I’ve been talking a lot about makeovers and transformations that are probably going on at Palm. Now it is time for Palm to overhaul their marketing department.
September 2007 can been seen as the official kick off for all of the transformations that Palm is undergoing. To get things started, Palm sold a 27% state in the company to private equity firm Elevation Partners. Then all of the non-essential businesses where sidelined, including the Foleo mobile companion, the traditional handheld PDA business, and Palm’s retail locations. Next came staff reductions and realignment of the remaining teams. Palm has begun to roll out smartphones that are grabbing enthusiastic reviews. Coming up next up for Palm is a new Linux-based mobile operating system that will modernize the venerable Palm OS. With all the positive momentum being generated at the company, the time is right to overhaul their marketing department.
In less than a year, Palm has sold more than a million consumer-oriented Centro smartphones. And they are on track to sell 2 million units by the end of the year. All in all, Palm’s marketing has been resonating with customers looking to replace their feature flip phones. This is a very good thing for Palm. (Evidence also suggests that Palm may soon be able to break even or begin making money on their Centro smartphones.)
However, the events of this past weekend border on being reckless. Just in case you missed it, Palm launched a new edition of the AT&T Centro this weekend. The electric blue Centro went on sale this past Friday at AT&T retail locations and online at the Palm website. AT&T also implemented a temporary price cut for the Centro. You can now get an AT&T Centro for just $69.99 when you sign up for a qualifying 2-year service agreement. (The discount is in effect until September 20, 2008.) And then on Sunday, Sprint began selling the highly anticipated Palm Treo 800w smartphone. Reviews for the Treo 800w are just starting to come in, however, according to the Palm blog, people are writing things like; “ the best Treo ever,” and “the most productive Windows Mobile Pro device.” It is a same that the long lines weren’t for Palm’s new products and that no one heard Palm’s message because the new hardware was introduced during the insanity that was the international Apple iPhone 3G and iPhone 2.0 software launch.
With Palm running lean and mean, it seems that their marketing department isn’t on the same page as the management. How else can you explain Palm spending money to launch new devices during the same weekend as a major product launch as the iPhone 3G? Why not postpone the product introductions by a weekend? The only thing that I could dream up for a reason to roll out a new Centro this past weekend would be in a vain attempt to be disruptive of Apple’s iPhone launch. If that was the case, Palm’s plan backfired as Apple reported today that they sold over a million iPhone 3Gs internationally as of Sunday; the third day of the new iPhone’s availability.
In the time remaining between now and whenever Palm is ready to deliver the first products running Palm OS II/Nova, I hope that Palm takes a hard look at their marketing efforts. Palm OS II/Nova will probably be the single most important product developed by Palm over the next five years. Palm’s message about the new version of Palm OS and the devices that run it needs to be loud and clear.
There is still time for Palm to put their marketing house in order. To get the ball rolling, Palm has taken the first major step forward by bringing Elevation into the fold. Elevation brings the disciple of product execution to the table and product marketing needs to be part of project plan. Secondly, Palm has hired Lynn Fox away from Apple; a feat that I’m sure Palm Executive Chairman Jon Rubinstein had a hand in. In her role as director of Macintosh PR, Fox will know how to add the sizzle to Palm’s steak. Lastly, Palm needs to engage the media and the Palm user community in a combined marketing assault that gets the word out that a new Treo running Palm OS II/Nova will run circles around your current phone.
If Palm can generate excitement for their brand, their new Treo and Palm OS in advance of their delivering the smartphone that there customer base has been clamoring for, Palm won’t just have a smash hit on their hands, they will be on their way to being a meaningful player in the mobile computing field.