the other. She’s not exactly noted for being particularly tech savvy, or at least not any more than the average celeb who’s active on social media. That she started her job at BlackBerry by tweeting from an iPhone was also a bad sign.
But the company insisted that she would be driving engagement and be involved with the actual products. At the time, we questioned whether this would be damaging to the company’s innovative reputation and even company morale. More than that, we questioned whether this would be the last global creative director appointment. (Patrick looks to be right on that one.)
The biggest problem that BlackBerry has is its position in the market. The company just announced that, for the third quarter, it suffered a $4.4 billion loss and a 56 percent drop in sales. And the technology part isn’t going so well either. The company has pulled its Twitter app for the BlackBerry 10.
But these “global creative director” positions that were being tossed around at one point — Justin Timberlake, will.i.am, and Lady Gaga were just some of the celebs given the title — were just artifice; a way for companies to more closely bind themselves to celebrities that they think bring some social media shine to the brand and a new buyer to the till.
Alicia Keys, we’re sure, isn’t concerned about losing this faux job. She’s a Grammy winning musician who’s making inroads in the film industry, serving as a producer for an indie movie, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete. And she’s become a very successful philanthropist. Her Keep A Child Alive foundation has partnered with Kiehl’s with proceeds from one of the skincare company’s products going to the charity for a limited time.
In other words, Keys has a brand that’s not tied to BlackBerry even after a year of holding an executive position with the company. That says a lot.