A.J. tackles bid to unify H-P culture

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Allison Johnson has some ground-breaking ads mounted on the walls of her open cubicle on Hewlett-Packard Co.'s executive row.

The ads are reflective of her work at H-P, where Ms. Johnson is senior VP-global brand and communications and in charge of enterprise segment marketing strategy. She broke the mold in what had been traditionally a sleepy advertising genre: the shareholder proxy fight. She has remolded the H-P brand, one long steeped in a tradition of fragmentation.

A.J., as she is called, led the bold marketing campaign to push through the $19 billion acquisition of Compaq Computer Corp., a plan opposed by the families of H-P's founders. Working with Omnicom Group's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, Ms. Johnson approved ads such as the one framed above her desk. "What if we stopped here?" the headline asks, topping a photo of an early H-P device.

Before deciding on the Goodby effort, Ms. Johnson says, she consulted with traditional proxy fight advisers. But she went with the Goodby positioning in a battle she described as one where heart won over money. "We got the right outcome for the right reason," she says. "We never compromised our brand."

Ms. Johnson, 42, followed that victory with the launch of one of H-P's most integrated marketing efforts, an estimated $400 million global brand campaign positioning the company as a provider of a broad range of technology. It was more than just the rollout of a new branding campaign. Ms. Johnson, in a project dubbed "Operation One Voice," helped to unify the H-P culture.

Dressed for an interview in a black pantsuit looking like a "Matrix"-inspired design, Ms. Johnson says her secret is "Determination and courage. Most of these transformational roles require you take risks that make people uncomfortable. [I] gather a lot of insight ... and I follow my gut."

Her boss, Chairman-CEO Carly Fiorina, "has a strong internal compass," says Ms. Johnson. "You have to be willing to bet your job every day. So far, the bet paid off."

Ms. Johnson, born in Pennsylvania, says her first mentor was her father, who worked in sales and marketing for Bethlehem Steel.

Although the industry is dominated by men, she says it "has been very good to women."

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