Can HP cast off its corporate image to target youth?

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Hewlett Packard (HP) has been a name synonymous with business oriented computing devices. However, in the last one year the company has been shifting focus on more and more consumer devices particularly targeting the style conscious youth. The brand is betting big on the recently launched Ultrabooks to shift its marketing focus to the young generation of consumers and becoming a lifestyle brand.

According to the company, as per recent research, over 54 per cent of the country’s population is under the age of 24 and the heaviest internet users in India are between the age group of 15-24 years. “Our product strategy is therefore now skewed towards offering customers, technology products that best suit their lifestyle needs. Our marketing strategy and media plan too are therefore designed to build brand affinity and have been customised to suit this target segment, which is unique in its own way,” divulges Ranjivjit Singh, Chief Marketing Officer, PPS, HP India.

Targeting Gen Y
The company identifies this TG as ‘Millennials’ (people born in between 1980 and 1995), which form a significant part of HP’s target audience for consumer technology products as they have the power to decide and define the trends. “For us, this is a very interesting target group to work with as millennial are typically keen on making well-informed decisions and dislike being in a blind spot. They find their own role models and want social acceptance. We are glad that we have consistently been able to deliver to this challenging segment through our innovative offerings,” adds Singh.

Ranjivjit Singh, CMO, PPS, HP India

Ranjivjit Singh, CMO, PPS, HP India

According to the company, the youth of today looks for convenience and portability along with high performance computing and entertainment capabilities. Hence, in terms of product portfolio the company has launched around 27 new consumer products and Beats Audio technology to woo this music loving generation of consumers. Additionally, the company is going aggressive in its communication and retail strategy to reach out to the youth.

Ultra conscious move?
But being a name which is more popular for being a business brand, will HP be able it shed off its corporate image in a highly cluttered and competitive market like India? According to Bharat Nagpal, Technology Consultant at iGyaan, the move will be a slow process as currently HP has a more business and more corporate image. “Even if the company has products for consumers, the market doesn’t know about it. A whole new image is required from HP to build its brand connect with this TG,” he adds.

Nagpal also opines that HP needs to have a nicer portfolio of products in comparison to its competitors. As far as the market appeal of the HP products is concerned, it faces a certain challenge from brands like Sony Vaio that has a colourful and more youthful appeal and also endorsed by youth ambassador Kareena Kapoor.

According to Rohit Khurana, CEO & Co-founder, Technixmedia, at present HP is more of a corporate or enterprise oriented brand. In consumer segment or multimedia segment, HP is comparatively less preferred brand. It is emerging on that front with its new TV commercials like that for ink-advantage printers and Ultrabook commercials.

Hence, HP on its part is banking on its latest Ultrabook series to tap the young consumer.

“For the youth, the largest segment of our target audience, 2012 is the year of Ultrabooks. We are focusing on Ultrabooks ,which will deliver both performance and style- without compromising on connectivity or any other key features of the mainstream Notebooks, for instance, ports, battery life, thin and light form factor, etc,” shares Singh. As a brand, HP claims to have moved beyond technical specifications and have started focusing on user experience.

The company has also tapped into this segment with the Spectre and Folio Ultrabooks and with the new Envy 4 Ultrabook systems, it aims to bring ultra-computing to mainstream users at a competitive price points. For the record, the price range for Envy Ultrabook starts at Rs 57,990. The HP dm1 laptops start from Rs 24,000 and Sleekbooks are available at the starting price of Rs 41,990. Though the company claims to offer products across price brands to cater to its wide TG, Tech Consultant Nagpal feels that the company has always catered to a limited TG, which has more purchasing power and this definitely does not include the youth.

Rohit Khurana, CEO and Co-founder, Technixmedia

Rohit Khurana, CEO and Co-founder, Technixmedia

Thus, to make its product portfolio more appealing and aspirational to this TG, the company has infused its Mosaic design technology to its entire consumer notebook portfolio, which is more colourful and slim & easy to use. Thus, its ‘We Make it Better’ campaign for Envy 4 highlights the key features of portability and mobility targeting the ‘always on the move’ youth.

However, Khurana is of the view that to make a considerable market share in youth centric products, HP will need to improve its after-sales-services, product lineup and quality of it consumer series products while keeping the prices affordable which is because youth buyers are extremely demanding and they usually opt for the highest value for money package which not only includes products, but also service and repair costs.

Playing a different note
Moreover, the company is also focusing on building music inspired technology to grab the attention of its young TG. Singh reasons, “The youth in our country is really passionate about music. As per a recent research (Synovate Study) 23 per cent of Indian youth said they spent more time listening to music and 83 per cent said music formed a very important part of their lives. Keeping this in mind, HP decided to give its young consumers the option to experience best quality music at the most affordable prices.”

HP launched HP Pavilion Dv6 with the Beats Audio technology, developed in collaboration with music heavyweights Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine. Through this technology, users can enjoy their favourite songs the way artists composed it, available across a wide range of HP notebooks and PCs starting at Rs 24,000.

Tuning into digital
In addition, the company has extended its association with music to the digital space, which it uses as an important platform for communication. Recently, the company launched a contest on its Facebook page asking fans to submit original music scores to win a Beats Audio laptop signed by Pentagram. The Editor of Rolling Stone India reviewed 60 original submissions and HP fans voted to select Ankit Bhardwaj, a young aspiring musician and student as winner. In March 2012, HP gave the winner an opportunity to prove his talent by creating a HP community song.

Further the company also indulged in crowdsourcing lyrics for the song on Facebook page, which were given to Ankit’s band to create music. The music video carried profile images of fans who submitted the lyrics used in the song. “The video has caught attention of LHInsights, which called it ‘the first-ever crowdsourced song from a Facebook community’ and one of the most innovative practices in Facebook marketing,” adds Singh.

Within just months of launching the HP India Facebook page, the company garnered 1,84,000 fans. “Our aim is to not just connect but engage with our audience. We will actively continue engaging with our online audience like bloggers and other influencers as well as expand presence to other social media platforms. So digital plays a significant role and a major part of our marketing spend will go there,” shares Singh. Khurana too agrees that in today’s world, buyers (especially youth buyers) consider products reviews more seriously compared to the TV commercials.

360 approach
Beyond digital the company also focuses on TV, Print, Out-Of-Homes advertisements and mall activations to engage with the customers. For this, HP has tied up with brands like Intel and Microsoft on both ATL & BTL campaigns. With the increase in online search for best product deals, the company has also tied up with e-retailers like Flipkart and Yebhi.com to tap into this emerging trend of selling online. This is backed by a strong retail strategy, thereby engaging the consumer at various touch points.

The company currently has 300 plus HP World stores in India. “We are here looking at a proposition based approach of display matched by interesting experience zones and kiosks where customers can come and ‘get up & personal’ with the products, feel energized about the innovative offerings and make well-informed purchase decisions,” adds Singh. HP offers product support through authorised service delivery providers spread in 178 cities across India. These service partners have engineers trained and certified on HP products.

Challenges ahead
HP’s Singh feels that owing to the brand’s wide portfolio and constant technology innovations, it is the unparalleled leader in the market without any other competition. But Technixmedia’s Khurana feels that apart from Compaq Presario that targets students etc, HP’s mutli-media offerings have been plain and simple as far as consumer devices are concerned. Thus, the brand’s appeal and its focus on youth are not in sync and it has to go a long way to transform into a consumer centric brand. He adds, “At present, Dell seems to be one of the leading ones in this space because of its add-on services like in-house (on-site) repair support, phone support and low SLA times to service the devices compared to any other brand in the Indian market. They also provide damage insurance options on their products which gives consumers extra confidence in them.”

However Singh feels, “This industry has always been competitive, but for any brand to survive and be profitable, two things are really important— innovation and agility. This explains our strategy- having a broad-based technology leadership and providing experience to our consumers by meeting their requirements. These would be the differentiators for us. If we take care of these, everything else will follow.”

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