Palm Launches Rebranding Campaign

Palm, Inc., Wednesday took the wraps off a new advertising campaign aimed at repositioning the popular handheld computing manufacturer as an operating system company.

While expected — the company develops and licenses its OS and development tools to companies like Handspring and Sony — it’s still a fairly radical shift in the eyes of consumers, most of whom view the company as just a hardware manufacturer.

“We are repositioning Palm from what people perceive it to be today — which is, frankly, a handheld computer company, maker of the most popular handheld computer today — to a Palm OS-licensing company,” said Liz Brooking, who is senior director of marketing communications for the company.

In fact, Santa Clara, Calif.-based Palm’s strategy all along was to move into the platform space; its handheld play served to get its OS business off the ground, the company said.

“It’s not about just selling the handheld; it’s about the entire solution and the value it brings to the customer,” Brooking said. “While our strength has been organizing individuals’ lives, we have more than 100,000 developers creating applications for the handheld devices that we make and our partners make, as the licensees of our Palm OS.”

Device sales represent more than 85 percent of the company’s revenues, although company executives have said they anticipate software sales to eventually become a significant portion of its income. It’s not a bad move, either, as Microsoft, which makes a competing handheld and OS, has thrown significant marketing and development weight behind its own handheld products. Palm OS licensees, also, are chipping away at Palm’s handheld market share with their own devices, such as Handspring’s Visor.

Creatives in Palm’s “Simply Amazing” campaign depict tranquil scenes and feature the floating screen of a handheld device running a Palm OS application.

“We’ve made a particular attention not to draw attention to the … Palm-branded handheld,” Brooking said. “This is to get beyond the organizer and tell the breadth and depth of applications that are out there.”

Print ads will run in newspapers as well as business, lifestyle and sports magazines; similarly themed outdoor and out-of-home ads will also appear in select markets. Thirty- and 60-second television spots will run on broadcast and cable television, and will also highlight the number and variety of applications available on the Palm, Brooking said.

The online advertising component will consist of static and rich media banner ads, in addition to “more extensive vehicles that are more interactive and engaging to the user, and which give us an opportunity to take the germ of the idea in print and take it a step further.”

The company released few details of its online strategy, however. Those plans are “not fully developed yet,” Brooking said.

The campaign, on which Palm spent about $100 million, marks the first concerted attempt at rebranding by the company. A previous campaign earlier this year launched what Brooking called “introductory vehicles” that listed the number of developers, applications and users, but “those were really the prelude of what you see today. This is our first … advertising attempt to communicate [Palm’s platform strength] in a comprehensive way.”

Because it incorporates different ways to communicate the OS’ strengths — such as focusing on specific, lifestyle-easing programs like wireless email and stock market software, or the sheer number of applications or developers — Brooking said she the campaign “has the legs to take us a very, very long time.”

“The campaign has so much flexibility for marketing segmentation. It’s flexible from media segments. With tweaks and modifications, it’s going to have a very long life.”

Citron Haligman Bedecarre, a Euro RSCG company, designed the creatives as Palm’s agency of record. In March, Palm parted ways with Foote, Cone & Belding after that agency took on Compaq as a client. Citron Haligman Bedecarre has previously done work for Women.com, Sony, and CNet.

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