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How HP Is Using The Force To Reinvent Its Brand

Chief Marketing Officer Antonio Lucio talks about the company split, reinventing HP Inc., and what the Star Wars ads bring to the brand.

As the world prepares for The Force Awakens to finally land in theaters this week, it will come as a surprise to exactly no one that the number of brands tapping the iconic film franchise isn’t about to slow down any time soon. What has been a tad unexpected is that one of the best ads featuring a Star Wars theme came from none other than HP.

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A young man tinkers away in his garage, not unlike a certain other garage in Palo Alto. Except instead of computing’s future, he’s got something a little more immediate in mind. We see him gathering spare parts, pulling an all-nighter, until it becomes clear he’s building a life-size R2D2 replica. For HP Inc., the power of the commercial is not in creating the droid, but what the droid is used for.

Back on November 2nd, what we’ve all known for the last 76 years as Hewlett-Packard split into two separate companies. One is Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, which will covers industrial-grade server computers, networking equipment, software and services. The other is the more consumer-facing PC and printing business under HP Inc. The Star Wars-themed ad, along with a few others by agencies BBDO and 180LA, are a part of HP Inc.’s first brand campaign after the big split. According to chief marketing officer Antonio Lucio, the campaign tagline “Keep Reinventing” is much ore than a slogan but a mission for the company to remain relevant.

Use The Force

Lucio sees Star Wars a bit like the Olympics. It’s a fantastic opportunity but the brand is also competing against all the others brands who have the same chance. The goal is to make it as memorable and identified with your own brand as much as possible. For HP, the key was to use technology–and Star Wars–as a vehicle for emotion.

“When we looked at the brand, it seemed like HP had more of a brain than a heart,” says Lucio. “And my objective was to bring the heart back into the brand. I fundamentally believe, and numbers will prove, that when the heart commits the brain can only follow. Bringing back an emotional connection to the HP brand is a priority for us.”

More Than A Slogan

The split up of Hewlett-Packard means different things to different people. Obviously to investors, executives and employees, it’s a very big deal. But for consumers that typically see little past the logo and products on the shelf, it means a little less. From a marketing perspective, Lucio says it’s now an opportunity to reframe what the brand stands for in the context of its new business reality.

“The first question we asked ourselves, was how much do we want to incorporate our rich history and legacy, and how much do we want to project what our future needs to be,” says Lucio. The first step in figuring that out was to create a new vision and mission statement.

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To do that they surveyed more than 10,000 employees to help define who HP wanted to be, the parts of its history they wanted to keep and the parts they wanted to leave behind. Lucio says that they also needed to make some important strategic decisions. “The first was, what’s our target? We’re focusing on people 18 to 34 because today, 46% of all the IT decision makers around the world are in that age group,” he says. “That number is going to grow to 60% in the next decade. That was very important.”

The second part, was an understanding among our senior management team, that we wanted a mission, not just a slogan. “Something that informed and reflected how we work, behave, and how our products perform,” says Lucio. “The objective is something that reflected our ethos over just a slogan. These often lie somewhere between a consumer truth and a company truth, and the fundamental consumer insight for our target older millennial was that they thrive on reinvention and see technology as something that makes life better.”

Moving Ahead

Lucio has a unique perspective, having only been at the company for about six months. He served as global CMO for Visa, and says what attracted him to HP was the chance to help refresh and inspire such an iconic brand. “What’s surprised me so far are the number of amazing stories within these walls that the world doesn’t know yet, so it’s very exciting,” he says.

Coming from another global brand, Lucio says there is at least one significant lesson he brought with him. “You need to embrace the culture, align everyone under one vision and mission, and strike a chord that hits both externally and internally,” he says. “And you need to make sure that the brand comes to life that’s meaningful to consumers and employees around the world. Our journey is just beginning.”

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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