Paul Holmes 11 Jul 2001 // 11:00PM GMT
WeberShandwick partnered with Hewlett-Packard Company’s Network Server Division (NSD) to strategize on the launch of the HP Netserver LT 6000r and LH 6000 systems, the newest additions to the HP Netserver product line. WeberShandwick was charged with developing and delivering messaging to the media, targeting specific trends in the PC server industry, tying-in with the overall new HP company messaging of “invention,” and ensuring a successful worldwide launch through product briefings. Additionally, because the server market has always been targeted primarily at the two-, four- and eight-processor market segments, the PR team was challenged to market this new six-processor server without making it seem like HP was inventing a new market segment for server customers. This program is worthy of an award because the PR team succeeded in meeting these objectives and securing excellent news coverage on the new systems.
The launch of these new PC server systems provided the following opportunities:
Introduce HP Netserver LT 6000r and LH 6000 systems to the market and promote the systems as the ultimate servers for scalability and price:performance, setting the pace for the 4-processor Intel-based computing market.
Reinforce and strengthen HP’s market positioning among competing PC server vendors.
Promote HP Netservers as innovative/inventive.
Obtain positive coverage of the new systems.
The PR Team’s most significant challenge was the concern that the media would misunderstand the positioning of the new products and herald the announcement of these new systems as HP’s attempt to create a new server market. The team was careful to craft clear messaging and construct an event that enabled HP to deliver those solid, clear messages without confusion. The team also supported all claims with extensive and conclusive benchmarking, as well as market data that substantiated the market demand for these new systems.
HP’s new systems contain six processors – a unique architecture invented by HP and not currently used by any other server vendor. The PR team researched and discovered, however, that a competitor had tried previously to launch a “6-way” server with different architecture, and had met with market and media skepticism. The media criticized the competitor’s attempt to create a new market in-between the 4-processor and 8-processor markets without substantiating demand for such a product. The WeberShandwick PR team learned from this competitor’s strategic error, and counseled HP to position the HP Netserver LH 6000 and LT 6000r systems as products for the “4-way” market with superior architecture and unbeatable price/performance. WeberShandwick recommended that HP hold events in New York and San Francisco geared toward individualized and maximized press and analyst communication. The WeberShandwick/HP PR team identified event locations in both New York and San Francisco and compiled a list of top-tier media and analysts to target for each event. The events were set up as a series of one-on-one briefings including not only information on the new products, but also accompanying storage solutions, performance results and a product demo. In addition, a beta customer attended both events and was available to speak to press regarding his impressions of the new products and the impact they had on his business. This set-up ensured that the reporters who attended the event received the complete story, with an entire HP solution and a customer story to back up the claims.
The HP Netserver systems needed to significantly change the 4-way computing market, raising the bar for customer expectations in terms of scalability, reliability and price:performance. Traditionally claims of superior scalability and performance had been met with a “show me and prove it” attitude by customers, as well as the press and analyst communities. It was critical to prove/substantiate claims for these products in order to get market buy-in. Therefore, the WeberShandwick PR team counseled the HP server team to constantly test the servers for benchmarks and proof points that would substantiate our claims for the server market and the benefits of the new HP Netservers.
In each location, the WeberShandwick team scheduled a full day of meetings with media and analysts, with 20 meetings in total. The PR team pitched these meetings as an opportunity to see and hear about a new, innovative product in the PC server market.
In addition to the New York/San Francisco briefings, the WeberShandwick PR team also targeted reviews editors with early review units, resulting a positive review appearing on announcement day, March 6, 2000. As part of on-going momentum, the PR team secured additional reviews beyond the announcement date, and secured several product awards for the new systems.
The launch of the HP Netserver LH 6000 and LT 6000r systems and the on-going momentum campaigns have resulted in ten articles and four product reviews in key industry publications including PC Week, CNET News.com, InformationWeek, InfoWorld and Computerworld. These new systems also garnered two product awards, including the Computer Reseller News Editor’s Choice Award (May 2000) and the NetWorld+Interop “Best of Show” Award (May 2000). In all of the coverage, HP’s messages came through, and there was no confusion about the market demand for these products. There was immediate and significant demand for these systems (HP does not disclose specific sales figures), and other competitors in the PC server space immediately scrambled to try to challenge the superior price/performance results that HP had publicized. By all accounts, the PR team met its goals of introducing the systems, highlighting its excellent feature set and setting the pace for the 4-way industry. Additionally, the launch team from the NSD noted that the six-way server launch was one of the most successful, if not THE most successful, launch in the division’s history. It is constantly used as a source of reference for “how to successfully launch a server.”