BlackBerry’s advertising conundrum

How do you illustrate security?

The ailing smartphone and tablet maker BlackBerry released a video this week reminding everyone of its continuing relevance to its core consumers: government agencies at the federal, state and local level.

The video underscores the company’s chief advertising conundrum, though. Its comparative advantage -- security -- is difficult to convey visually.

The video opens with swelling strings music, an aerial shot of Hurricane Katrina flooding in New Orleans and a testimonial from Harris County, Texas, Judge Robert Eckels who opened the Houston Astrodome to Katrina refugees.

Eckels praises BlackBerry for keeping him and his staff in contact during the shelter operation. He goes on to praise BlackBerry for providing “the kind of redundancy within the system, the security and the reliability that you need in the event of a big disaster.”

But security fits strangely in that trio. BlackBerry offered security during the shelter operation, of course, and more security than its competitors would have. Still, phone security was in no more danger of being compromised during Katrina than at any other time.

Other video testimonials all mention security but are typically set to flashy images of apps flying across the screen – that’s an advertising trick straight out of iPhone’s playbook and one that definitely doesn’t play to BlackBerry’s strong suit.

The problem of course is that security is characterized by the absence of something rather than its presence. A great victory in secure mobile devices would be, I suppose, just a guy talking on his phone. Until the public finds that compelling, though, we’ll be watching BlackBerry ads with iPhone-type images.