PCR sits down with HP's consumer business development manager Ben Perrin

Getting personal

How has the channel changed from when HP first entered the UK?
It has gone from being a small, focused market, shared between the big specialist multiples and the independents, down to being quite a fragmented market.

Traditional retailers like DSGi, Comet, Staples, John Lewis and independents now have to vie for space in the available market with emerging competitors like Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsburys, Carphone Warehouse, T-Mobile and Orange.

As the world number one, HP is inextricably linked to that story. You have to base your strategy around it and you have to remain very close to it. Fundamentally, you have to ensure you are where customers want to buy, and are giving them the products and the service they are looking for.

I actually see all this turbulence that has happened in the market over the past couple of years as very healthy. It’s given all sorts of people the opportunity to buy what they want in all sorts of places. I think that’s a good measure of progress.

How important has the focus on all key segments, such as Home, SoHo, SME and Enterprise, been to HP’s success in the marketplace?

Our breadth is the reason for our success and this is something that applies to everything we do. We are in many countries around the world, which means that we can use that size not just for purchasing power, but also if there are countries that are having a difficult time financially, you can balance your business against those that are doing well.

Also, by having a diverse portfolio of both products and channels, you can have a much better balanced business and you are much less susceptible to the strange little peaks, troughs, and idiosyncrasies of each of those channels in isolation.

What is the most important part of your business in the UK?
The reality is that they are all important. It goes back to my previous answer – our parts are all by definition important, they are all component parts of the business strategy to be diverse in product, geography and channel. In terms of the UK specifically, consumer sales through retail are a big part of our business.

Your ‘The Computer Is Personal Again’ campaign has been running for some time. How successful has it been?

It’s been very successful. The standard measures of success you would apply to that are brand worth, and our brand worth has been constantly in the top 15 over all – this is up there with the big global brands you would think of straight away like McDonalds, Disney and Coca- Cola. HP is consistently in the top 15 most valuable brands on earth, and a big part of that is global, consistent messages that the computer is personal again.

Secondly, we are a clear global number one in the PC business. Of course that is a function of various limbs of our strategy. One big one is our marketing campaign. There is a genuinely resonant note about the slogan ‘The computer is personal again’ – that reaches out to people. It seems to make sense to the public.

And then if you back that up with products that are personal, so you can either make the software very intuitive, so that they can customise the product, or you allow them to attach all sorts of different accessories, so that they can configure the product to be exactly as they want it to be.

The Compaq name has been remerging after a couple of years of being quiet. How important is the brand to HP?

The Compaq brand is very much about products that are below the £400-£500 price range; it is a very aggressive price point in the market.

In the UK, that segment is a disproportionately large part of the market. But there are opportunities to supply the very best technology, both in power and quality at that price point, and that is what we are planning to do with the Compaq brand. We’ve been working hard to get its brand message across in both the media and in public. What we are trying to convey is that it is about just getting stuff done in a fast reliable way.

It also gives us the benefit of it being distinct from the HP brand. Only people in the industry really know that the HP and Compaq brands are linked – the man in the street doesn’t always associate Toyota with Lexus for example, despite the fact that they are the same company. It’s a perfectly valid strategy, and you’re seeing some of our competitors adopting it.

It allows us to make those brands stand for different things – what HP stands for is the rich, premium experience, which comes with having unique features, things that we’ve designed into the product beyond the conventional processor, memory and hard drive specifications, which everybody shops by.

What do the next 12 months hold for HP?

At a company level, we will continue to be robust, predictable and we’ll continue to stand for the things that we value – quality, reliability, breadth of products, and a rich experience. We’ll continue to hold on to them, because you don’t just abandon them due to a recession – you double down, and you stand by your core values.

We will continue to invest in our brand, as well as in investments for the future. We still look at acquisitions where they make sense to augment HP’s business, and to give us the arsenal of products and services that we need to compete in the marketplace of the future.

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