Compaq gets inspired

Anyone can sell a box full of microprocessors. Compaq is on a mission to sell inspiration....

Anyone can sell a box full of microprocessors. Compaq is on a mission to sell inspiration.

This month, the computer manufacturer is launching a massive worldwide campaign, under the tagline ‘Inspiration Technology: The New IT.’ The goal is to reposition Compaq as a technology solutions provider that can help people realize great ideas – a dramatic shift for a company that has traditionally branded itself, somewhat impersonally, as a hardware maker.

‘Simply put, information is the input, inspiration is the output,’ says Ron Mitchell, vice-president of integrated marketing communications with Richmond Hill, Ont.-based Compaq Canada. ‘And the Compaq brand is going to be the link between those two.’

Ultimately, the campaign is designed to further the company’s overriding ambition: to become the undisputed leader in every category in which it currently competes.

Mitchell says Compaq wants to be known as a company that serves the computing needs of every imaginable user – governments, businesses of all sizes, researchers and consumers. To this end, the new advertising will let people know how Compaq’s servers help businesses function, how its supercomputers drive high-end research, and how new personal products – like its iPAQ palmtop computer – can make accessing the Internet easier.

By showcasing its broad capabilities, the company hopes to convince its various customers that they can accomplish just about anything using Compaq products.

‘People enabled by great technology can achieve great things,’ says Sandra Pakosh, manager of advertising and marketing communications with Compaq Canada. ‘That core essence will be the foundation of the advertising that’s been developed. The stories will be compelling, so that they become meaningful and relevant to a customer. This meaning will become our key differentiation in the competitive space.’

The advertising has been developed by Compaq’s global agency, Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide. Toronto-based Harrod & Mirlin/FCB is responsible for adapting the campaign for Canada, and producing certain elements specific to this market.

The first phase of the campaign will focus on heightening awareness of the Compaq brand and promoting the ‘inspiration technology’ concept. Television, magazine and Web ads will run at heavy weights throughout October and November.

Here in Canada, Compaq is lending added support to the campaign by renewing its sponsorship deals with National Hockey League franchises in Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. These agreements provide for arena signage, and open up a variety of co-marketing opportunities.

In addition, the company has secured deals for product placements in a variety of Canadian television shows and feature films. This season, Compaq desktop, notebook and palmtop PCs will appear in programs airing on both conventional and specialty TV channels – including Electric Circus on MuchMusic, DaVinci’s Inquest on CBC and Cold Squad on CTV.

The fall campaign will also include a direct response component targeting small and medium-sized businesses. The ads, running in national and major-market daily newspapers, will share some of the look and feel of the brand ads, Pakosh says, but will mainly promote desktop and notebook components, encouraging customers to order online or by phone.

As the campaign unfolds, it will begin to use case studies to show how Compaq technology has helped turn inspiration into reality. One, for example, will tell the story of the supercomputer used in the Human Genome Project. Compaq isn’t taking credit for cracking the genetic code, Pakosh says, but it does want the world to know that its computers are powerful enough to handle such a complex task.

While Compaq Canada officials won’t reveal the budget for the campaign, reports have put the price tag for the U.S. portion at $300 million.

Michelle Warren, market analyst with Toronto-based Evans Research, says this new strategy is the right direction for Compaq.

‘The ads I’ve seen are quite good,’ she says. ‘I think they’ll be effective in spreading the Compaq name [and the concept of] inspiration technology – the whole idea of using computers as a tool for something, rather than just using the computer for the computer’s sake.’

With the Internet becoming an increasingly mainstream tool for businesses and consumers alike, it makes sense to shift the marketing focus away from the technology tools themselves and onto the things that they enable people to do, Warren says.

‘Compaq is trying to be the best in every country in which they compete,’ she says. ‘They’re trying to be the first to come out with new technology, and the first to introduce new partnerships [with telephone, cellular and software companies] to put together complete packages for the consumer or commercial user. They’re trying to lead the market, and they’re doing a good job.’

In Canada, Compaq currently ranks third in commercial desktop shipments, with a 10.3% market share (trailing IBM and, by a narrow margin, Dell). In the commercial notebooks category, the company held the number four position as of the second quarter of this year. It also sits near the top of the consumer market, along with IPC and Hewlett-Packard.