HP finds its pace with new consumer brand strategy.

Melinda Creswick
Director of IPG visual identity and creative services
HP’s Imaging and Printing Group (IPG)

This spring Melinda Creswick ran her first marathon, a 26.2-mile race through Eugene, OR. Those who know her are probably not surprised that of all the running challenges she could have chosen, she picked a long-distance race. As a life-long athlete and a 17-year veteran of HP, Creswick has what it takes to commit for the long haul.

Creswick currently is director of visual identity and creative services for HP’s Imaging and Printing Group (IPG), but her background at HP spans R&D Services, supply chain management, manufacturing and marketing. In the past seven years she has been deeply involved in packaging and branding for HP products.

Her present position includes driving consistency across all of the IPG brand touch points, including packaging, product collateral, tradeshows and the other customer communications that augment advertising. The IPG products include inkjet and laser jet printers, ink and toner cartridges, scanners, printer accessories and specialty papers. IPG’s target market includes consumers as well as business users.

“Packaging plays a big role in HP’s brand strategy. It’s something that has to work really hard for us from a brand perspective and from a selling perspective,” Creswick says. “It generates the greatest number of impressions, and those are consistent impressions from people walking through the store, whether they are there to shop our products or are just getting the billboard effect” from the HP product family on-shelf.

In the past year, IPG has been taking a hard look outside the electronics industry, to consumer packaged goods (CPG) categories, for ways to make its brand strategy more effective in the consumer marketplace.

 A major packaging redesign, which Creswick led, is the first project to embody those CPG ideas. The project was part of a global brand initiative to boost the value perception of IPG’s consumer products, and the new packaging began rolling out in November.

The objective of the project was to create a package design that could be leveraged not only for IPG products but also for the products of HP’s other major consumer-facing business unit, the Personal Systems Group (PSG). PSG markets personal computers, smart phones, calculators and other personal technology products.

Creating a unified look for the IPG and PSG products was “a huge challenge,” Creswick recalls. “Our goal was to realign the IPG and PSG packaging to represent ourselves as ‘one HP’ in-store and to create a unified HP brand experience.”

Working with branding and design consultancy Brand Engine, Creswick and her team started from scratch for the IPG packaging redesign. “It was the first time we threw away the rule book and started fresh, looking at the packaging from the consumer’s perspective,” she says.

Ultimately, the team rebuilt the IPG packaging architecture from the ground up. Every aspect of the previous architecture-the communications hierarchy, color systems, naming and messaging-was first assessed with consumers worldwide and then finessed to increase brand appeal and purchase intention.

“We considered what would make an incredible consumer impression, what we could simplify and how we could clean up communications on the box. We wanted HP to be the brand that consumers were drawn to when the boxes were on the shelf,” Creswick says.

Throughout the process, Creswick and her colleagues at PSG worked closely to create a consistent packaging identity across both product families. IPG and PSG shared files back and forth to track the design progress on both sides and to align their new package designs.

One of the biggest changes was switching the background on IPG packaging from white to black to align with the PSG packaging. Now the IPG and PSG packages all present the products the same way, with product photography that pops on a rich black background.

“We kept the same communications hierarchy but introduced a new logo and a new photo style to represent the products in the most positive light,” Creswick says. “Rather than presenting the products in a technical way, as we tend to do at HP, we wanted to make these products look a little sexy. The products have new curves and shapes to them. They are not just grey-box printers anymore, and we wanted to highlight that.”

To ensure global consistency for the packaging, Creswick managed the development of brand and packaging guidelines and led a global training program to communicate the new guidelines to HP’s worldwide team. The global guidelines provide a framework that leaves room for necessary localization.

The redesigned packaging has met with enthusiastic response in the marketplace. Post-design research shows the new packaging system has yielded double-digit increases in brand leadership and value perception for the IPG and PSG products.

The project has generated positive results within HP’s supply chain, as well. Creswick and her team worked closely with packaging suppliers and printers to make sure the redesign was practical not only aesthetically but also from an operational and cost standpoint.

“It was a very collaborative effort,” she says. “We challenged our suppliers to do some things they weren’t sure they could do. But in the end they delivered. There were many aha’s as we worked together to push the boundaries of printing this successfully but without increasing cost or creating complexities that wouldn’t be manageable. We didn’t want the tail wagging the dog.”

With the packaging redesign completed, Creswick has turned her attention to the many other IPG consumer touch points that communicate the brand. Her team will use the new brand guidelines to transform and unify all of these communications.

Packaging, she says, was the “jumping off point. It absolutely influenced the development of our brand guidelines and is even having some influence on our advertising. Our focus now is on creating connections between all the touch points and layering them to create a brand experience with the legs to endure.” BP

NAME:Melinda Creswick
TITLE: Director of IPG visual identity and creative services with HP’s Imaging and Printing Group (IPG)
YEARS IN CURRENT JOB: One month with my current title, seven years working in marketing and packaging at HP and 17 years total at HP
WHERE OR WHEN DO YOUR BEST IDEAS COME TO YOU? Typically when I’m running. Also during conversations with colleagues, and when I’m out in stores.
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE ULTIMATE BRANDED PACKAGE?The HP ink-jet cartridge package. The box has a beveled edge, and consumers recognize that shape as belonging to HP.
WHAT’S ON YOU NIGHTSTAND? The Shack, by William P. Young

Where to go for more information…

Brand identity and package design
Brand Engine (415.339.4220 orwww.brandengine.com)