Palm, Pepsi in Back-to-School Promo

Handheld computer maker Palm is aiming to boost sales of its PDAs through a school-themed promotion with Pepsi-Cola and Fox Networks.

The effort will see the Palm m125 handheld featured in back-to-school advertising that is co-branded with Pepsi. The work also will involve Frankie Muniz and Jane Kaczmarek, stars of Fox’s “Malcolm in the Middle,” showing off the Palm device.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Palm is banking that it can reach households with teenaged children by teaming with the Fox comedy, which consistently ranks first in its time slot for the demographic. Pepsi’s flagship soda and the m125 also are both thought to skew toward younger consumers.

Through the campaign, Muniz and the Palm m125 will appear in large, in-store Pepsi displays set up at more than 100,000 grocery stores nationwide. The displays promote a $20 mail-in rebate on the m125, and a sweepstakes, the winner of which will visit the set of “Malcolm in the Middle” in Hollywood. Other prizes include Palm and Pepsi merchandise.

“Our promotion with Pepsi is a creative way to further connect with students and parents across the country,” said Ken Wirt, senior vice president of marketing and product management at Palm’s Solutions Group. “We’re providing students with a helpful technology tool that will change the way they study, organize their schedules and manage important information.”

In addition to the in-store displays, the campaign is expected to also include other offline marketing materials and advertising.

The promotion marks Purchase, N.Y.-based Pepsi’s first co-marketing effort with Palm, and comes as the PDA manufacturer is working to broaden its distribution and marketing reach to mainstream consumers, rather than early adopters. During the past year, the company reached agreements with major department stores including Sears and Target to carry its products, which have been typically sold at specialty electronics retailers or online.

The new effort also comes as Palm is seeking to hit aggressive revenue targets during the next two quarters. The company is betting that a strong fall sales season, combined with cost-cutting, will help it break even by November, when it concludes its fiscal second quarter.

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