For the last several quarters, HP has been on a roll. CEO Mark Hurd is credited with turning the company around after the Carly Fiorina era, despite the tawdry pretexting scandal. During this rehabilitation period, HP has also had an image makeover.
The stodgy company that liked to talk about its engineering prowess, starting in a garage in Palo Alto, CA, and then was spiffed up by Fiorina and bruised with the controversial acquisition of Compaq, is now trying to become cool, like Apple. Instead of Macs and iPods, Windows PCs and printers are the featured products. Instead of Microsoft as the enemy, as for Apple, HP is trying to distinguish itself and gain brand preference over Dell, Lenovo and other PC and laptop makers.
The makeover is being applied across ads, packaging, industrial design, service and support worldwide, said Satjiv Chahil, senior vice president of worldwide marketing for HP’s Personal Systems Group (PSG). “It’s been a long time since the story was all about the speed of processors and spreadsheets,” Chahil said. “Today, with rich media and broadband adoption, the workplace and home are going digital and wireless. In that context, the narrative about the technology needs to be more compelling and relevant. We communicate through the voice of our customers, as illustrated in the TV spots, and we highlight features such as QuickPlay for DVDs and BrightView for LCD screens."
The image makeover is best exemplified by the “talking hands” commercials. The latest features fashion designer Vera Wang, and will start airing next week (see the 60-second ad below). Previous commercials featured Jay-Z, Mark Cuban, Mark Burnett, and Shawn White. The company even sprang for a SuperBowl ad this year, featuring the Orange Country Choppers. The ads have raised consideration for HP products, according to David Roman, vice president of worldwide marketing communications for PSG. "On the commercial side, in SMB, purhases consideration went up seven or eight points, while Dell went down," Roman said.
"As a byproduct of focusing on the 'Net' generation, they are accustomed to being marketed to, so marketing has to be more honest and real, and we have to make it interesting to watch," Roman said.
The Vera Wang ad includes a Web site and will be produced in French, Italian, Mandarin and English. "It's the most complex we have done," said Roman. "It's a whole story of how she developed her 2006-2007 winter collection, and how she used HP technology. It's not just a celebrity endorsement, but a real user." He also said that HP is also looking at having a design competition, custom Vera Wang inspired skins for the site and a coming up with a Vera Wang designed handbag. "We are looking into social networks, but we don’t want to do anything corny or take away from concept," Roman added.
"We celebrate achievers who use technology," Chahil said, but don't expect to see any talking hands videos of well known CIOs or CEOs for HP 9000 Superdome servers.