Is Antonio Lucio the right person to define HP's brand? Comms experts weigh in

As HP prepares to split into two separate entities, PR pros back Lucio to create a global positioning and narrative for the newly formed HP Inc.

When Antonio Lucio, Visa’s outgoing chief brand officer, takes the marketing helm at HP Inc., he needs to define the brand and share its stories of innovation with internal and external audiences, say technology PR pros.

Lucio stepped down from his post at Visa on April 24 to become CMO of HP Inc., the PC and printer business that is set to split from HP later this year when the organization restructures into two entities. The second company, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, will cover corporate hardware and services.

Bringing in Lucio to lead marketing for the new brand "seems like a big win" because of his well-respected reputation in the industry, says a communications leader at a legacy tech company.

The PR pro adds that Lucio will likely face more internal communications challenges than external ones, because of the changes he’ll be managing through and the decisions he will have to make in building a marcomms team.

Since Visa shifted its corporate relations department under marketing in 2013, the technology comms head says Lucio may opt for a similar setup at HP Inc.

According to a source familiar with the situation, HP Inc.’s incoming CEO Dion Weisler already had plans in place to position communications under marketing prior to hiring Lucio.

Alan Marks, SVP of global communications at eBay, which is also going through a spinoff with PayPal, says the important issues comms leaders need to focus on in these situations are connecting with customers, positioning the business in its competitive landscape, and delivering sustainable shareholder value.

"Certainly, strong brand marketing and communications plays a key role in all of that," he adds.

With Lucio’s global perspective and expertise, he’ll know how to create a global positioning and narrative for HP Inc., as well as how to localize it for specific audiences, says Doug Michelman, SVP of corporate communications and CSR at Sprint, who previously worked with Lucio at Visa.

Michelman stepped down from his global head of corporate relations role at the financial services giant amid the aforementioned marcomms restructure.

With Lucio coming on board as the first marketing chief for HP Inc., Michelman says he will have to define the brand and make sure it differentiates itself from competitors in a cluttered market.

"This is a completely new company, and he, the CEO, and the rest of the leadership team have work to do to define what this company stands for, how to position it, and how much of the legacy heritage of HP to bring forward," he explains.

While HP’s consumer printer and PC business has been facing financial difficulties – with cloud and digital services on the rise – the spinoff will provide Lucio with an opportunity to carve out and highlight the brand’s core value propositions, says Derek Lyons, VP of tech business development at Shift.

He adds that Lucio has to be very vocal about how HP Inc. can innovate quickly and stand up against disrupters in the industry.

As eBay continues its split, Marks says the "separation will bring greater strategic focus and flexibility to each business." 

Throughout the process, eBay and PayPal have been operating as independent divisions under eBay Inc., each with their own integrated communications teams.

"We continue to build these teams and make sure they’re prepared to lead the company forward as independent, publicly traded companies," explains Marks.

Getting staffers excited about the brand is an important part of building it and making it strong, says Marquise McCoy, program manager at Hotwire. He believes Lucio should keep staffers updated on the company’s plans, strategies, and marketing budgets in order to turn them into brand ambassadors.

"You have to get the team behind what you’re doing and really give focus on some of the [company’s] plans in order to build brand reputation," continues McCoy.

Targeting consumers
Another key concern is that the average consumer may be unaware about why the company is splitting in two and what it means for each business. McCoy says HP Inc. has to communicate to customers one on one at events or product demos. He adds that Lucio should have a few staffers within the marcomms team solely dedicated to grassroots efforts.

On the consumer front, Shift’s Lyons says Lucio has the chance to "make HP Inc. feel like a personal brand" by incorporating a robust digital engagement strategy, including influencer, social media, and blogger outreach.

Michelman notes that Lucio brings a great deal of digital marketing and social communications knowledge to the table, having been one of first execs to spend a large portion of Visa’s advertising budget on digital. He understands the importance of integrated marketing and communications, says Michelman, who expects to see much of the same endeavor at HP. 

Over the next few years, McCoy believes the market will see many more HP Inc. advertisements and bigger focus on the brand’s reputation and loyalty programs among enterprises and consumers. Lucio, he adds, did a great job with Visa’s sponsorships – such as the Olympics and NFL – so the marketing chief may be eyeing similar opportunities for the new company.

"You have to reach people where they already are," says McCoy, "and I would put money on it that in the next year we’ll see HP coming to a lot of events and [Lucio] really focusing on getting the brand out there and making it seem a little cooler."

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