Forget “Brand Ambassadors,” Palm Needs a Hero

If Palm (s palm) hopes to turn its business around, it needs better hardware and marketing, not the 200 “brand ambassadors” currently training Verizon Wireless (s vz) employees mentioned in a please-don’t-panic memo by Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein to employees. Unschooled Verizon staffers are the least of the manufacturer’s problems.
The memo, which was initially reported by the Wall Street Journal, follows the company’s announcement yesterday that consumer uptake of its webOS handsets had been slower than expected, leading to weak orders from carriers. Rubinstein told employees Verizon had “recommitted” to help boost sales of the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus, which the nation’s largest carrier launched last month. Rubinstein wrote:

“Dave Whalen and I just returned from a very successful meeting with Verizon Wireless, where they acknowledged that their execution of our launch was below expectations and recommitted to working with us to improve sales. To accelerate sales, we initiated Project JumpStart nearly three weeks ago. Since then, nearly two hundred Palm Brand Ambassadors, supplemented by Palm employees from Sunnyvale, have been training Verizon sales reps across the U.S. on our products.”

Rubinstein’s note also laughably cited “a growing number of Palm ads on billboards, bus shelters, buses, and subway stations.” That kind of marketing pales compared to Apple’s (s aapl) masterful TV commercials for its iPhone and the $100 million ad campaign for the Droid (s goog) from Motorola (s mot) and Verizon.
Such big-budget promotions are crucial in the superphone era, where a wide array of high-tech handsets can be had on the cheap. More importantly, though, it’s also becoming increasingly clear that consumers aren’t thrilled with either the Pre or the Pixi. So if Palm is going to get back in the game — a prospect that’s becoming less likely by the day — it will need to develop a gotta-have device and then back it with some serious marketing muscle.
Related content from GigOM Pro (sub req’d):
Marketing Handsets in the Superphone Era

Image courtesy of Flickr user usembassylondon.