Positioning, Analogies, and assimilation for immigrants

22 Nov

RIM positioned the Blackberry as an “interactive pager,” because pagers were something people could understand. While the device was actually was doing email, people understood it as “the pager that you could respond with.” While phrases like “mobile email and packet switching” didn’t mean a thing to RIM’s first customers, the “interactive pager” positioning proved important in attracting early adopters.

via Hubris vs. Humility: The positioning challenge | VentureBeat.

Yesterday, I was at my favorite All-American chain restaurant–the Olive Garden.  Our group was talking about how two of us were particularly adept at arguing by analogy.  The two being picked on, me and one of my good friends, are both immigrants.  We began chatting about why it was that we liked and learned so much through analogy.  Ultimately, we concluded that for immigrants analogies are everything.  Indeed, only through analogies can an immigrant get a good frame of reference for learning a new culture and for assimilating in that new culture.  For an immigrant the cultures which are more prone to analogy are simply friendlier, easier to understand, and ultimately most convenient to adopt as their own.

Which brings us to Research in Motion and the thinking behind their decision to brand the blackberry as an “interactive pager:”

RIM, the Blackberry and its network had more inventions per square inch than most startups. The founders could have easily described the product as “the first packet-switched interactive messaging network.” Or they could have said, “corporate email now seamlessly forwarded from your company’s network to your pocket.” They did none of that.  The founders swallowed their pride and simply introduced the Blackberry as an “interactive pager.” Their board, with no need to prove how smart and creative they were, agreed.

Maybe what makes certain parts of the country so good for immigrants is that the “positioning” of American culture is so heavily reliant on analogy.  We’re at our best when we shelve our pride.  I think Blackberry and their market positioning decisions are a simple example of not only successful business but also an example of how learning and integration by immigrants works.


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