HP spices up its image with interactive site

Putting the "personal" back in PC

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BEIJING--Apart from Apple Computer, whose cutting-edge technology and designs have inspired fanatical customer loyalty, personal computer makers often sell computers based largely on pricing or nerdy specifications.

Many PC shoppers “believe there’s no difference between computers, whether you buy HP or Dell or something else, they think you get the same thing for about the same price,” said Beijing-based Gentaro Makinoda, account director at HP’s ad agency, Saatchi & Saatchi in China, “even though what they do on their computers is very personal.”

Starting in China, Hewlett-Packard is trying to ignite passion about its brand by appealing to urban trendsetters--young adults and university students in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Late last month, HP launched www.hpmystage.com, a site that gives Chinese web surfers--which includes nearly everyone under 30 in tier-one cities with the money and inclination to buy a computer--an outlet for self-expression. The strategy caters to a desire shared by many young Chinese--for fame.

“They don’t want to be famous just for the sake of being famous. Rather, they want to be recognized for their achievements in what they are inspired to do,” said Mr. Makinoda. “So we want to give consumers a chance to showcase themselves.”

HP’s “My Computer, My Stage” campaign lets consumers take over a digital page of HP’s web site, where they can create and express dreams, achievements and goals through writing or illustrations. The best submissions will be pulled together and published in a book, which HP calls the largest collection of youth culture in China. It will submit this book for a Guinness World Record this summer.

HP launched the site late last month with submissions by six “masters,” well-known, successful individuals who have gained the respect and admiration of young Chinese throughout the country.

One master, Wang Momo, created a popular illustrated rabbit called Tuzki, which has become popular with QQ and MSN users. Late last year, Motorola began using Tuzki to promote its Motorola Q 9h smart phone in Asia. Another master, Alfred Jin, is chief editor at Reuters, and Hezi is an online cartoon character creator. Novelist Guo JingMing is one of China’s best-selling writers. Li Xiang is an online business owner and Xu Rui is a famous television VJ.

“At the top part of the market, the IT industry has to become more focused. Right now, it's very broad-based. From HP’s perspective, now the time is right to go for youth marketing,” said Robin Seow, Beijing-based marketing director for Hewlett-Packard’s Personal Systems Group in China.

“There is a very direct group of people we want to talk to about our product design and the overall experience we offer, which fits in very well with their interests and habits. Chinese youth in tier-one cities have a lot of interests and enthusiasm, especially in the world of the internet. China is not at all behind more developed countries like Hong Kong in that sense.”

Enjoying a “sudden wave of external culture flowing in, [Chinese youth] are looking for ways to express their individuality, and they like to become well-known and create a personality image of their own. So we needed a very specific platform to communicate with them,” Mr. Seow added. HP’s online platform, developed by Saatchi & Saatchi, Beijing, “gives us a direct connection with youth in a very cool way.”

By Jan. 20, 2008, the site had received 1,014,513 unique visitors and registrations for page ownership reached 5,760. So far 1,264 pages have been submitted.

The web campaign, running through June, is promoted in print and outdoor ads, with Publicis Groupe's Optimedia handling media planning and buying. There are no TV spots, but in early January, HP ran a series of programming segments and promotions through a tie-in with Beijing Enlight TV. At the end of March, HP is taking the campaign to about three dozen university campuses in cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

China is the first market to run HP’s “My Computer, My Stage” campaign, but it could run elsewhere, said Mr. Seow. “It breaks tradition a bit, the fact that China is the first market globally, and a lot of effort has gone into it, to make sure the China campaign provides a good experience. We want to make sure it works well in China before we talk internally about running it elsewhere.”
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