While HP executives began analyzing core equities and values more than a year ago via a brand executive committee, the brand-building strategy didn't gain momentum until the arrival this summer of Carly Fiorina, HP's new CEO.
Although it's no surprise that the change in leadership has galvanized the staid granddaddy of Silicon Valley, people close to the process say brand and marketing executives soldiered through the company's notoriously decentralized culture for months hyping the importance of brand.
"We'd been proselytizing what a brand is for a year, setting up processes and procedures to deliver a single, consistent positive brand experience for everyone who comes into contact with HP," said one executive.
TEN YEARS AGO
The marketer's last global brand effort, "What If?" via Leo Burnett Co., Chicago, hit more than 10 years ago. More recently, "Expanding Possibilities," a consumer products brand initiative designed by Landor Associates, San Francisco, was launched two years ago with great fanfare.
A self-described brand evangelist throughout her career at AT&T Corp. and its spinoff, Lucent Technologies, Ms. Fiorina has already rallied HP employees around the importance of a unified image.
The new image turns on the company's legacy of invention, and the vision of founders David Packard and William Hewlett, who conceived HP in a garage. To anchor it, Goodby came up with a contemporary logo with the word "invent"; Landor is charged with fine-tuning it and establishing a visual identity system.
Company insiders and agency executives said Ms. Fiorina took a personal interest in shaping the campaign that breaks Dec. 1-even taping voice-overs for the first two commercials and possibly appearing in them, pending final approval.
"Carly is a brilliant manager, she's fair and she listens. She wants to hear your ideas," said John Coyne, account director at Goodby. "She also has her own vision of where HP has to go," he said, adding, "This would not have been possible in the world of HP before Carly."
HP executives said Ms. Fiorina believed AT&T missed a unique opportunity to redefine itself after the telecom giant spun off Lucent.
"She felt AT&T didn't really do anything to energize its employees," said Bojana Fazarinc, director of global marketing services, and coordinator of HP's brand executive committee. "Carly early on recognized that our company, since the split off of the measurement business [Agilent], will be defined as a computing and imaging company."
"Carly wanted to have some new direction, and in the `Carly lexicon' it's `Preserve the best, reinvent the rest,' " said Ms. Fazarinc.
Executives said Ms. Fiorina crystallized HP's general positioning, "Performance through invention," to suggest the marketer will perform for customers and shareholders not only through inventive technology but in how it solves customer problems and tackles internal work practices, supply chain management, and other business issues.
Analysts are cautiously optimistic about the big budget, and new leadership.
"I was impressed that [HP has] a centralized control of the brand," said Steve Milunovich, computer analyst at Merrill Lynch & Co. "They're going back to their roots, [the brand strategy] has some interesting elements. They desperately want to be known as an innovator."
But Mr. Milunovich and other analysts maintain the company hasn't had all that much innovation to crow about in recent years.
"The question is: What is the differentiator? What's the word in the mind you're going to own? I guess it's innovation. It's not the easiest thing for them to support anymore," Mr. Milunovich said. "They did the first RISC computer in the early '80s, but lost the lead to Sun," he said, adding that HP's reliance on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system and Intel Corp.'s chips as the basis of new products, and long product-development times must change.
HP has begun innovating in the Internet space with e-speak, software that allows services to connect to each other on the Internet.
IT BEGAN IN A GARAGE
In a video shown at Comdex, original footage featured the garage where HP was born, taken from home movies obtained from the Hewlett and Packard families. The garage, Ms. Fazarinc said, embodies the spirit of the original Silicon Valley start-up.
"The concept is relevant because we want to operate as a start-up again, in that spirit," she said.
In the video, Ms. Fiorina describes the company's birthplace as a "one-car garage in need of paint," pointing out that inventors strip away politics and bureaucracy, things that would be "ridiculous in a garage."
The campaign has no tagline, but a slogan may be developed over time. The spots will air heavily in network TV programming, showcasing HP's leadership in digital imaging and e-services, two of the company's most important business endeavors. They also will air on the pregame portion of Super Bowl XXXIV in January on ABC.
In the video, voice-over talks about HP's heritage and how the company is acting like an inventive start-up again. Other executions feature children and suggest that all children are inventors.
The work is described as edgier than that of McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, for Agilent, which takes a dreamy, evocative approach. Product-specific print, TV, and Internet ads will follow the launch within a month.
Print will break in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and key daily newspapers in regions with high concentrations of HP employees.
"HP has never been lacking on the technical side, but they have not done a real good job of messaging that," said Roger Kay, research manager at research company IDC. "They've been a little too quiet."
That's about to change.
Contributing: Alice Z. Cuneo.