Bringing Archimedes to Life for H-P
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Bringing Archimedes to Life for H-P

Seeking to shed its public image as the “gray old lady of Silicon Valley,” Hewlett-Packard challenged Applied Communications to breathe competitive life into HP’s communications strategy. After all, HP’s image as an elder statesman does little to help it

Paul Holmes

Seeking to shed its public image as the “gray old lady of Silicon Valley,” Hewlett-Packard challenged Applied Communications, HP’s Corporate Communications agency, to initiate a way to breathe competitive life into HP’s communications strategy.  After all, HP’s image as an elder statesman does little to help it compete against the brash, aggressive, newcomers to Silicon Valley.  And with the breadth and depth of HP’s product line – from PCs and printers to servers, storage and services – Applied’s challenge was to make good on HP’s promise of “Invent.”  

Enter Archimedes, a competitive analysis and action platform for communications created by Applied’s HP team.  In keeping with the HP Invent brand, Applied looked to Archimedes, the Greek mathematician and inventor known for the Archimedes screw (a device for raising water) and the catapult.  In that same vein, the goal of Archimedes by Applied Communications was to raise HP above the noise of its competitors and catapult its position as industry leader and simultaneously de-position its competition.

BRINGING ARCHIMEDES TO LIFE

Tackling HP’s competitive landscape is like a lesson in eating an elephant – the only way to do it is one bite at a time.  With Archimedes, Applied identified HP’s primary competitors in servers, services and storage (Sun, IBM, EMC, Compaq), PCs (Compaq, Dell, Gateway), printing (Xerox, Lexmark), and mobility infrastructure (Siemens AG) – nine industry leaders.  Applied assigned each HP team member one competitor to learn inside-out, top to bottom and asked for daily verbal updates on the competition’s moves and a weekly brief written analysis of significant corporate actions and motivations and media opportunities for HP.

HP needed to see a competitor-by-competitor analysis of what was happening in the marketplace for the week and trends occurring over the months.  Incorporating economics into PR, this historical data was tagged “Lagging Indicators.”  In economics, lagging indicators such as rising levels of consumer debt can be used to forecast economic cycles.

More importantly, though, the Applied team needed to identify future opportunities for HP to take action and tout its technological and market leadership.  Again, turning to economics, future media opportunities – whether scheduled executive keynotes at conferences, breaking news, or earnings announcements, for example – were labeled “Leading Indicators,” an economic term for data such as consumer confidence levels.

Together, the Archimedes’ Lagging Indicators would identify trends and motivations while the Leading Indicators would identify future opportunities where Applied and HP could take action against the competition.  Behold, Archimedes was born.

JAMMING SUN AND IBM’S MOBILE MOMENTUM

When news broke that Sun Microsystems would be announcing a $100 million fund to invest in wireless technologies, IBM moved to jam Sun’s news by announcing a software and hardware package for wireless applications.  First identified by Archimedes and prompted to act, HP needed to get into the story any way it could.  Applied worked quickly to get HP to tell its mobile story, noting that HP’s e-services and growing mobile / wireless partnerships give it credibility in the marketplace.  Applied’s effort paid off:

“The tight race in this year's presidential election is nothing compared to the race to be the king of the wireless Internet. Sun Microsystems unveiled a new wireless strategy Monday morning with $100 million in venture funding to prime the pump. IBM counters by announcing two wireless software platforms, which should be available in November. Hewlett-Packard and Nokia teamed up this year to establish a Wireless Application Protocol (WAP).” (“Sun, HP and IBM Duke It Out for Wireless Lead,” Siliconvalley.internet.com)

“Sun Microsystems has formed a new business unit and $100 million venture fund for the wireless market, the company will announce Monday, but IBM is matching Sun's plans almost step for step.  But selling servers for wireless computing infrastructure may not be as profitable as IBM and Sun hope. For one thing, they face competition from Hewlett-Packard, which has offered its own wireless hardware, software and services for a year.” (“Sun, IBM take aim at wireless market,” CNET)

TOUTING HP’S SUCCESSFUL PRINTING STRATEGY

The days of the dot-matrix, tractor-fed printer are thankfully long gone, thanks in large part to HP’s innovation and drive toward bridging the Internet with printing.  Unlike Xerox and Lexmark – which had weekly bad news prompted by poor earnings driven by lagging technology – HP’s reinvention of the printing market is a successful story of strategy and execution.  Through Archimedes, Applied helped HP tell the story to Daniel Sorid of Reuters (“Printer Makers Challenged by Declining PC Sales”):

Printer makers are rushing to alter their strategies for the post-PC era, when portable and handheld computers are expected to reign. Long seen mostly as a peripheral to the personal computer, the printer is being redefined as a device that can link up with all types of electronics.

Hewlett-Packard, whose printing and imaging business brings in about half of the company's revenues, has been shifting its strategy accordingly, seeking out technology that will make it easy to print from almost any device to almost any printer without wires.  For its part, Hewlett-Packard said sales are hot for its multifunction printers that can scan images and send faxes, as well as photo printers…

PLAYING DEFENSE IN THE PC SECTOR

Beginning in the fourth quarter of last year – right after Thanksgiving, when Wall Street quickly caught onto dismal holiday sales for PCs – it seemed like each day another PC maker was announcing bad news.  At the time, not even Nostradamus could predict that it would continue to last into the first quarter of the New Millennium.  Gateway was first out of the box to drop the bombshell that it would miss fourth quarter earnings by a whopping quarter per share, knocking 38% off Gateway’s market capitalization.   Through Archimedes, Applied quickly notified HP of the market-moving news.  To stave off speculation about its own PC sales for the quarter, HP was prompted to issue a statement, affirming guidance to investors:

Carly Fiorina, HP chairman, president and chief executive officer, commented, “Unlike some of our competitors, HP is far more than a U.S.-centric consumer PC company, with less than 10% of our business in this segment. HP’s global and product diversification is a significant competitive advantage, which we believe will prove increasingly valuable as it serves to insulate us from the effects of individual market downturns.  The fact is, we anticipated that the bulk of our growth in FY 2001 will be driven by strong momentum in our Internet infrastructure and printing businesses.”
HP’s statement, prompted by Archimedes, helped HP maintain confidence with investors and buffered its share price.  Without Archimedes’ quick action, the damage of saying nothing to investors could have been much worse for HP.

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