HP CMO Vikrant Batra on meshing the science of security with the art of creative
HP elevated longtime executive Vikrant Batra to chief marketing officer nearly a year ago, and since taking over the role from Antonio Lucio, who left to become the chief marketer at Facebook, Batra has put a revamped marketing team in place and worked to solidify the global company as one that promotes safety, diversity and trust.
Since Batra came into the new position, he's hired C-suite execs from the likes of Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Siemens to join him on the marketing leadership team. Their core remit is to make sure that safety and privacy remain top priorities, building trust for the brand.
Batra believes security to be an a huge differentiator for HP, boldly asserting it has "the most secure endpoint devices, PCs and printers, period".
The brand's notable complementary campaigns – 'The Wolf' with Christian Slater and ‘The Fixer’ with Jonathan Banks – both embody that push for trust and security.
"‘The Wolf’ was a fantastic campaign for us to drive awareness of everything that’s possible with endpoint devices – it resonated with IT communities across the world," said Batra, adding the brand recognition the ad helped HP achieve was "tremendous.”
Now, ‘The Fixer’ is making a return in few weeks, with Banks reprising the title role who ‘fixes’ The Wolf’s hacks with HP products.
It’s that driving awareness of security at large that has helped boost HP's credentials, especially with enterprise audiences.
Many people didn’t know printers could be hacked, but heightening awareness of the problem and solving it with self-healing printers – then communicating it through ‘The Fixer’ – allowed HP to subtley pivot on what it stands for as a company.
Batra said this strategy will continue.
“Our plans on security do not stop," he said. "And we will continue to drive security."
Batra was raised in India and started working on the agency side for J Walter Thompson, then TracyLocke and the Integer Group before finding his way to HP, where he worked his way up to his current position. He's therefore still a "big believer in the art of marketing," despite having a security-focused tech brand to sell.
“I grew up in the agency side and worked in the art of marketing and the science of marketing for a long time," he said. "For me, the biggest change was a combination of those two things.
"We have accelerated our database marketing journeys…our data-driven operating model. We’ve been working super hard on digital marketing, on our partnership with Adobe, and how we manage our data. That has been a huge acceleration for us in the last six-to-eight months.”
The company's latest creative has been driven by the insights of talking to its customers in the 167 countries it operates in, which found that trust and privacy are hugely important, especially for Gen Z. A new webcam kill switch is the latest innovation to address that issue, with a campaign to match.
“When you look at trust, at us bringing data and storytelling together, everything we do with HP technology should serve a purpose in someone’s life," said Batra. "Technology should be in the service of humanity and not the other way around."
Under Lucio’s lead, HP took a commanding position on diversity in tech, leading with its ‘Reinventing Mindsets’ campaign and in its practices with its partner agencies, as well as working with Free the Bid to address gender inclusivity in its creative projects.
Batra continues to double down on these commitments set out by his predecessor.
"In addition to diversity, we have a priority on inclusivity and how you drive inclusion, and what those metrics are when it comes to inclusion? We’re working on that next level now. We want to lead the industry in that."
He said diversity and inclusion is a conversation from a marketing and human resources level, but also an imperative at the executive leadership level.
“Our chief executive [Dion Weisler] and I talk about it and take action all the time,” he stated, adding that Weisler has inserted sustainable impact into the business goals for each of his direct reports.
Next, Batra said the company is looking to take diversity and inclusion to other markets.
“Diversity and inclusion when you go from country to country takes a lot of different forms," he explained. "Our teams in Japan worked on a fantastic program, which is now a campaign for us, on gender, in terms of women who want to start their own businesses and how in Japan it’s not easy to do that from a cultural perspective.
"For us, to start to expand diversity and inclusion into other markets and getting back to the insights in that market and make an attitude change its critical for us.”
To help that, HP is working on short storytelling, like it did with the film ‘Paro’, which chronicled a girl in India who follows her passion for telling stories, for International Women’s Day.
As for its roster of trusted agencies, the list has been altered slightly, but the commitment by the agencies to promote diversity remains. It currently works with FF (formerly Fred & Farid), Giant Spoon, MediaMonks and Edelman, and recently brought on Wieden+Kennedy to manage its gaming brand, Omen.
Another new agency is The Lab, a new storytelling division of Anonymous Content, for commercial marketing.
All, Batra said, are meeting the standards set out for existing agencies.
“Everyone who comes on board, gets on our guidelines," he said.