Seven of the world’s top 33 brands fell in value last year. The one that declined most was HP; down an average of 23% across BRANDZ, Interbrand and Brand Finance’s valuations.
HP are in the second year of a five year business revival plan, implemented by Meg Whitman, chief executive. When asked in an interview last year, “Does the HP brand need major rehabilitation and repair or more of a polishing?”, she replied:
“I think we need to tell people what we do, so I think that’s more of a polishing… In my view we just need to tell people who we are, what we do and the value that we bring.”
I would argue that, more than a polishing, the brand needs a thorough spring clean. Consider what you can find when you look at how they define what the organization stands for. A vision; corporate objectives; purpose; brand story; brand essence; character differentiators; shared values (employees); shared values (brand); behaviors: cultural behaviors, communications behaviors, and design behaviors. That’s twelve categories.
The rest of the top 33 brands use an average of three.
Perhaps HP went too far in their ‘branding’ efforts, or perhaps different parts of the business ‘owned’ different articulations of the brand. It is not unusual, even among the leading brands of the world, to see cases where a previous CEO may implement a vision, a new one defines a purpose, the marketing department want a brand positioning, no-one wants to change the founder’s values, so they add behaviours instead… It’s all too easy to add new definitions, but unless you clear out the old, you can be left with confused employees, inconsistent stories and a disconnected brand and customer experience.
In June last year, HP launched another articulation of what they stand for, “Make it Matter.” Meg Whitman explains,
“As I began to understand HP, I said that it hasn’t been very good at telling its own story…So I thought we needed to tell our story better. … So we got the 50 marketing executives in a room and started to think through what is unique and different about the company and we came very quickly to “Make it Matter.” Because in fact what we do makes it matter. It matters to the International Space Station or the Department of Works and Pensions or the U.S. Navy or Alianz or Deutsche Bank or Facebook. It matters what we do.”
She goes on to say that all business units, and corporate wide, everyone will “tuck under that messaging”. At the same time as tucking in, I hope they are wiping out the legacy elements, to create a simpler, linear story to help HP to return to brand value growth.