HP vying to stake its claim as tech leader

PALO ALTO, CA: Prior to Hewlett-Packard's tumultuous merger with Compaq, many observers viewed the move as nothing more than the marriage of a printer company and a computer company.

PALO ALTO, CA: Prior to Hewlett-Packard's tumultuous merger with Compaq, many observers viewed the move as nothing more than the marriage of a printer company and a computer company.

But HP has more to offer than just printers, a category in which it is the industry leader. So as the hi-tech titan moves beyond that merger, it is launching a major branding campaign to educate the masses, from consumers to the media to analysts.

"HP's intent is to be the number-one global technology company, and that is reflected in the brand campaign," said Tim Marklein, director of corporate media relations. "PR is playing a major and integral role in the campaign.

"It's natural for companies with a dominant position in a certain market to be associated with that market. So the merger gives us an important pivot point to shift that perception."

The campaign stresses what HP's technology does for its customers. "The campaign is very customer-centric," added Marklein. "We are saying, 'Here's what the technology is, this is what our customers are doing with it, and this is the power of those collaborations.'"

HP used PR to tout its innovation to a variety of audiences, from consumers and reporters at Comdex, to industry and financial analysts at conferences.

"If the ad campaign is the air cover, then PR is the ground troops," said Joe Paluska, deputy director of the US technology practice at Hill & Knowlton, HP's newly anointed corporate and personal systems AOR. "PR provides the substance behind the advertising.

"The challenge for HP is that its products run the gamut, from consumer to small business to enterprise" continued Paluska. "There's no single silver bullet that reaches all these audiences," with the exception of HP's innovation used to tout all product and service categories to all audiences.

So far, the PR has taken the form of CEO Carly Fiorina generating buzz for new consumer products at Comdex. Fiorina used her keynote speech to highlight HP's role as a global technology leader, and how the company's innovation benefits its customers. HP also held numerous briefings and press conferences there.

Prior to Comdex, HP feted industry analysts at its analyst conference, and held a similar conference just after Comdex for financial analysts.

"When you have so much across the portfolio, you have to meet with these audiences face to face to really have them absorb the breadth and depth of the story," explained Marklein.

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