Mark Wilson on The Art of The Pivot


August 24, 2021

Take a minute to imagine you’re a senior in high school, getting ready to go off to college. You have to say goodbye to old friends, but you’re excited to meet new ones. BlackBerry is like the best friend you lose touch with during the transition. Soon enough, you realize you didn’t know how good you had it until it’s gone. When BlackBerry and their products got the rug pulled out from under them by Apple and other providers in the early 2010’s, there were always die-hards.  People loved…llloooovvvveeeed their BlackBerry phones and you had to pry them from their white-knuckled hands. 

On the latest episode of Connect the Dots, I talked to BlackBerry CMO Mark Wilson. We get into the nitty gritty of how the company has pivoted after their great decline. The best part? They leaned into their strengths and added fresh life to their customer relationships. Mark and I also chatted about the BlackBerry message and how they added “thought” with a capital “T” to their thought leadership program. There’s more, I promise you. 

Top three takeaways from my conversation with Mark Wilson

When it comes to sales, BlackBerry focuses on the disruptive story and what it means to the end consumer. Mark remembered a definition someone told him that still hits home. “Marketing is customer stories well told. Selling isn’t talking about the features or the functionality of a product. If you can speak in the context of outcomes and why it matters to customers, now, that’s something quite interesting. For Mark and BlackBerry, the focus is on the “why” for customers and not the “what” or “how” of the product.

Like me, Mark majored in History in college. He chalks part of his success at BlackBerry to history helping him look at the bigger picture and understanding how trends connect to one another. “History is such a great discipline because you look over such a long arc of time, which means you are looking at trends. Whether it’s economic trends, social trends, religious trends, governmental trends, you’re looking at all of these trends in terms of how they’re interacting with each other.” 

To wrap things up, we got into how our hobbies make us better creators, marketers, and goal-setters. As an avid sailor and outdoorsman, Mark’s no stranger to rocky waves and bad storms. By taking deep breaths, clearing his head, and keeping an eye on the bigger picture, he’s become a better sailor and a better CMO. “You don’t sweat the small things as long as you’re focused on the end state and you’re moving towards that. Will there be disruption along the way? Absolutely. The key is to figure out how you efficiently handle disruption, and then keep focusing on what you’re trying to deliver.”

Watch our full conversation to learn more about why marketers need to learn to get better at pivoting, especially when times get tough.

About Carla

Carla Johnson Innovation Creativity Speaker Author

Carla Johnson helps leaders who are often paralyzed by traditional thinking. They suffer from slow growth, an eroding competitive advantage, low employee engagement, and depleted investor confidence. Their teams lack purpose and progress and constantly battle a resistance to change and new ideas.

As the world’s leading innovation architect, Carla’s spent 20 years helping leaders shatter limits and discover undiscovered possibilities. Through years of research, she’s developed a simple, scalable 5-step process that teaches people how to consistently produce inspired ideas that lead to uncommon outcomes.