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Editorial: The HP thereom

Editorial: The HP thereom

A strange mathematical problem is peering at commuters from billboards all over Sydney. Looking every inch as sexy, but slightly more mysterious than a Windsor Smith ad, the “problem” calls for you to work out the possibilities of partnering with HP.

Just in case you haven’t seen it, the proposition states that: “x + hp” equals “everything is possible”. In other words — when an “X” (an unknown, which in this marketing campaign appears variously as the BMW Williams f1 team, the Hong Kong government, a Hollywood studio or a couple of Scandinavian bird-watchers) teams up with HP, everything becomes possible. Nice little theorem.

Now, although I’ve never thought that Pitagora’s (or any other) theorem could solve any of my life dilemmas, this new one definitely seems promising not only because it comes from a great channel partner, but also because equations, theorems and the like ought to make sense. So as “a general proposition proved by a chain of reasoning”, the hp theorem should read as follows: "partners + hp = everything is possible".

Except that it doesn’t, because the “x+hp” campaign is addressed to the end user. So it really reads “customer + hp equals everything is possible”. Indiscretions included.

It is an old chestnut that nevertheless deserves another roasting on the occasion of the anniversary of the Compaq/HP merger, which also happens to mark a year of HP channel rationalisation and mixed messages about the channel’s role in the company’s notably more hybrid sales model.

Let’s start with the fact that for every public declaration of devotion to the channel, which, as some HP officials claim, is responsible for bringing in 75 per cent of the company’s revenues, there’s a public declaration of devotion to the customer that says — we’ll deal with you directly if that’s what you want us to do. Visit the HP Australia web site and the contradictoriness of its message to both the channel and the customer becomes immediately apparent. There, the “x+hp=everything is possible” turns into a choice to “buy direct, or locate HP and Compaq retailers and resellers near you”. Admittedly, anything labelled HP and bought from an HP store is dispatched to you by Harris Technology, but Compaq stores seem to have kept their legacy fulfilment model. So much for the integration of models and those seductive partnering messages peering from every available inch of CityRail’s Sydney real estate.

Of course, the ‘everything is possible’ campaign is the icing on the birthday cake for a company that has pulled off something most doubted it was going to be able to do — integrate two gigantic commercial entities with two very different cultures into one functioning organisation — and one of the biggest channel-driven organisations at that.

But there is no denying that, as our special HP anniversary report (starting on page 8) states, the confusion still reins when it comes to drawing clear separation lines between the company’s direct and indirect efforts — even in those areas where the separation should be quite clear.

The effort HP has put in reassuring its partners and restructuring its channel programs has been magnificent, if not entirely successful and consistent, so let’s just hope that the flirtatious messages HP is sending to its customers are just that. Then again, everything is possible.


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