Hewlett-Packard looks to its past and gets an image makeover from stodgy to hip

by Ann Cooper

Hewlett-Packard is betting its future on relationship marketing, the philosophy of 'change' and on placing the consumer firmly at the center of its marketing universe. By doing so, and continuing to streamline and innovate its product lines, the 65-year-old company hopes to ensure its survival for the next 65 years.

'You have to go back in history to understand that our philosophy is all about relationship-driven marketing,' says Julia Mee, HP's director of global advertising. Having just launched a 42" plasma TV and a digital entertainment center, plus the HP Apple iPod, Mee says they'll be continuing to expand the consumer products base. 'We're not moving away from our digital core, we're adding on. Our philosophy is to have one cohesive branding campaign, '+ HP' and we're looking at things beyond TV and print. We have to be more immersive in our consumers, which means more experiential advertising.'

Indeed, HP's future is very much tied to its storied past. HP was started back in 1939 by Stanford graduates and engineers Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard in a Palo Alto garage. The company?s first product was an audio oscillator to fine-tune the soundtrack of Disney's 'Fantasia.' Early on the visionary partners grasped that the key to success in the mercurial electronics field was constant innovation, a philosophy that still drives the company today. The two entrepreneurs quickly branched out and in time, HP became known for such inventions as the pocket calculator and the desktop laser printer, and today, that Palo Alto garage bears a plaque proclaiming it the 'Birthplace of Silicon Valley.'

The company was also known for its revolutionary social and management practices that eventually became the gold standard for many U.S. companies. It introduced the concepts of health benefits, profit sharing, bonuses tied to productivity and an open door policy.

During the '80s and '90s, HP transformed itself from a maker of high-end scientific instruments into a computer company with broad business applications, consumer appeal and double-digit growth. It was also seen as being boring and predictable, and hardly renowned for its marketing. When the dot-com bust happened, HP suffered along with everyone else.

Carly Fiorini took over as HP's chief executive in 2000 and supervised the 2002 merger with Compaq. Her second mission was to ramp up the marketing profile, reinvent the company and repackage it for survival in the 21st century as a vibrant consumer brand like Nike or Coca-Cola. Key was targeting the younger iMac generation and changing HP's stodgy image.

When Goodby, Silverstein and Partners entered the picture in 1999, it was put in charge of ushering in a new, more consumer-friendly image of HP. They soon launched the '+ HP' campaign and the theme 'everything is possible.'

'The job we set out to do when we launched the '+ HP' campaign was to move the company from being seen as a boring but reliable printer maker to a more dynamic brand,' says John Coyne, who heads up the HP account at Goodby. Goodby introduced a series of campaigns that targeted different HP customers. Common to both consumer and business markets was the concept of 'Change + HP.' For HP's Enterprise division aimed at business decision makers, one 30-second spot followed an IT executive walking through his office as the world changes around him and featured a new arrangement of the Who's '70s hit, 'Baba O'Riley.' Then there was an outdoor campaign that changed over time with the help of plants, both real and artificial. It adorned jetways at airports and targeted business and IT executives in major cities.

To read more about Hewlett-Packard, pick up a copy of the Winter 2005 issue of one. a magazine, available in February.

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