EVENTS & PROMOTIONS: HP HITTING THE ROAD: TRUCKS TRAVEL THE COUNTRY SHOWING HOW RACING'S RAHAL USES COPIERS

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Hewlett-Packard Co. is taking office workers behind the scenes of an Indy-style race to dem-onstrate its latest color copying machines.

The HP Color of Business/Business of Color Mobile Marketing Tour kicked off late last month. Two huge trucks, containing interactive marketing exhibits featuring Hewlett-Packard's hottest new products, will separately visit 24 states over four months, making more than 60 stops and reaching an estimated 100,000 people.

CORPORATIONS & CONSUMERS

The trucks are visiting corporations as well as consumer events, luring people inside with demonstrations of how Indy race car driver Bobby Rahal and his pit crew make use of Hewlett-Packard's equipment.

Through a variety of simulations and videos, Mr. Rahal's racing team is shown using Hewlett-Packard's equipment during actual competitions.

For example, visitors are invited to experiment with Hewlett-Packard's smallest portable color printer, the HP DeskJet 1600C, which Team Rahal uses inside the racing pit to analyze speed, fuel and other performance data during the race.

Visitors also can produce racing sponsorship proposals with the HP Color LaserJet 5 and create future car designs with the HP DesignJet. A total of 14 Hewlett-Packard products for small and large businesses are demonstrated during the tour.

The tour will visit both corporate and consumer venues including major sporting events, car races and CompUSA retail outlets. Although Hewlett-Packard's primary target is corporations, the company estimates that 40% of those visiting the exhibits at consumer locations also will be prospective business customers.

'IDEAL WAY'

"We've really struggled in the past to get the end users to try our products, because they're the ones who influence top executives to buy products. This is an ideal way to get actual users into the decision process," said Siobhan O'Connor, Color of Business program manager for Hewlett-Packard's North American Hard Copy Marketing Center.

M3 Marketing Group, Birmingham, Mich., created the exhibits and provides staff members, trained by Hewlett-Packard, who travel with the tour.

STILL USING TRADE SHOWS

Hewlett-Packard traditionally promotes its business machines at trade shows and through direct mail. Although those marketing tools remain vital, hands-on sampling is fast becoming a more effective marketing tool as products become more complex, Ms. O'Connor said.

"We see this as a trade show on wheels with no competition, as a direct marketing tool with no clutter," she said. "And we get a chance to talk directly to users, which gives us important market research about how our products are used that we can't get through other marketing channels or by dealing with top purchasing executives."

Hewlett-Packard tested the concept last year; in 1997, it added the Team Rahal concept as a marketing theme after signing on to become a major associate sponsor of the team last year.

"It's much more powerful to demonstrate products around a real-life theme like

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