07 August 2010
A Great Brand Is Brought Low
As an ex-employee, I'm devastated. I used to work for a great company that traded on the strength of a culture reflecting the values of legendary founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard -- and the morale of a 150,000-strong workforce that believed in the HP Way. (During my stint with the company, 90% of us once voluntarily agreed to take a pay cut in order to stave off otherwise inevitable layoffs.) Today -- judging by the vitriol obviously written by insiders and which passes for comments at the end of the news stories -- that esprit de crops is long gone from the ranks of a gripeforce gutted by wave after wave of reorganization and the seeming inequity of it all.
Finally, as a student of strong brands, I'm discouraged. A brand is a fragile, porous entity. It can be punctured by all manner of barbs -- some from within, some from the outside. The result is the same: a leaky bucket oozing goodwill and equity built up over the years. Make too many holes, and soon the brand will be running on empty.
Of the world's top 100 global brands in the year 2000, only eight would have appeared on a similar list, if one had been prepared, in 1900. A great brand can't just have a scintillating decade before fading from the social consciousness; it needs to run the full race, and finish well.
HP is too strong a brand to keel over and die just like that, but it has taken a body blow. Whether it'll recover and finish well, will depend on the people of HP -- all 304,000 of them. The twin peaks of history and destiny loom over their shoulders. I pray they'll respond.