A new oral history of BlackBerry—formerly RIM, the Canadian smartphone pioneer—reveals a number of anecdotes about how the company got to its current state, now mostly known for bringing up the rear in the smartphone market.
One of the best moments comes from Vincent Washington, an employee of the company for a decade beginning in 2001, in which he says that the company turned down Justin Bieber as a spokesperson:
One thing we missed out on was that Justin Bieber wanted to rep BlackBerry. He said, “Give me $200,000 and 20 devices, and I’m your brand ambassador,” basically. And we pitched that to marketing: Here’s a Canadian kid, he grew up here, all the teeny-boppers will love that. They basically threw us out of the room. They said, “This kid is a fad. He’s not going to last.” I said at the meeting: “This kid might outlive RIM.” Everyone laughed.
How different would the world be if this came to fruition? Imagine all of those teens the company could have lured into their userbase. Imagine Justin Bieber's ridiculous new selfie app launching on BlackBerry first. Imagine him singing an REO Speedwagon cover about SDKs. If only!
But BlackBerry did manage to find another celebrity endorsement. Although, the company's hiring of Global Creative Director Alicia Keyes has apparently not been doing much to help their bottom line: the company plans to lay off 40% of its employees.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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