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H-P's Johnson Focuses on Consumers

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SAN FRANCISCO "In a world of cynicism, doubt and trust, how do marketers get the good news through?" Hewlett-Packard senior vice president of global brand and communications Allison Johnson asked a room brimming with online advertising executives this morning here at Ad:Tech.

The keynote address kicked off the three-day conference at the Palace Hotel that attracted more then 4,000 attendees, up 30 percent over last year.

"If you're a technology brand, it's double the challenge," Johnson acknowledged. "Technology is cold and forbidding."

H-P shares the "good news" through stories about the promise and wonder of technology and technology as a positive force for change in the world. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company is focusing on creating relationships with and experiences for the customer, she said, calling it "Brand Love."

"We're beginning to put all of our offerings through this process. It forces us out of the rational world we live in as technologists and thrusts us into the emotional world," said Johnson, who began and concluded her speech by playing The Black Eyed Peas' song, "Where is the Love?"

The comments underscored H-P's initiative to shift from a product-oriented marketing strategy to a customer-centric one. "You can only imagine everyone's discomfort when we talked about featuring customers," Johnson said.

Illustrating that, Johnson ran some spots from a global push from Omnicom Group's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco that describes how specific companies, such as Toys R Us and Dreamworks, use H-P's hardware and software to accomplish business goals.

Beyond advertising, H-P is also making strides in digital entertainment and photography. For instance, the company has created an online gallery where people can share photos. H-P also has teamed up with Starbucks to supply the coffee chain with digital kiosks where customers can download CD compilations. Starbucks aims to have the kiosks in 200 stores by the holidays and 2,500 more in the U.S. over the next 18 months, Johnson said.

"This is a generation that values involvement, authenticity, fun, humor and genuine connection. These guys are thrill seekers when it comes to online experiences," explained Johnson.