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Hewlett-Packard: Caught Between a Logo and a Hard Place?

We saw Citibank go through their brand-growing pains, up until last year my corner Citibank still had their old logo on the fa´┐Żade of the building. It’s not as easy apparently. Could HP be trying to prepare their consumers for a change? Or is the little plus sign just a mere distraction for something else (I don’t know what, I’m just saying here.) I wouldn’t mind seeing it as HP’s new logo, just look at it out of the advertising context. Not bad, eh? A plus sign can mean so many things and, no pun intended, all positive!

Their latest campaign “Everything Is Possible” focuses on the reach of HP and it’s ability to power many everyday things like FedEx, Starbucks, Amazon, Formula 1 cars and even Tortilla makers in Mexico. Beautiful photography showcases the partnerships between HP and these companies. The + is everywhere and has taken over as the main focus point, leaving the more well known HP logo as a complete afterthought. All tiny and lonely on the corner. They would put a dunce’s cap on it if possible. Probably not allowed by the brand guidelines. The campaign comes courtesy of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco. Who produced all TV and Print ads. Probably a nice paycheck at the end of the day.

Should we expect a change of branding from HP or is this just a tease?

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ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 1455 FILED UNDER Branding and Identity
PUBLISHED ON May.19.2003 BY Armin
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
jonsel’s comment is:

I imagine they find themselves in a real tight spot, torn between their internal love and value for the HP monogram logo and the need to communicate in the long-term what exactly is the result of the HP/Compaq merger. With the state of the economy and the technology industry, the company that can really connect with consumers emotionally — establishing an important place in their complicated lives — is going to be the success story. Gateway tried to define a new identity last year but then ran aground with boring advertising focusing more on money and discounts than true valuable connection to the brand. Maybe HP can do it with this. One thing is for sure: they better make up their mind soon or risk really confusing people about who they are.

If this were to become the new mark, I admire the simplicity and easily understood message of it. Internally it should resonate — employees grasping the importance of their work to the overall success of the company (this fails if they keep laying off 10,000 people a shot...) — and externally it speaks to the value of an HP device in consumer's lives.

On May.19.2003 at 08:51 PM
pk’s comment is:

their internal politics are getting splashed across the nytimes on a regular basis. i kinda wonder if this is at all related.

is this actually a rebranding? i thought it was just part of the new ad campaign.

On May.19.2003 at 09:54 PM
jonsel’s comment is:

is this actually a rebranding? i thought it was just part of the new ad campaign.

I think the confusion arises because there is a lockup of the plus sign and "hp" in all the ads. If there were just pluses floating around the ads, then signed off with their monogram logo, then all would be clear to me. Why take the step to include a campaign logo when it will confuse or detract from the corporate mark?

On May.19.2003 at 10:09 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

What happened to campaigns like "We're HP. We sell good printers."?

On May.20.2003 at 08:38 AM
Armin’s comment is:

>is this actually a rebranding? i thought it was just part of the new ad campaign.

Exactly. Jonsel put it nicely, why use the + as the ending signature for all ads, when you already have a logo? I have been wanting to do this post for a while (but got sidetracked with all this AIGA talk) because the first time I saw both print and TV ads I was very confused with the priority they had given the +. And, in all honesty, I liked it. I do hope they change it to that.

It is probably the most "simpleton" logo one could come up with, but it packs waaaaaay more punch than their current one.

On May.20.2003 at 08:39 AM
Damien’s comment is:

It might be possible that they're doing what IBM tried to do with their e-business logo.

HP are trying to find a mark that represents an ingredient in all that they do or enterprise needs. The campaign is perhaps their version of this?

I think it could be a bad exercise to leverage the plus symbol as a standalone mark. It's an established symbol for something else. But then they would have a spot of free branding on every keyboard, calculator and apartment building entry keypad...

On May.20.2003 at 08:53 AM
felix’s comment is:

deet deet deet.. this just in.

Gateway, as of last night, has gone back to the "cow box" logo in their TV ads. Anybody see it? Very regressive and confusing. the new gateway logo (anybody know who did it?) is quite smart.

the HP logo.. not a big fan. Why? the ad campaign sucks. If you watch the daily show Steve Corell did his "AdNauseum" and there was the silly Shrek... "getting all computery" and stuff.

On May.20.2003 at 10:40 AM
jonsel’s comment is:

Gateway's logo and old ad campaign was done by Arnell Group. I liked the logo, not the ads. And yes, I've seen the new ad campaign and was VERY confused with the 3-D computer-built spinning cow box. The whole point of the new mark was to move the company away from being solely a computer reseller. They sell Plasma TV's for goodness sake, and not everything is going to come in a cow box. This company clearly doesn't know what it wants and is letting ad agencies and branding firms push it around.

On May.20.2003 at 10:50 AM
felix’s comment is:

yes. well said. and indeed the ad i mentioned was for a plazma TV. Looked nice... but for 3k? I'll wait a year...

On May.20.2003 at 10:56 AM
m...’s comment is:

the HP logo.. not a big fan. Why? the ad campaign sucks.

i'm sorry you feel that way. i think the campaign is smart and beautifully done. but i'm obviously biased. i mean, showing how HP helps their customers, clients and partners is a solid brand strategy.

what about the campaign do you not like, specifically? is it just personal taste? or do you not think it's working?

as far as the +hp mark, i doubt that it'll take over as HP's logo, but it does make sense to give it more weight over the logo, especially for the brand campaign.

On May.20.2003 at 11:31 AM
Tan’s comment is:

> The whole point of the new mark was to move the company away from being solely a computer reseller. They sell Plasma TV's for goodness sake, and not everything is going to come in a cow box.

I've always seen Gateway's brand approach as being akin to Walmart's. Technology for less. Demystify complicated products like computers and plasma tvs for household consumption in middle America. Turn pc's into appliances that are fun. Thus, the cow box -- because what can be more approachable and fun than a goddamn cow?

So eventhough they changed their logo (which I like better), I don't think they'll ever move far away from the holstein patterns.

On May.20.2003 at 11:45 AM
jonsel’s comment is:

but it does make sense to give it more weight over the logo, especially for the brand campaign.

Can you elaborate more on this? why exactly does it make more sense to build strength and equity in something temporal if it is a corporate brand campaign? I don't disagree with the plus concept, and the way it is used is visually interesting, but the signoff, with such a dominant plus sign locked so intrinsically with the 'hp' letters invites confusion. Why not just have a normal sized plus sign in the paraphrased line "williams racing + hp", then go to the corporate mark? I'm really curious to know more behind this decision. Did you guys hope that it might eventually build enough value to become the identity or was it simply a visual decision?

On May.20.2003 at 11:50 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

the new gateway logo (anybody know who did it?) is quite smart.

I didn't get it. The cow spots had some cache. It was unique. Un-computery. Friendly Mid-westerny. People warmed up to it.

The new logo, well...it's just a power switch. Nothing unique in any way with that.

In fact, My Dell and my Apple both have that logo on them. And I think the shiny 3-D beveled logo on my Apple is much fancier. ;o)

On May.20.2003 at 11:50 AM
jonsel’s comment is:

It's unlikely that HP will break the mold and go with something this progressive.

I'm not so sure about this. Their in-store packaging is very unique, so it's not like they have no track record in this. Frankly, the companies that will win in a depressed economy are the ones that will take a leap to engage their customers instead of hiding behind a tradition that is leading them further aground.

On May.20.2003 at 11:56 AM
m...’s comment is:

Their business sector is dominated by competitors all wearing acronyms and monograms. It's unlikely that HP will break the mold and go with something this progressive.

you'd be surprised...

Did you guys hope that it might eventually build enough value to become the identity or was it simply a visual decision?

i'm not sure how deep i can get into this without breaking a non-disclosure agreement, but i'll take a stab at it. it was a visual decision, one that the client became very attached to. that's all i can say about that.

i fail to see how making the + more dominant than there logo is bad for their brand. is there a "BRAND RULE BOOK" that i should be reading? i think this is a good example of how breaking a few rules works just as effectively, if not more.

what do MOST people associate HP with? printers? computers? scanners? cameras? consumer products, right? what most people don't realize is that they do more, much, much more than just sell products. the list is way too exhausting to mention but the brand campaign does effectively associate HP with more than just printers.

On May.20.2003 at 12:21 PM
jonsel’s comment is:

"BRAND RULE BOOK"

Thanks for the better explanation. I understand the confidentiality complications. I'm not reading from a rule book here. I'm just posting my opinions. I figure that if I'm confused, then others might be as well. We can agree to disagree here.

Anyway, I do agree with you that the campaign is well done and very necessary to expand the perception of what HP does.

On May.20.2003 at 12:25 PM
armin’s comment is:

>i fail to see how making the + more dominant than there logo is bad for their brand.

It is not inherently bad for their brand, the problem lies in the perception of said brand. If, for six months that the campaign has been running, consumers get this extenxive exposure at the +, it is bound to create confusion. The sense of priority is completely shifted from their brand (the blue logo we all know) to something completely new and unexpected. Also, the "+hp" mark seems to be pretty well thought out and developed aesthetically, which just adds to the confussion. It looks and feels like a logo. And that is not a great thing in any "brand rule book."

>i think this is a good example of how breaking a few rules works just as effectively, if not more.

The problem is that there is no rule breaking going on. The logo itself is untouched. It's the "face" of the company that has been tampered with and that is what is bound to come back and haunt them. Or not, perhaps nobody else (non graphic designers) has noticed.

And I, like, totally aggree with Jonsel. I love the treatment of the +, I absolutely love the print and TV ads, but I don't see why put so much focus on a sign that, apparently, will go away eventually.

On May.20.2003 at 12:44 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> what do MOST people associate HP with? printers? computers? scanners? cameras? consumer products, right? what most people don't realize is that they do more, much, much more than just sell products. the list is way too exhausting to mention but the brand campaign does effectively associate HP with more than just printers.

I agree, but let's be careful here. This smacks of the UPS rebranding, where it was touted that UPS is more than just delivering packages. They're not -- delivering packages is exactly what they're about. Everything else is peripheral support of their $31 billion/yr core package delivery service.

I'm not saying that it's the case here w/ HP, but it seems that most rebranding is a change based on prediction and optimistic marketing, rather than a response to concrete brand migration. I just grow wary of companies that makes and sells widgets changing to companies that now provides global widget solutions and integration.

Having said all that, I would love to see HP's logo migrate to the "+ hp". I agree w/ jonsel that there's nothing wrong with it, and it would give me some hope for our profession.

On May.20.2003 at 01:08 PM
felix’s comment is:

i think the campaign is smart and beautifully done..... -m

I love the treatment of the +, I absolutely love the print and TV ads.... -a

like most things goodby, it looks good... but I see the damn thing everywhere here in NY. the Shrek co-op seems a stretch, and confusing. Maybe Steve Corell and I arent in the demographic. The question is, does it sell computers or not?

On May.20.2003 at 01:20 PM
m...’s comment is:

i apologize if i came across as sounding abrasive. i'm definitely defensive about the work we've done, though. many long nights, weekends, thought and man power went into the campaign's conception.

why exactly does it make more sense to build strength and equity in something temporal if it is a corporate brand campaign?

it's not really a "corporate brand campaign" it's more an overall awareness campaign. the objective was to try and reach a broader audience and make them aware of HP's "other" capabilities. but i'm not really sure i can answer your question completely. the + has become such a behemoth and i think we're still in the process of trying to figure out where to take it from here. i do think that the + won't be going anywhere for a while.

tons of work to do...

On May.20.2003 at 01:23 PM
Jesus de Francisco’s comment is:

Goodby, Silverstein & Partners commissioned the company I work for to work on the graphic design for some of the tv commercials. I don't know the internal branding strategy for the future of HP but, the way I see it, no one intends to replace the HP logo. The "Plus HP" tries to express the overall "spirit" of the company, its intention as a leader in technological innovation that affects more than just the machines themselves.

Besides, as a personal opinion, I don't think the plus logo would work for a global company. Too close to a cross to be desirable.

On May.20.2003 at 01:37 PM
felix’s comment is:

Jesus sees a cross? Get outta here!

Seriously, you have a good point. But remember, Lucent's logo tested VERY poorly. Some people saw the red circle Satan's fiery anus... and other bad stuff.

I think its a classic myself.

On May.20.2003 at 01:42 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> Jesus sees a cross? Get outta here!

Holy logo, Batman!

Seriously, though -- Hey-soos brings up a valid point. The + will never get international trademark clearance. I bet the International Red Cross will have a conniption, as well as other government orgs responsible for international public signage (a cross is the international symbol for a hospital).

On May.20.2003 at 01:52 PM
Sam’s comment is:

This isn't my area of special knowledge (if I had a nickel...), but I'm wondering if there have been other instances where a corporate rebranding was initiated by a specific advertising campaign? I think this is what Merv meant about breaking the brand-rule-book rules, not so much the visual treatment of the logo in the ads. Can it work the campagin tail wag the brand dog? I could see the plus-hp lock-up starting to appear on their packaging and working quite well.

Also, 'sup Merv?

On May.20.2003 at 03:47 PM
jonsel’s comment is:

corporate rebranding was initiated by a specific advertising campaign

I wonder how much of Nike's brand evolution has been a result of an ad campaign or vice versa. I'm referring to the separation of Nike from the swoosh mark and the use of the new/old Nike script. I'll bet Weiden showed an ad one day with only a swoosh and Nike said, "Hey, that'll work!" Of course, this is a far cry from the potential HP monogram to plus mark shift.

On May.20.2003 at 05:36 PM
Damien’s comment is:

I've been in situations where the organization (in this case a huge company) commissioned an ad agency to do some advertising to meet a business objective. The agency found, from a preliminary audit, that the brand was in some way disconnected from what the organization thought it was to its customers and then the company turns around and hires a design firm to design a new logo.

I did once get to work with Goodby to present to a client in Seattle that they needed to reposition themselves completely. Together with goodby - us from a design firm, we came up with a campaign and business strategy behind the company, product and brand repositioning. Only with the help of goodby were we able to present a complete story and support it with concpets.

I've been known to drop parts of a logomark in order to make the piece of design I'm working on look or feel better - and sometimes its stuck as part of the branding evolution. Though I do consider it slightly evil of me.

On May.20.2003 at 06:01 PM
armin’s comment is:

This is way off the discussion and only to provide comical relief.

I don't care how much market share Apple has, I don't care how bad they are on delivering their products on time and I don't care about the fact that new computers only ship with OS X. Why?

Because they have this white boy singing "baby got back" and that makes everything alright.

On May.21.2003 at 10:46 AM
Su’s comment is:

I don't think they're going for a re-branding, but maybe just to change their current "look." When they changed their packaging a year or two ago(white boxes with smaller, round-cornered squares with imagery, etc.), that for some reason got blatantly ripped off by a lot of other people, from other computer manufacturers(which was just sad), to the billboards for some radio station I can't recall here in Chicago(I think 94.7). They've heavily cut back on the rounded corners at their own site.

I'm figuring they just finally got tired of it.

On May.21.2003 at 11:01 AM
felix’s comment is:

white boxes with ... round-cornered squares that for some reason got blatantly ripped off by a lot of other people

those corners were happening 5 minutes after Quarck hit the shelves in 1992 by lazy designers everywhere.

On May.21.2003 at 03:20 PM
Su’s comment is:

And that relates to HP's package design of two years ago, and the subsequent copycatting, how?

On May.21.2003 at 04:52 PM