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The pandemic has been a mixed bag for leading technology solutions provider brand HP in India. While the lockdown months impacted the demand initially, the recalibrated lifestyle brought back the consumption for the category as more people worked from home and more children studied at home.

Speaking to The Drum, Ketan Patel, managing director, HP India Market, says, “The restrictions brought about by lockdowns and social distancing have transformed the role of technology and led to a resurgent demand for devices like PCs and home printers.”

HP emerged as a highly engaged brand and its chief marketing officer Prashant Jain attributes the extensive engagement to the communication being empathetic to the customers' changed context.

This September HP launched a slew of quirky adverts to communicate the everyday struggles that the work-from-home consumes were going through -  from surviving choppy connectivity to hiding oneself during video calls to escape embarrassing home situations. The idea was to highlight key product USPs of some of HP’s marquee laptop products.

In contrast, HP’s Diwali festive campaign was an emotional film, that showed how technology products such as an HP laptop and printer bring cheer to a dejected business owner (a skilled lady tailor) through the acts of a thoughtful child.  

These are two of the many examples of how HP managed to remain engaged, even during the pandemic and continued selling its products like printers and personal computers to an increasingly at-home consumer base.

“The extensive engagement we have seen during the past few months is an outcome of our communication being empathetic to the customers' changed context”, says Jain. “The pandemic saw the tech needs of our customers transforming in a short span of time across the use cases of ‘learning, creating, gaming and working’ and our innovations and communication have both reflected these needs and the new context,” he adds.  

How the creative brief has evolved?

The role of advertising has certainly evolved. From building preference for the brand, it has evolved to bring alive the brand's empathy for the customer's problems, says Jain. The brief to the agency had some additional mandatories, “do not come across as taking advantage of the customer's problems in any way at the peak of the pandemic”.

Also, as businesses started getting back on track, the communication brief was to help inspire small businesses to race against time and make up for whatever they may have lost during the lockdown, he adds.






Launch of the ‘Print Learn Center’

One such innovative launch has been the ‘Print Learn Center’ launch - an initiative that is around providing engaging content that could help students meet learning outcomes while at home. In a situation where parents have been juggling their work, household chores as well as their children’s education from home, there was an urgent need being felt to provide engaging content for young students. Explaining the genesis of this noteworthy initiative, Jain himself a father of two school-going children shares how the interactions with educationalists also brought out the importance of pen and paper-based learning.  

The initiative has received a great response, “about 170 thousand users in first 45 days of launch and about 84 thousand having subscribed for the regular delivery of worksheets”, shares the HP spokesperson. The content is being refreshed constantly to deliver learning in more engaging ways and also help parents to meet their children’s age-appropriate learning goals. In addition, HP is also working to expand the partnership with organizations who can make this content easily accessible to lesser privileged students, shares Jain.

Technology and its evolving role

Looking at the last few months, there has been a paradigm shift in the way technology has been the connecting thread. The restrictions brought about by lockdowns and social distancing have transformed the role of technology.

Patel, says, “Today technology is ensuring business continuity, virtual learning, entertainment within the home and citizen services like healthcare or getting the essentials at our doorstep.”

Emerging demand patterns

The demand for the products is coming from various quarters as a result of the last few months’ changing work culture. Since the focus of consumers has been ‘staying connected’, we have seen an increased demand for devices like PCs and home printers, shares Patel. From one PC per family scenario, there has been a shift towards one PC per person. In addition, is the rise of specific user categories such as entertainment and creative professionals who are using PC not only for their work or learn but also to express their creative thoughts and spend leisure time. Social distancing also means people are looking at newer means to entertain themselves – be it binge-watching or gaming, where the PC is again coming to their rescue. Students need reliable devices to ensure their learning is not interrupted. The new normal has given a fillip to the gig economy and creative professionals need powerful devices to capitalize on it.

Similarly, printers – especially the All in Ones, which combine scanners and copiers are playing an important role in helping students learn better from home, or allow SMBs, self-employed professionals and entrepreneurs maintain business continuity, adds Patel.

What does the future look like?

The pandemic has changed buyer behaviour, which is getting to be all about streamlined, automated, and personalized experiences, says Patel. To thrive in this changing environment, “organizations need to leverage data and insights as to the new currency, and it requires a shift to engage with customers as individuals, not markets.”

In a world now dominated by e-commerce and digital-led customer journeys and experiences, the winning businesses will be those who are agile in responding to rapidly evolving customer needs and act on them to constantly deliver products and services tailor-made to them.

According to Patel, “the business now needs to enable progressive go-to-market strategies that is digital by design and cater to a combination of transactional, contractual and hybrid selling models.”