HP focuses on simplicity in launch of digital products

PALO ALTO, CA: The biggest consumer launch in Hewlett-Packard's rich history was designed to help redefine the company's image from a PC and printer company into a digital-technology juggernaut.

PALO ALTO, CA: The biggest consumer launch in Hewlett-Packard's rich history was designed to help redefine the company's image from a PC and printer company into a digital-technology juggernaut.

The company unveiled 158 new consumer products last week in a manner that was supposed to change the way the world sees HP. It was also designed to vault the company's image over that of digital-technology rivals - like Sony - in the minds of consumers, business leaders, and investors.

Therefore, the PR and messaging has been twofold, focusing on both corporate positioning for the business media, and the products themselves to consumers. Porter Novelli orchestrated the launch event in New York and the subsequent consumer media coverage.

Hill & Knowlton helped coordinate the corporate and business coverage.

"PR is playing an enormous role in educating the public about HP's presence in the consumer market," said Mike Moeller, director of strategic media operations. "Not a lot of people knew we're the largest digital-technology provider. Our job as PR guys is to drive awareness around that."

Last week's kickoff was just the "opening salvo," said Moeller, and as more products are unveiled, PR will continue to drive awareness.

If one word could sum up HP's latest consumer marketing push, it would be "simple." The company is driving that message, which extends to both how simple it is to use the company's products (including digital cameras, notebook computers, and printers), as well as how simple it is for users to improve their lives with these devices.

"Consistently, we have heard from consumers that people are tired of complexity, tired of things not working right," explained Cherie Britt, HP's consumer PR manager. "Technology is meant to help people enjoy more out of life, and that is not often the case.

"It's about products that are simple and rewarding," she added. "And that message has resonated, as we've received more coverage on this launch than on anything I've seen."

The consumer push is also one of the first times that the two business units that oversee personal systems (such as PCs) and products (such as cameras and printers) came together "and built a strategy that would resonate with reporters and the marketplace," said Moeller.

"If you look at the convergence of all our products in the home, that can't be matched by anyone else in the market," said Doug Vaughan, director of external communications for the printing and imaging group. "We want to convey that in a way that delivers a rewarding experience."

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