Selling the Compaq Acquisition Deal

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

Allison Johnson, senior vice president for global brand communications, Hewlett-Packard Co.

For one, Ms. Johnson, H-P's senior vice president for global brand and communications who also oversees enterprise segment marketing strategy, broke the mold in what had been traditionally a sleepy advertising genre: the shareholder proxy fight. For another, she has remolded the H-P brand, one long steeped in a tradition of fragmentation.

Bold campaign
A.J., as she is called, led the bold marketing campaign to push through H-P's $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.

Follows her gut
Dressed for the 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. Gather a lot of insight ... and I follow my gut."

Her boss, Chairman-CEO Carly Fiorina, "has a strong internal compass," Ms. Johnson says. "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. She now enjoys taking her children to sports on the weekend. Her daughter, 10, is on the national champion basketball team for fourth graders.

'A fearless competitor'
Although the industry is dominated by men, she says it "has been very good to women." Her advice: "Focus on the strategic and not just the tactical. Be a fearless competitor."

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