Interbrand interview with Henry Gomez, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing and Communications Officer of HPE.
In your opinion, what drives brand growth?
There’re two things driving brand and business growth. The first is focus. The second is strategy. That may sound trite, but after being here five years and working on the turnaround with our CEO, Meg Whitman, I can tell you that those things have become very important. In terms of focus, what we’re doing that’s different from what some of our competitors are doing is honing the company into a very tight, smaller enterprise that can focus and really pay attention to what it does best. Our vision is to be the industry’s leading provider of hybrid IT: built on secure, next-generation software-defined infrastructure that will run customers’ data centers today, bridge them to multi-cloud environments tomorrow, and enable the emerging intelligence edge that will power campus, branch, and IoT applications for decades to come. To simplify that even further, customers need to run their data centers today. What they have today, they want to bridge to the cloud, and they’ve got different ways of doing that. Eventually, the industry is going to IoT, to the edge, to the new iterations.
What are some specific things, from a marketing capability and organizational perspective, that you have done? What has the business-strategy focus enabled you to do as a marketing organization?
The strategic change and the push on focus are having an impact on digital marketing. We’ve had a robust digital marketing strategy and operation here inside of HPE. We’re doubling down on that because of a focus on cost and what we can do. We’re looking to how much more efficient we can be in demand generation and in reaching our customers with a message. We are shifting to a very digital-focused marketing motion. We’re going to be much more online, much more on mobile. Not only is that where, frankly, our buyers are going, the IT decision-makers: that’s how they’re looking at the world. It also makes sense for us to be doing that as we hone this company.
Partnership plays a big role, both from a business strategy perspective as well as a customer-centric and customer-focus and delivery perspective. Can you talk a little bit about the role partnership plays for the HPE brand?
75 percent of our revenue comes through our partner relationships. We are a partner-driven business. That’s something we’ve done forever and we continue to do more of. As we’ve been changing our strategy, as we’ve been evolving our strategy, as we’ve been spinning out parts of the business—first services, then software—we’ve communicated and worked with our partners to make sure they understand what we’re doing, and they’ve helped us develop the future. It’s going to be a different future with a company that’s constructed differently. They worked very closely with us on all that—we get a lot of input with them on what we’re doing.
How do you keep your innovation and R&D pipeline healthy in order to keep growing? You have internal R&D innovation efforts in Hewlett Packard Labs, as well as external innovation partnerships that you’re creating through Hewlett Packard Pathfinder.
That’s a great example. Hewlett Packard Pathfinder, our venture investment and partnership program, is core to what we’re doing. Given our company size and the pace of change in our industry, we can’t build everything internally; we can’t think of everything internally. As much as we’d like to do everything organically, today, that’s not realistic, because you need more nimble players. Scale has a lot of advantages. Sometimes nimbleness is not one of those advantages. You’ve got to work with smaller players, creative players—in Silicon Valley and elsewhere—to figure out what’s next in a particular part of our business. You’ve got to work with them to understand and to really figure out what the future is. What we do is take our connections to the right entrepreneurs, curate all the options and present relevant ones to our customers that are ready for enterprise scale.
The companies in the program are, in many ways, the tip of the spear on the future. That’s why partnering and working with them is so critical to us. You can’t look at it as ownership. You want to be part of the trends and the innovation that these companies are creating. We look at everything through this lens. Everything is a partnership. When 75 percent of our business comes through partners, distributors, and field partners around the world, it’s built in. That’s been the case since the inception of the company.
Regarding R&D, we are increasing R&D internally. Hewlett Packard Labs will continue to innovate for the long-term, but we also want to more quickly commercialize those innovations. Hewlett Packard Labs continues to work on The Machine, which puts data first through what we call Memory-Driven Computing, but what they’re also working on is commercializing components of The Machine that are available now, to put them into systems now. Customers are getting components as quickly as we develop them.
What does the ability to focus provide in terms of being ready for disruption? What does it do for sales, this renewed focus, and your ability to get that message out there?
Today, customers are not looking to buy boxes. They’re looking to buy solutions. They’ve got a challenge, and they need a solution for it. Today’s buyers are not just IT people. They’re people like me. As we focus the business, we focus our branding, we focus our message. We’ve got four transformation areas that came out of our need to focus. Our customers could not process the broad areas of things we’re in. They needed us to talk with them [about their] greatest needs.
We’re also looking at things more vertically around specific business areas and industries. As we have asked ourselves, “What do we do best? What do we want to do going forward?” the focus has impacted our solution selling. It has created the transformation areas. It has made us think in terms of, “If this is what we’re going to do, how do we market and communicate and work best with customers in just these areas?” Again, you have less to think about, but what you’re thinking about, you’re really, really honing in on, and you’re getting better and better at, both in terms of marketing, but also in terms of creating the product roadmaps and what you’re going to do. If you’re not doing 100 different things, you can more easily look at a product roadmap and say, “Here’s exactly what we’re going to do and here; just as important, here’s what we’re not going to do.”
Again, I know this may not sound that “aha” or profound here. Yet it really is. It makes you better. When you’ve got fewer resources, but your goals are still significant, you figure out quickly what you’re going to do, what you’re not going to do, and you really get it done. In many ways, too many resources, too much money to spend, are not a good thing. Usually, it works counter to what you want to achieve.