HP Walks Away from Me

HP and the Credibility Gap

Back when credibility and reputation mattered, say maybe in the early 60’s, people believed in products. After many years of “brand new” people began to look at brands which they trusted. Doubt me?

Try Coke, Kleenex, Windex, Clorox for brands which became household words. In college I wrote a paper (which received an “A”) on Lyndon Johnson’s credibility gap for a public relations class. As a person whose created and launched brands for small companies, I have some experience with the subject from academic to hands on. But, what has been left out of current branding and corporate think has been the long term relationship.

I drank Dr. Pepper and RC Cola as a Kid, but, today I am a Coke person. And, I still believe when they changed Coke, back to Classic they changed the formula. Which may or may not be true, but, it soured me on the brand. Somewhere it feels as if they abandoned me for a more popular taste. Can you relate with one of your favorites?

Hewlett Packard has been a major player in the printer business since I started buying printers. I did IBM, Epson, Canon, Apple and ended up with HP because they gave me more printer for the money. The current printer does just about everything except mix drinks, as they say. The high price for cartridges stings, but, that is the model- “give away the printer and kill them on the cartridge.” That feels like a swindle at some level. Is it? Or, is it just good business? Run the credibility monitor over it a couple of times.

When Hewlett Packard walks away from personal computers, they send a strong message to consumers and potential customers- “Beware!”

Let’s put it in more mundane terms. You were sweet on someone in high school, (yes, the hormone years). One day you saw them walking along the street holding hands with someone else.

“How did you feel?”

“How did you feel about that person?”

When you finally faced them, did they give you an excuse or just ignore you? Did you still want to go out with them? Were you willing to swallow your pride and dignity just to be with them? My experience with that situation was a definite downer. Not only did I not want to date that person, I never had positive feelings for them again, even years later. How different is that from being jilted by a company?

I could debate the history of HP, the management, the board, the current CEO, etc., but who cares about that. Isn’t the real issue about trust? Can Hewlett Packard be trusted as a brand again? They decided to date someone else. Isn’t that the real truth? Can you and I trust them to provide us with good consumer product backup? And, “if”, as the saying goes,

“if they cheated with you, they’ll cheat on you.”

HP’s New Friend

And, there goes the real truth about HP and it’s relationships going forward. The board may be happy to be out of the commodity business. The management may feel, they’ve seen the future and “we aren’t it.” The CEO may be a software guy to lead them to Nirvana. All that may be true, but, will you be out there looking for an HP service or product?

I ask myself, “if they dumped personal computing, how long before printers go?”

Hewlett Packard may need to meet quarterly targets, but, they also need to have a customer base. The cloud may be a beautiful thing going forward for a blade server company. I ask,

“how short sighted is that?”

If the cloud is new today, what will be new in two years? How stable is high tech? Compare the turn over of ideas and technology on the cutting edge with you and me buying printers and personal computers. We may be slow and we may be cheap, but every few years we update. That’s why software companies like Microsoft are still in the personal business and enterprise companies like Sun are not. The bleeding edge has been termed that for a reason. One gets bloody out there.

I buy Coke, I buy Kleenex, I buy Windex, I buy bleach- whoops. The generic brand is just so much cheaper. Going forward, I do not believe I will buy Hewlett Packard anything.

“If they cheated on me once, they’ll cheat on me again.”

And, for me it’s all about the long term.

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