At HP, Reality Is Fast Becoming Perception. Shouldn’t Marketing Act?


What is going on at HP? Or rather, what is not happening at that company?   Ex HP- marketer Peter O’Neill here with some observations.

I am sure you’ve all consumed the numerous stories about HP over the last 18 months: CEOs being fired and hired in an almost show-business fashion; a board not paying enough attention; business strategy speculation (is the PC business in or out? – imagine this, for a while, the PC business unit actually ran ads arguing against their CEO’s plan!); multiple tablet announcements, and withdrawals; plus a long list of failed, mistimed, or simply stupid acquisitions. Clearly, many journalists, who are not technology market experts, now see HP as being run incompetently.

Even those working for the satirical magazine The Onion feel that HP is ripe for a satirical video, which really makes fun of HP’s latest cloud announcement. There has certainly been a plethora of announcements from HP on cloud computing in recent years – I get all the press releases and often the briefings. I know that these are announcements made by different business units within HP and I am able to keep them in context because I know the company so well. It shouldn’t happen that they are so uncoordinated, but I’m used to it (it is the same with their partner program announcements). But other people do not know how the corporation works; certainly not the journalists.  

So when a satirical magazine, not at all focused on technology but more oriented toward making fun of brands or famous people, decides to poke fun at HP because of a technology press release, I see that as a sign that the market perception of HP is seriously damaged. What are the points made in The Onion’s video? That HP has not innovated for many years; that it just uses the “cloud” word to try to sound interesting; and that it (HP) does not really know what it’s doing.

The problem is that many other observers have adopted that point of view as well. Pretty soon, HP will be generally considered to be a badly run company.

                  Reality becomes perception!

Isn’t anybody in marketing seeing this? After all, they are responsible for the perception – or correcting one that may have got awry. As I said above, the only marketing that comes across is at the business unit level: usually “InsideOut” content about HP products and services. In March, HP appointed a corporate-wide CMO and I tweeted at the time

The bigger news is the CMO one. Does @HP finally get Mktg! HP's IPG + PSG = PSPG announcement

as it sounded as if the cacophony of HP marketing efforts were (I assumed) being centralized, or at least, going to be better coordinated. But I visited HP in Palo Alto last week and it is clear to me that few, if any, strategic brand marketing decisions are being made. There even seems to be an underlying excuse for non-activity: “We are waiting” was a common apathetic  sentiment. There were also other organizational speculations galore, but I won’t go there.

What do you think? Shouldn’t HP marketing step up to the plate and protect the brand values? Do you agree that these are now damaged or even already down the tubes? I do. Could a marketing campaign even save HP now from the perception - or from being broken up?  Well, IBM’s eBusiness campaign in the late 1990s did save that company; changing the outside image as well as driving radical change internally. Dassault Systems, with the Collaborative Tribe campaign a few years ago, was able to transform itself both externally and internally too.  

As always, I’d love to hear from you on this and other topics. Always keeping you informed! Peter 


Poor Customer Service Procedures

Your comments about inactivity and lack of direction are well deserved. My recent experience with an HP FUBAR highlights the problem. HP made a bad announcement offering 80% off rather than an 80% price. Knowing that some companies dump overstocks and returns I took a chance On the third day after receiving confirmation of my purchase, notification of ship date and notice of release to manufacturing, it seemed real. Then the notices came. From the order department a notice of cancellation was received with no explanation. From the sales department (?) a notice was sent explaining the typo and a program to offset any problems. Since my email program sends advertisements from sales to Spam, it never reached the in-box. What HP offered was a 20% off retail on any PC product less any existing discount. Since most of their products are already discounted 15% this was trivial. They alternatively offered $200 of certain select products with a similar restriction. Conversations with customer service were robotic and espoused a rehearsed recitation of the discount program. The fine print of HP's product description describes their attitude better than my words. Pay attention to the last sentence that effectively says "We will hunt you down even if we are at fault".

"HP is not liable for pricing errors. If you place an order for a product that was incorrectly priced, we will cancel your order and credit you for any charges. In the event that we inadvertently ship an order based on a pricing error, we will issue a revised invoice to you for the correct price and contact you to obtain your authorization for the additional charge, or assist you with return of the product. "