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BlackBerry Deemed 'Coolest Brand' in Shocking Survey

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Among America’s youth, the BlackBerry is about as “cool” as a Saturday night rerun of The Lawrence Welk Show on PBS. Try as Research in Motion (RIMM) did to be “better and bolder in 2012” with its embarrassingly out-of-touch "Bold Team" promotion featuring multicultural superhero characters, the under-18 market hasn’t found itself clamoring for a tactile key PDA this year.  

Sadly, BlackBerry can’t even get any love anymore in its home country. Canucks are now abandoning the Waterloo, Ontario-based company’s flagship product for Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone by a margin of nearly 40%.

But when the youth market’s door closes in one continent, it opens in another. Kids overseas are giving RIM some serious props, having just named BlackBerry the “Coolest Cellphone,” the “Coolest High-Tech Gadget,” and the “Coolest Brand Overall” for the second year running.

Where? South Africa.

The Sunday Times Generation Next Brand Survey, which polled 5,000 South Africans between 8 and 22 years old about their perceptions of brands across product categories -- from soft drinks to airlines -- had BlackBerry sweeping the smartphone category at the annual awards ceremony held earlier this month.

The iPhone didn’t even place. In fact, Apple only got hip points for its brand as a computer maker.

Contributing to the BlackBerry’s coolness factor among South Africa’s younger generations is its lower price point, relative to other high-end smartphones, and a flat monthly data rate of roughly $7. Also the kids have taken to the highly popular instant messaging service, BlackBerry Messenger, or BBM, and the BlackBerry Internet Service, or BIS, that allows them free access to their email, the internet, chatting services, Facebook (FB), and Twitter.

Speaking of social networking, Facebook was voted the coolest social network, beating out (in order) Mxit, Google+ (GOOG), WhatsApp, and Twitter.

While BlackBerrys accounted for a scant 10% of overall smartphone sales in the US in 2011, nearly half of all smartphones users in South Africa are on the RIM tip. Granted, last year that was only 2.5 million units, but the growth potential in, not only the nation but, the entire continent is staggering. In the third quarter alone, shipments of BlackBerrys in Africa rose by 741%, year-over-year.

Domestically, of course, it’s a different matter.

(See also: RIM Hits a New Embarrassing Low)
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.