BlackberryThe current campaign for BlackBerry is very smart.

Consider the challenge just one year ago. The early adopters had embraced the technology, but they’re not sympathetic folks. They are the descendents of Homo Yuppus, the alpha-tycoons perceived as those who willfully, continually choose career over all else. By being so publicly distracted with their handheld technology, they are accused of (and confess to) addiction to their “CrackBerrys.” My friend Rich saw me holding my Treo and said, “Is that your binky?”

Ouch. What are marketers to do when their flagship, superior technology, still in the introductory phase of the life cycle, is insultingly likened by both critics and users to the most destructive, most addictive street drug?

The marketing strategists took an objective view: whenever a user becomes distracted by his BlackBerry, every observer immediately sneers, “You are so addicted to that stupid thing.” The observer’s comment forces the user to defend his behavior.

The strategists could easily see the truth in the unflattering comparison between BlackBerry use and crack cocaine use. Both users are seen as abusers, fascinated with the distraction, to the neglect of companions and loved ones who are present, in flesh and blood, and possibly in mid-sentence during a conversation. Off goes the abuser, prompting any observer to wonder — paraphrasing the classic anti-drug campaign — “Are you using your BlackBerry or is it using you?”

If we were selling crack cocaine — we aren’t; that’s one of those products that Young Isaac refuses to promote — we would want to change that conversation. We would want the observer to ask something that invites the user to extol the beauty and wonderfulness of the drug.

That’s what this BlackBerry campaign does. It instructs the observer to ask not what the BlackBerry has done to the user, but rather what it does for the user. The theme “Ask Someone Why They Love Their BlackBerry” is grammatically incorrect (here’s why), but the strategy is smart. It calls the observer to ask the user to describe the direct personal benefits of using a BlackBerry.

The results: Users are given the benefit of the doubt. They aren’t addicted; they’re effective. And even better, users sell prospective users. That’s sound marketing strategy.

Smart. Still, let’s not let technology prevent us from living in the here and now.