If you think iPhone is the king of all the smartphones everywhere in the world then think again. In South America, especially to Venezuela, two revolutions are happening: a political one, moving the country towards communism; and a technological one, The Blackberry Revolution.
The high cost of Blackberry, between 395 USD and 1500USD, considerably high for most of Venezuelans, doesn’t seem be an obstacle for the explosive expansion of the smart device in the Latin American country.
According to Telefonica, the Spanish telecom company, 70% of the Blackberries that they sold last year were sold in Venezuela. Furthermore, the levels of sales of Blackberries in Venezuela are twice as high as those in Brazil and Mexico combined. This is very impressive because the population of Venezuela is 27 million people whilst the combined population of Brazil and Mexico is almost 300 million people.
The Blackberry Messenger is what has made the device increasingly popular in the South American country, where people love to be connected with ‘lots of friends’ all the time but need to do it in safe way because of the increasing insecurity. The fact that Blackberry users can exchange PINs (personal identification numbers), text one another on a secure platform and better still without paying additional charges for each text message they send, has led to the fast adoption of the device.
In addition, the Blackberry Messenger fits better with the way Venezuelans communicate. It allows them to hold several informal conversations at the same time and show their emotions and feelings across through the use messenger emoticons.
The surge for Blackberries started about two years ago when the device was made accessible to the Venezuelan mass market, which is mostly dominated by prepaid consumers. Thus, Venezuelans, who like to keep up-to-date with last innovative trends, have become one the fastest consumer segment in adopting smartphones. According to RIM, the maker of Blackberry, per-capita adoption of smartphones in Venezuela exceeds that of Europe.
Another reason for the success of Blackberry in Venezuela is its high level of brand awareness and esteem. Brands play a big role in purchase decsions. Despite low income levels, Venezuelans always try to buy the best and most reliable brand for two reasons mainly; (1) fashion and status; and (2) inflation, combined with shortage of goods, leads to people not to save money but to buy things today because a week later they could sell them at higher price if they want to.
And what about iPhone? Venezuelans are very aware of the brand and iPods are very popular devices but Blackberry was the first smartphone that was massively accessible to the people.
Now this Blackberry effect is being seeing in other markets of the region. According to RIM, the Blackberry messenger is helping drive sales in Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile and Caribbean countries. Blackberry was the top selling smartphone in South America in the last half of 2009.
This story of Blackberry in South America is a great example of marketing strategy. Instead of reducing marketing budget in financial downturn times, RIM and Telefonica have looked for opportunities across geographical regions, looked at consumer behavioural trends and pushed consequently the penetration of their products in the fast growing regions.
Remember if people ask you for your number over there, it is very likely that they mean the PIN of your Blackberry, not your phone number!