HP had a storied history of innovation and was a Fortune 100 company when Carly Fiorina took over as chief executive officer in 1999. Though the company was well known for its quality products and particularly for its printers, ‘‘it had become clear,’’ according to Advertising Age, ‘‘that HP had to do something to change its consumer image.’’ HP’s takeover of its rival Compaq in 2002—at a time when PC sales (the heart of Compaq’s business) were abysmal—raised further questions about the company’s direction in the precarious postbubble marketplace. Fiorina and Allison Johnson, HP’s senior vice president for global brand and communications, asked agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners to answer these questions by showcasing the merger itself and then by focusing on other high-profile but previously unpublicized HP partnerships in a large-scale rebranding push that broke in the fall of 2002.
Ads touting the merger used an ‘‘HP + Compaq’’ graphic to show the strength of the partnership, and the ‘‘+’’ sign was then used as a unifying visual symbol in the larger branding campaign, which extolled HP’s contributions to an impressive array of corporate and institutional partners. The campaign was launched with ‘‘Anthem,’’ a television spot that, as Creativity magazine noted, ‘‘linked HP technology to bigger and cooler things—Dreamworks’ imagemaking, FedEx’s efficiency, BMW’s Formula 1 need for speed.’’ Other memorable ads were ‘‘Restore,’’ which brought figures from a Dutch master painting to life in order to illustrate the role HP played in restoring art for London’s National Gallery, and ‘‘The Next Shift,’’ which featured iconic toys—Slinky, Elmo, Spiderman, and others—commuting to work in Manhattan as a way of illustrating HP’s involvement in keeping Toys ‘‘R’’ Us stores stocked and ready for business. Creativity selected Goodby’s HP branding work as its campaign of the year for 2003, arguing that the spots had worked together to ‘‘render formerly square HP a magnetic new personality.’’
Meanwhile the rapid rise in popularity of digital cameras presented one of the few bright spots in the dismal technology sectors of the struggling American economy. As the 2003 holiday season approached, digital cameras were poised to overtake traditional cameras in yearly sales for the first time. Though HP was not known for its cameras, its wide portfolio of products meant that it was positioned to offer consumers an integrated system for home digital photography.