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Q&A with HP Inc. Chief Marketing Officer Vikrant Batra

How do you see the role of brand changing?

We’re seeing a big shift in how brands build relationships with customers. You’ve got to go beyond the words “customer-centric” and how you can sell things to them. It’s about how you make their environment better.

 

What does this shift mean for how you communicate with your customers?

We’re quickly getting to a space where paid media becomes less relevant. More and more, we’re getting into subscription content. There are two [types of content] that are emerging for me: values-based brand content and, at the other end of the spectrum, data-based content. Next year, it’s about making sure we shift towards storytelling at one end and data at the other in all the markets we operate in.

 

What kinds of stories are you looking to tell?

We have a strong POV about the right and responsible use of technology, about committing to topics like sustainability and security. Not a lot of people know, for example, how focused we are on sustainability. We just launched a laptop made from recycled plastics, which highlights the importance of going carbon neutral. On the security front, we discovered that only 15% of corporate IT folks were aware that a printer can be hacked. That led to a huge awareness campaign. We believe it’s our duty, as the world’s largest PC and printing company, to inform people of things like security risks and how to overcome them. We’re telling these stories because we care and our customers care.

 

What about the data end of the spectrum?

What’s really important is getting the right customer to the right product. No bombarding people with lots of stuff. Data-based marketing should be intelligent marketing. We’re fundamentally changing the structure of our marketing teams. A country that had five brand managers in the past may need two brand managers, one data scientist, one data analyst, and one content specialist in the future. We’ve been on that journey for over a year, and we’re accelerating that change.

 

Differentiation is an important factor when it comes to building a strong brand. How do you achieve that in a category like consumer electronics?

Differentiation in consumer electronics has to come back to a company’s values. We’re celebrating our 80th anniversary this year, and we haven’t lost sight of the fact that people will always be more important than the technology. Technology is a powerful tool, so it’s about being mindful and striking the right balance. It’s about showing people how to take those 1,000 photographs and print the five that mean a lot to you.

 

How do HP Inc.’s values come to life?

If you read our vision, there are two important words: “everyone, everywhere.” The first time you read it, you might think, “How generic.” But we don’t want to be the company that serves a certain top strata of the world’s population. We want to serve as many people as possible. That’s why we have laptops out there that cost $100 being used by millions of people. Because it literally changes people’s lives. In Uganda, for example, there are refugees from many different countries speaking many different languages. With our laptops and solar-powered WiFi stations, they can tap into a system that allows teachers to design a curriculum in their students’ languages. We want to maximize their potential. It’s central to what we do.

 

What should we expect from HP Inc. in the future?

“Keep reinventing” is core to the company from an R&D and engineering perspective. We’re never going to stop.

 

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