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Survey finds HP, Compaq, Cisco most ‘bruised and battered brands’

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Hewlett-Packard Co., Compaq Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. were the three technology companies that did the worst job of maintaining brand value in 2001, according to the "Bruised and Battered Brands" survey released last month by technology brand strategy consultancy Liquid Agency Inc.

The survey, based on responses from more than 800 marketing professionals, also found that Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina was the technology executive perceived to have harmed her company’s brand most in 2001, followed by Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison and Microsoft Corp. CEO Bill Gates.

CEOs become brand

"The biggest lesson [from the survey] is that strong leadership from the CEO of a company will undoubtedly be associated with the brand," said Alfredo Muccino, chief creative director and partner at Liquid Agency, San Jose, Calif.

However, he added, "This is a double-edged sword. When consumers and investors start associating brand with the personality of the CEO, CEOs will have to be extremely conscious of that, and their behaviors will influence the brand."

For Fiorina, who has aggressively pushed for a merger with Compaq Corp., that behavior had a negative impact on the HP brand, based on comments from poll respondents.

One respondent, who was not named, said, "She has taken a brand that was growing steadily and cast it into chaos—for no good reason, as the deal, while it may be good, was not communicated in a clear and articulate manner, leading to the current negative perceptions.’’

Some of the best

Technology companies that did the best job of maintaining brand value in 2001 were Microsoft, IBM Corp. and Dell Computer Corp.

While Oracle’s Ellison and Microsoft’s Gates were named among the top executives perceived to have harmed their company’s brand, they also showed up on the list of top executives who best personify those brands. Dell Computer Corp. CEO Michael Dell also made the list of those personifying their companies’ brands.

The survey also found:

• Eighty percent of marketing respondents strongly agreed that the industry downturn has hurt technology brands.

• While financial losses and stock price depreciation were major causes for brand erosion, "industry hype" came in a close third.

• Public relations was identified as the most effective way to market and create demand for technology brands in a tight economic climate, followed by customer relationship management and brand advertising.

In a separate survey released last month by Financial Times/PricewaterhouseCoopers, General Electric Co. was ranked the world’s most respected company for the fourth year in a row. Microsoft was ranked second, and IBM came in third. Jack Welch, the recently retired CEO of GE, retained his position as the world’s most respected business leader.

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