Chip-giant Intel had kept its long-awaited Itanium platform cloaked in secrecy. Dating back to 1993, the high-performance chip was a joint collaboration between Intel and Hewlett-Packard Company. But by 2001, few remembered that Itanium was actually born at HP Labs. Now Intel was ready to launch its new chip and a dozen vendors were poised to storm the market with their new Itanium-based product lines.
HP’s challenge: To clearly differentiate its Itanium offering from competitors like Dell, Compaq and IBM and secure HP’s position as the preferred Itanium vendor. On May 29, 2001, Intel lifted its Itanium NDA, essentially saying, “Let the noise begin!”
As a co-inventor of the Itanium architecture, HP’s business objective was to:
· Build a solid industry leadership position for HP as the Itanium visionary that moved Itanium from a concept (a chip) to a pervasive industry platform.
· The Hoffman PR team’s chief objective was to clearly differentiate HP from other Itanium vendors.
Once Intel’s NDA was lifted, it was fair game – a level playing field between HP and its competition. Finally, after nine years, Itanium vendors would be free to publicly discuss the architecture. Hoffman rolled out an on-going PR program that would ensure that HP would dominate all Itanium-related conversations in the press before, on and after May 29, 2001.
The Hoffman PR team strived to achieve maximum exposure for HP’s total solutions Itanium offering in order to cement mind (and market) share with customers. In the months leading up to May 29, an aggressive “seeding” campaign was executed by the Hoffman PR team to ensure HP marquee visibility in all Itanium-related coverage appearing before, during and after the launch.
Extensive research was conducted on media perceptions in order to develop appropriate messaging for the launch.
The weeks prior to the launch date entailed extensive research to determine both media targets and appropriate messaging for the current marketplace. The PR team researched media perceptions to determine the overall attitudes about HP vs. the competition in the server market and uncovered articles about HP, the competition and Itanium over the year prior to the launch.
The media campaign was divided into three well thought-out phases:
Phase One – Deep Dive: The communication team targeted the San Jose Mercury News for deep background NDA briefings beginning eight months prior to the launch. The goal was to secure at the time of the launch one exclusive in-depth article that would not only cover the announcement, but also show HP’s history with Intel and the birth of Itanium. The article would lay out how Itanium fits into HP’s overall server strategy and the market. The PR team achieved its objective, and the Sunday prior to the launch, a three-page lead business story appeared, sending a clear and undeniable message that HP is positioned to lead the market.
Phase Two – Pre-launch Interviews: Prior to the announcement date, there was a lot of noise in the marketplace about the arrival of Itanium. HP wanted to ensure that it was part, if not the focus, of this conversation. Therefore, in the several weeks leading up to May 29, the PR team arranged over 18 interviews to talk to selected trade and business press about HP’s commitment to Itanium, its server strategy and vision for HP’s Itanium business.
Phase Three – The Launch Day: At 6 a.m. PDT on May 29, 2001, HP issued a press release announcing its “broad portfolio of Itanium-based solutions.” To drive the HP Itanium story, HP held simultaneous press activities at HP Labs in Palo Alto and the HP-Intel Solutions Center in Cupertino, Calif. The events were purposely held at locations with historic and symbolic ties to the HP-Intel relationship to re-emphasize the “it all started here” launch theme. In Palo Alto, top-tier business reporters – including AP, Reuters, Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times – enjoyed an intimate press roundtable breakfast with high-level HP and Intel executives. Building on the symbolism of the location, the actual press briefing was held in the very room where HP and Intel first came together to discuss the chip architecture 10 years prior.
Additionally, another team of primary spokespeople efficiently executed a series of coordinated broadcast and print media interviews both in person and via phone from the HP/Intel Solution Center in Cupertino. More than 21 interviews, a combination of both phone and in-person, were conducted at this site on the day of the launch.
Between the pre-briefings and interviews conducted on and after May 29, the Itanium launch team met with 50 different reporters resulting in over 60 separate articles highlighting the technology and HP. The wealth of resulting coverage included the in-depth front-page business feature in the San Jose Mercury News, a cover story in InfoWorld and over 35 HP-Itanium broadcast hits, as reported by Video Monitoring Service.
HP’s B-Roll footage showed up everywhere from Lou Dobbs Moneyline to PBS Nightly Business Report. KNTV Tech Reporter Scott Budman produced an Itanium news package using HP’s B-Roll footage almost exclusively. In a follow-up e-mail to The Hoffman Agency, Budman wrote, “Got the tape. Thanks. It’s a perfect example of why companies make B-Roll tapes. Extremely helpful!”
In print coverage, headlines like Investor’s Business Daily’s “Hewlett-Packard Getting First Crack at Itanium Market” and Financial Times’ “Itanium Good for HP” conveyed HP’s dominant role in the Itanium launch. The overriding goals of garnering more than HP’s “fair share” of coverage and securing HP’s leadership position in the Itanium market were achieved.