HP: More Than Printers, and Willing to Waste Money to Prove It

Think of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and if you're like most consumers and business customers, you probably think of printers and personal computers. But even though the great majority of HP's products are indeed PCs and printers, those segments no longer make up the bulk of the company's business.

HP's personal systems group, which includes PCs and printers, made up less than a third of the company's revenue last year, with the rest coming from software, storage products and HP's large IT service group, which expanded in 2008 when the firm bought EDS for $13.9 billion. Now the company wants to change market perception to match reality. According to The Wall Street Journal, HP is launching an eight-week campaign that an unnamed source estimated would cost $40 million.

The campaign will feature, among others, rapper Dr. Dre and stand-up comedian Rhys Darby, star of the HBO series "Flight of the Conchords," according to the paper. The Journal adds that part of the marketing push is to educate HP's 304,000 employees about the firm's scope.

But the $40 million is almost certainly a waste of money. Enterprise customers are hardly more likely to do business with HP if they are told that the company has both IT consulting and PC operations. HP salesmen already focus on marketing the products and services that matter most to the client at hand. After all, a storage client probably cares very little about whether HP makes good printers.

And the notion of marketing to employees implies that they are not smart enough to look at the company's own promotional materials and website to get information about their employer -- an idea that's hard to imagine. In the end, the $40 million would end up splurging shareholder money on marketing that targets people who already know what they need to know about HP.