The splitting of HP into two companies is only the start to brand repair.
One tactic of brand repair is to distance yourself from the damaged part of the brand so that you are accepted once again in the market or into a new one.
The news of HP splitting itself into two companies – HP (PCs and printers) and HP Enterprise (software) – is an attempt at just that kind of brand repair. The HP brand has long been associated with hardware, but it’s struggled in the software market where its brand does not have permission to play.
The reason for that goes far beyond just the simple fact that it is known for hardware. HP has never positioned itself emotionally so that it would have permission to be a software provider. Its positions have ranged from “What you care about, we care about” (which makes it sound like a community bank) to “Invent” (which works on the hardware end, but not so much with software).
Lately, it has been using “Make it Matter,” which sounds like it’s closer to allowing HP to have permission but I have no idea what it means. CEO Meg Whitman, in announcing the position, said it is a sign that what HP makes matters.
OK, but it doesn’t read that way without knowing the backstory. According to an interview with Whitman by All Things D, HP gathered 50 marketing executives together in a room and began brainstorming.
Lord. I can’t even imagine what that was like. No wonder the end result was something so meaningless.
Splitting the company into two makes logical sense, but it’s more of a sign that HP acknowledges that it’s floundering in its search to gain brand permission to enter the software club.
It might work in the long run, but only as long as HP Enterprise carries a meaning that will make it unique and meaningful to audiences. I probably would have named it something else, but then it’d have to be discussed by 50 marketing executives trapped into a room.
There are better ways to do it than that, but let’s see what that committee dreams up going forward.