Commentary

Add Targeting Women To Palm's Woes

Palm Pre ad

Palm's market challenges became painfully clear yesterday when the manufacturer lowered its full-year revenue projections to $1.6 billion from $1.8 billion because of weaker than expected sales of its Pre and Pixi smartphones. It's a far cry from a year ago when the Pre was hailed as Palm's comeback device.

Aside from any shortcomings of the phones' hardware itself, blame for underwhelming sales has also gone to Palm and Verizon Wireless, which began selling the phones last month, for failing to put a major marketing push behind them similar to Verizon's $100 million campaign for the Droid.

And some of the advertising promoting the Pre Plus may have hurt more than helped. TV spots running earlier this month and pitched at women came off as patronizing to women and seemed to alienate at least some male customers. One showed a retro mom using post-it notes to keep track of family events to highlight the phone's multi-calendar capabilities and ending with the tag line "The 3G smartphone smart enough for mom."

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Of course, the implied message was that the phone is simple enough for even a technolog-unsavvy mom to use. The ads were a striking contrast to Verizon's unabashedly guy-focused campaign for the Droid, featuring copy like "runs apps with axle-greased ease" and imagery of fighter planes, heavyweight boxing and gritty industrial works.

Given that Droid marketing blitz, its hardly surprising 73% of all Android users are male , according to data released Thursday by mobile ad network AdMob. But while the Droid campaign may have helped boost sales to the target male technophile demo, the study showed the Pre ads haven't yet done the same to pull in women. Palm's webOS has 58% male users to 42% female, about the same split as the iPhone.

It appears Verizon is now featuring more gender-neutral and iPhone-like spots focusing on the Pre's capabilities rather than overtly targeting women. However, in a release yesterday about new apps for webOS, Verizon highlighted ones for "Super-Moms," including a shopping list program and The Weather Channel app, so "moms will know if they should grab an extra umbrella for the soccer game."

That one's for you, soccer mom!

3 comments about "Add Targeting Women To Palm's Woes ".
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  1. Andrea Learned from Learned On, LLC, February 27, 2010 at 9:13 a.m.

    Targeting women isn't the problem, but overtly/obviously doing so, and making it about stereotypes is. In all cases, the best marketers reach their core customers by doing so transparently - it's not that the Pre market may more likely be "women".. it's that the types of humans who respond to the phone's functionality/design etc..like X, Y and Z features. That those humans are female should not distract those developing the marketing efforts from being guided and inspired by what those particular humans like or want in a phone. (Are we still talking about this in 2010! Sheesh - read some of the many books on the topic, people!)

  2. Angela Cason from CasonNightingale, February 27, 2010 at 12:14 p.m.

    Did the agency do any ethnographic research? There are significant differences in smartphone functionality that are only discovered through use and observation. Palm ads are the result of laziness. Someone didn't do the homework that would result on helpful differentiation. BTW, this is typed on a Droid.

  3. Mary Dean, March 2, 2010 at 9:14 p.m.

    It’s campaigns like this that give marketing to women a bad name. Andrea is right on the money (or the waste of it in the case of this campaign). When you’ve got a product that both kinds of humans can appreciate, it helps to remember that women don’t want to be targeted, they just want to be included. If you’ve developed a feature or two with us in mind, we’ll recognize it without you creating a big pink arrow to point it out. This is a great example of something I talk about a lot -- a smart strategy that falls apart in creative execution.

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