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Palm Pre: Missing the word of mouth opportunity

image Excitement started to build for the Palm Pre phone after the January consumer electronics show.  Everyone said it was amazing.  I was eager to try it, even though I had bad coverage from Sprint years ago. This was a chance for Palm and Sprint to win me back.

So I waited.

I signed up for the email list on the Palm web site.  (That should have told them I was a potential major evangelist, if not just an eager prospect.)

No emails. I dutifully checked the geek blogs to see if anyone knew when it was coming out. I saw the teaser ads on TV and in newspapers. But no one talked to me, or people like me.

I gave up last month and bought an iPhone.  I'm perfectly happy, and they lost me.

Here's where they blew it: 

  1. They recruited eager fans and evangelists.  They got us on a email list. That's a special and priceless word of mouth asset.  We would have blogged, talked, and built demand. We would have been the people in line at the stores.
  2. But they ignored us.  No communications, no VIP updates, nada. 
  3. Then they started leaking the phone to Britney Spears and Howard Stern. Message to tech geeks: "You don't matter."
  4. They then spent millions on TV and print advertising.

Here's the lost opportunity:  They could have assigned one person to reach out to bloggers and fans and create an evangelist program.  It would have cost exactly one marketing salary.  And they would have had thousands of blog posts, massive demand, and non-stop coverage.  They would have had an army of fans to defend them when the inevitable "it's not as good as an iPhone" comparisons start. 

Instead, Sprint and Palm went with old-school PR and advertising.  Millions spent.  A one-shot deal.

I don't know if the phone will be a hit or not.  I hope it is, for the sake of all the good people who work at these companies.

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  1. Daniel O'Neil May 27, 2009 at 12:20 pm #

    I have been a fan of Palm for years and have been continually amazed at how badly they treat their base. I agree that they could have had a great word of mouth campaign and blew it–I didn’t realize that they had leaked the phone to Britney Spears and Howard Stern but not to any bloggers. That is a pretty funny move. I too hope that they succeed in spite of their silly moves.

  2. Jeff Larche May 27, 2009 at 1:12 pm #

    I couldn’t agree with your more. I’ve been a Palm owner for years, and a Sprint customer for the last two. I own a Centro that has treated me well. But I’m open to the latest and greatest.
    It’s a proven phenomenon that we all have a bias for things we “own.” We tend to value those things we consider ours more than if this things weren’t. That goes for our city’s baseball team, our neighborhoods, and especially product brands.
    I went through exactly what you did, Andy. I watched, and even responded. (They’d asked active tech bloggers to fill out a questionnaire on why they would be appropriate charter owners of the new Pre). For my efforts I heard nothing but silence.
    Ya want to know why some underdogs prevail? They work smarter and harder. Like you, I’m unconvinced Palm deserves to survive.

  3. Craig Symons May 30, 2009 at 10:18 pm #

    Ha. I did the same thing. I dropped Sprint and bought an iPhone a month ago. Despite my reluctance to switch networks, I was basically tired of waiting. I am fairly certain that a decent word of mouth campaign would have kept me on the Sprint rolls, but in light of the lack of information and buzz, I opted out.

  4. Gus June 3, 2009 at 8:08 am #

    So you are not buying a phone due to how the marketed it, how is that being savvy?

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