Thursday, December 15, 2011

HP Rebrand

Hewlett Packard, a 72-year-old company, is considering a major brand evolution.  For any brand, that's a big deal, but given that HP is Ranked 11 in the Fortune 500, has 324,600 employees across 170 countries, and generated $127.2 billion in revenue in 2011, it's significant news.

What's interesting is that for being so big and successful, HP has never really grabbed me as an icon.  If you put me on a witness stand and asked me what they sell, I'd tell you "printers!", but that's not actually what their biggest product is—HP is actually the world's leading PC manufacturer, and has been since 2007.

How did I not know this?  Some of it is surely my own ignorance, but part of it too is that the company is so large and its product assortment so varied that it's hard to get a solid grasp on it.

Armin Vit at Brand New has a great and elegant article on the HP rebrand, with in-depth coverage of the process.  Here's the current iteration of the rebrand:

Moving Brands is responsible for the rebrand and redesign.  About this change, they've said:

The defining signature of the system is the 13° angle. 13° represents HP’s spirit as a company, driven forward by ingenuity and optimism about the future and a belief in human progress. It also refers to the world of computing by recalling the forward slash used in programming. 13° exists within the brand identity, in the graphic language, product design and UI.
— Moving Brands
I don't know how much I buy that 13° represents optimism and belief in human progress, but there is something about leaning forward that's nice here.  Forward-thinking, forward-moving, progress, momentum, innovation: all ideas appropriate for a tech company.

I also like the stripped down abstracted logo.  It feels appropriately techy, but also old-world.  Like something my grandfather would have found on a cocktail napkin at the Clover Club in 1947.

Brand New likes the new logo too:
HP’s logo has been around for so long that it’s not really questionable anymore, it just is and it just exists. And it’s not a bad logo at all, especially in its most recent, simple incarnation. The accentuated angle of the two letters is recognizable and unique and serves as the basis for a possible new abstract logo. One that happens to be really, really great. It’s an elegant and bold evolution, using the simplest of forms: four sticks. Sure, it might not be instantly readable to someone that has never seen an HP product before but that’s why HP has millions of dollars to build a brand and engrain this in people’s mind without missing a bit. As a logo change for a massive company this would be pretty courageous to implement demonstrating that a mass audience can handle some abstraction, even if the poor audience still uses PCs.

Check out the post for even more on the logo, the collateral, and the roll-out.  Be sure to catch the video on how Moving Brands came to the brand position on "human progress."  It's really interesting when a major company does a rebrand, because the implications are far-reaching.  And because of that bigger scope, the rebrand stirs up the cultural stew pot of core values about what a brand is and what it should feel like.

After all, remember GapGate?


  1. On one hand, the new logo is pretty sick. Less semantic, more abstract, less of a stamp and more of a shape... I think the biggest advantage here is that it will be echoed by lots of unrelated things in the environment. "Woah, check it out. The books on that shelf totally look like the HP logo!"

    On the other hand, you're right that when I think of HP, I think, "Printers!" This is despite the fact that I myself own an HP tablet computer. I think it's just because our generation grew up in a time when HP was categorized with Canon and Epson.

    HP is already breaking down that identity, aggressively advertising their computers and featuring their technology on things like Project Runway. I think the next generation of tech-geeks will have a much broader picture of the company. But HP can't make this happen overnight. They just need to be patient while their repositioning takes effect.

  2. Now that Meg Whitman has thrown $323 million away to lose an election, it's time to take those same tactics to her next project at HP. Good to know she's always among the nations brightest and best.

  3. Really solid points Jesse. Especially about how they're using product placement on shows that cater to a design-based audience.

  4. Personally, I think the new logo is a little to abstract - I mean, it could just as easily represent the word "logo"...

    And, though I understand HP's desire to break the association many people have that "HP = printers", I'm not sure that simply spelling "hp" with a more abstract font will do the trick - to me, either logo is a symbol that references a sound in my head, and it's the sound of "hp" that I associate with high-quality computers and printers.

    I read once that some group has an annual design contest to "rebrand" US currency. Their premise is that maybe if our bills looked more modern, more flashy and attractive, maybe people would value them higher and then ask for fewer of them in exchange for goods and services - as if the effects of bad monetary policy (whatever your political philosophy defines this as...) can be erased with better pictures on the bills. Sort of like thinking that changing a surgeon's shirt can make him a better surgeon....

    Brand identity is important - God knows that a LOT of HP computers sold today are replacements for rugged, durable, trouble-free HP computers that people have been completely happy with since they bought them 5 years ago - while for me, the swoopy "e" in "eMachines" and "acer" symbolize "crap I'll never buy again" - but brand identity MUST be more than just the logo.... my HP products aren't superior BECAUSE they bear an "hp" on the case, or else I could fix my Acer by putting an HP sticker on it!

  5. (P.S., my Acer is an "Aspire"... synonymous with "hope" as in "I hope it boots up this time...")