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I used to say “People who talk about ROI aren’t, getting it.” Today, I amend to say company “CEOs who talk about shareholder value aren’t getting it.”  Look at HPE (Hewlett Packard Enterprise). They divided from HP, sold off their services business, are selling their software business and tightening the company compression shorts to make themselves even more attractive to shareholders. Consolidations of this sort are focused on Wall Street. But in technology you need the best product not the leanest business. 

Look at Apple.  Do you think Apple’s people really care about shareholder value as they drive to work?  No, they’re thinking product. Product innovation. Product woosh. Today, The NY Times Farhad Manjoo dinged Apple for lackluster product design of the iPhone 7…and you know that had to hurt. From Tim Cook all the way down to the parking garage attendant. But Apple knows the design is good and they know what’s in the pipeline. Apple cares about product, not shareholder value. Leave shareholder value to the tech companies on the way down. 

Peace.    

 

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Computer Sciences just announced a merger with the call center and enterprise services businesses of HP Enterprise (recently split off from the HP computer business). I’m not sure what they will call the entity but wouldn’t be surprised if it was named Computer Sciences. The new company will be dedicated to services, a la managing other people’s networks and call centers. I’m thinking there will not be a lot of PhDs at this company or a huge R&D budget. Ergo, “science” may not be the most accurate and descriptive word for the name.

I’d go with something new. It will be interesting to see what they come up with. Computer Sciences was a huge brand in its day. But with tooth brushes having computers in them, they may want to jettison the “C” word and find some new naming territory.

Peace.                                     

 

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Meg Whitman, who is the CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, it seems to me, doesn’t have a marketing bone in her body. She is amazingly successful and a brand unto herself, but marketing is not a major care-about for her. If she cared she would have fought harder to keep HP together and invest into the PC and printer businesses. (Are you reading this on a PC? Is it 6 feet from your HP printer?)  Instead she split the company and took control of something called Hewlett Packard Enterprise, a huge battleship of a company with a stodgy, clunky brand, positioned around an idea “Accelerating Next.” Como se 1990s?

Of the two diverged companies I’m kind of liking the PC and printer business, branded HP Inc. Its new CEO Dion Weisler seems a marketeer. He understands it all starts with a product and has smartly dialed up R&D resulting in some laptop forms that are beginning to create excitement. His printers are offering up consumer care-abouts like lower cost ink and faster printing. It also appears he’s a bit of a showman — introducing some laptops inside one another, as with nested Russian dolls.   

When you think about it, Mr. Whitman got the business brands and Mr. Weisler got the consumer brands which was probably a good plan.

That said, I always bet on a business person with marketing chops.  Let’s see what the future of these two brands bring.

Peace.

 

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I don’t mean to pick on HP or its advertising and marketing again. But I must.  The company is using arguably the world’s best advertising agency (BBDO) and can’t get out of its own way.  They can’t come up with a sustainable brand idea; an idea that marries what they do best with what customers want most. Today’s new idea, as seen in an ad in the NYT, revolves around the notion of “further faster.”  It is all claim, exposition and pedantic nothingness – not a single sign of proof in the copy. Do HP and Meg Whitman really think IT executives and Fortune 2000 leaders don’t know they have to be faster and more informed in their business decisions? OMG. If “further faster” is the idea — at least it is better than “make it matter,” their last strategic foray. You wouldn’t know it from this ad however.

HP has bigger fish to fry than a tagline and brand idea. They are splitting the company and losing small cities worth of money. That said, someone at the top in the marketing dept. should be trying much harder to deliver a clear, meaningful idea.

BBDO is great at selling consumer goods but perhaps doesn’t truly get B2B. (B team?) This whole mess is really hard to believe. If HP wants to get to the future faster, they had better learn a lot more about claim and proof…and find the organizing principle that helps make more money. Peace.

 

 

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officejetI was in BJs the other day by the HP ink cartridge area. I counter 92 SKUs for OfficeJet Printers. And OfficeJet is only one brand of HP printers. There’s OfficeJet, LaserJet, DeskJet and more. There were more OfficeJet options than types of gum at a candy store.  While doing fieldwork at BJ’s I observed very few people buying HP ink products. Maybe one or two an hour. And you wonder why HP needs to fix itself?

It wasn’t that long ago when HP was the number one PC manufacturer and killing it at earnings time. Now the company will be split so it can retrench, focus and hit some numbers. Sad, really.

There’s not a person in America (not working at HP) who thinks printer ink for the home is fairly priced. So there’s an opportunity. Develop a new way to transfer words onto paper, or some other surface, that is legible and low cost. A cost that makes consumers smile. Right now it might feel to HP like eating the children, but it’s a smart future play. And one that will restore some luster and earnings potential. Como say patent?

Come on HP. Peace.

 

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When I do upstream brand work for companies my first deliverable is a brand brief. The brief creates an organizing principle articulating what a company does well and what consumers want most. The brief secret sauce is one claim and three proof planks. Claim and proof — organized proof — build brands.

When large businesses organize, they tend to follow a productized principle. HP has a PC business, a printer business and services business. Yahoo!’s latest organizing principle identifies search, communications and content. AT&T Business Services used to organize by inbound, outbound and data. This is how businesses organize. Organic, essential groupings that are clean, not messy and, likely, tied to line-of-business revenue.

This is not how brands strategy should be organized. What’s The Idea? uses brand planks that are benefit-driven. They may certainly offer a functional spin but always, always point to a consumer benefit. Unfortunately, when budgets are allocated for marketing efforts such as advertising, events and promotion, the money tends to come from functional/product areas and things gets messy. Product managers want product-based comms and the master strategy takes a hit. 

Now more than ever brand strategy needs executive buy-in and C-level champions.  Why are many CMOs unsuccessful? They are tacticians. They’re product pushers not brand builders.

Peace.

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HP’s earnings were higher than expected this quarter, but revenue was down. Contemporaneously, Silicon Valley is celebrating the smartest kids in business  (I don’t know their names) owners of Snapchat who just turned down $3B from Facebook — and they have no revenue model.

For all the expense cutting Meg Whitman has done at HP — for all the business blocking and tackling — it should be known that revenue in 5 of 6 business segment is down. Not good.

In this age of “content is king,” I’d like to go off piste and say “revenue is king.”  Business process reengineering, the cloud, social business design and the maker economy are the things of Harvard Business Review essays and B+ papers. But revenue is what business is built upon. Let me say it again, revenue is the thing upon which businesses are built. Top line dollars.

Follow the revenue in the 21st century. When someone opens their wallet, marketing has happened. When someone opens their wallet learning can take place. Metrics can take place.

Ms. Whitman needs to be chasing revenue growth. Period. Let her direct reports work the expense side. Peace.

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Living in the now is what marketing directors are hired to do.  There is nothing more stimulating for a marketer than watching the orders come in. Units, dollars, cases…these are the things that generate wood. Behind the arrow. 😉  Sales are the real data. Being able to interpret feeder data and relate it to sales is important, but sales are the business.

Strategy is the landscape that surrounds sales; the lens through which we see and interpret them. Yet sales-driven organizations don’t always care about strategy, they care about the now.  They live in the now.  A good part of my brand planning rigor is devoted to tracking the sales and selling experience.  It feeds the strategy.  But sales and sales tactics that live in the now without a paean to strategy become easily tired.

Marketing directors need to balance the now with the long term. Slow and steady do not get marketing directors to the head of the line.  Meg Whitman, CEO of HP is no marketing director (Oh yes she is) but she’s being given time to turn HP around. Slow and steady.  Marketing directors don’t have that luxury; especially with dashboard jockeys on every horizon.  

The key for any new marketing director or CMOs over their first 100 days is to learn the business, properly cultivate the marketing department, quickly plant seeds, and share successes. With a plan, with a strategy, all tactics become accountable.  Good sales and bad sales become obvious. Now. Then. And when. Peace.

 

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Raise your hand if you think computers are going away? Raise your hand if you think the design form of computers will continue to change? Now quick, name 4 computer brands.

If HP wasn’t among those listed, I’d be surprised.

Where the R&D at?

If I were to count every word of every story about Hewlett Packard over the last 5 years, I’m betting the words research and development doesn’t appear in 1% of the search. Why is that? I’m sure they’re doing some R&D, but they can’t be investing in it in a big way. In the PC and computer businesses, I’ve yet to read about any of their design or form breakthroughs. So what are they doing. They’re playing business Monopoly. Moving pieces around, marketing old stuff, managing loss and going to dinners.

There is a huge, huge pot of money in computing. The design form is changing and is certainly not yet done. And HP is busy lounging around with the world’s second leading computer brand.

Next year at CES, HP should quietly in stealth mode launch something big. With all the other big guys not playing in the CES sandbox it would be a highlight moment. But only if they were to launch something out of their R&D garage that mattered. (Como se Make it Matter.) Come on Ms. Whitman. Peace.

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Meg Whitman has one of the toughest jobs in America. She runs HP and has spent the past year attempting to fix what is broken or stale.  The HP brand, known by all, owned by all, is experiencing stasis during one of the most exciting times in all of tech-dom.

The HP “Is-Does” is clouded; covered with a glauchoma-ed gauze. Amazingly, a couple of years ago, in the years following Carly Fiorina’s ouster, the company was humming along.  

The last great brand idea HP had was “Invent.”  Don’t get me wrong, they’ve had lots of great ads over the years and many excellent agencies, but not much with brand ballast.  Invent was actually developed under Ms. Fiorina’s watch, however ended up being little more than an idea.  The company did not truly invest in or operationalize it, not the way Apple did. Or Google. Or the media socialists.

Stanford, MIT, Harvard and their dropouts don’t wake up aroused in the middle of the night thinking about working at HP.

27,000 layoffs in today’s flat world is not news to an up-and coming engineer – not the way the next gigatron device is.  HP has to marry the future with the current. We do need printers and tablets and PCs, but what will take back the hearts and minds of consumers and the next gen of consumers is packaged imagination. HP has work to do. Peace!   

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