Trust. It’s a simple word, with only five letters and one syllable. But it’s big on meaning, with the power to make and break governments. Trust is the essence of brand equity, of professional and personal relationships. That’s why it’s so important to us at Edelman.
Trust makers. Our new interview series explores the sharpest minds in marketing and communications in the Netherlands. Next up is Herbert Wormgoor, Head of Communications Northwest Europe for HP Inc.
HP is a brand with more than 80 years of history, and as of 2007, the first technology business to exceed $100 billion in sales revenue for a fiscal year. We caught up with Herbert to find out more about the business’ sustainability efforts, the ambition to become the most ‘just’ technology company, and restarting from scratch following the separation of HP Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, HP Inc.
What are the major challenges you are trying to solve for HP?
On the one hand it's future-proofing HP to make sure it innovates in the right directions such as hybrid solutions and on the other hand it is making sure that the brand continues to meet the evolving demands of consumers and businesses alike.
When comparing our communications to 10-20 years ago, it used to be very product driven and focused on what the new features were. Nowadays, presentations and launches are more about how the product can help solve societal and environmental issues.
This means looking at the circularity of the product, the way we use plastics, the energy management of the computer. To make sure when consumers push the print-button, they know we compensate trees and invest in biodiversity. The sustainability of the product needs to be thought through in every step in the lifecycle.
How important is trust in meeting these challenges, how does this vary across audiences and stakeholders?
Trust is earned based on the products we deliver but also by thinking beyond the durability of the product. As I said, thinking about the recycling process, thinking about ways of prolonging the lifespan of products.
For example, you buy the best gaming laptop currently on the market. After a few years, new games are released that require more advanced graphic cards. (It’s often the graphics card that's the first thing that will limit your power to get the games at the highest level and resolution).
We make sure that the computers can be upgraded a few times before you need a new computer. This way, the product is more durable thus more sustainable, but you also provide the customer with a solution that's better for their wallet.
How do you find a balance between societal role, support driven comms and product/sales focussed comms?
Where previously a focus was on communicating the specs of products, we now focus on innovations and sustainability features that matter in the long run. The USP's of products go beyond just the products. Products represent the brand and therefore the bigger picture.
It’s important for Gen Z to see what brands’ values and positions are on important issues at every point of transaction – how are you addressing this?
Looking at consumers, specifically on social media, the communication between them and brands is very fast. You need to be quick with your message, more like soundbites. To give an example, we launched our 21st Sustainable Impact report and we are leading the industry regarding Sustainability in so many ways. How do we make sure our soundbites will reflect that and indeed help us build the credibility and brand preference.
We bring the message to the point of sales, at the social media that they frequent. For example, we recently invited influencers and media to talk about the ‘orchestra of sustainability’, where we showed the environment of how the products work in a creative way. This helped to tell a deeper story.
59% of Gen Z globally* say that they will stop buying if they don’t trust the company behind the brand. How are you looking to build trust with this audience?
The ambition at HP Inc. is to be the most just and sustainable tech-company. To do that, we need to walk the talk. Rather than telling (Gen Z) about our sustainability efforts, we need to include them, to build conversations. Generally, that's a message that comes across from various angles. We just need to make sure that we explain it in a very straightforward, practical (way).
We already have a 21-year history of releasing a yearly sustainable impact report. This provides accountability and transparency on what we have achieved. That experience and knowledge we integrate in our goals, and more important, that consistency will help us achieve those goals.
HP operates in a crowded space, what do you think differentiates the brand?
The quality and product innovation first. That is absolutely one of the things that we that we stand for and which we are also recognized for. HP was founded in 1939. So, it's a long-lasting brand that always managed to adapt itself and to evolve into a new business.
Edelman worked with HP to produce the campaign HP: Endangered Colours, a well thought out campaign can help make a vast and sometimes abstract subject more relatable. What do you think the challenges are of communicating the subject of sustainability?
What previously worked with influencer marketing; ‘oh wow, I can turn the screen of my laptop and look at the cool design’. That is not how to differentiate anymore. The main thing that works now is that sustainability becomes something that adds to your quality as a person. Being sustainable makes you cool.
You’ve experienced a steady rise in your career at HP over 16 years, from PR manager for one division, through to your current role as Head of Communications for Northwest Europe. It’s quite rare these days to stay somewhere for so long, what has kept you at HP?
I had my many job-switches before I joined HP. Within the company I focussed on more than just Communications. I like the width and depth of HP. Expanding my responsibilities by joining the Management Team and sponsoring Diversity, Innovation and Sustainable Impact for our Dutch organization. Building an inspiring HP to work for. This scope enabled me to develop more strategically and add business context. It all adds up perfectly in my current Northwest Europe role.
At HP 16 years is not an exception, all colleagues know the value of working for HP. We have done major acquisitions, company transformations, we moved offices, we just acquired and integrated Poly (video conference hardware solution). It has really felt like working for multiple companies rather than just one. One change stands out. Six years ago we separated Hewlett Packard into two companies, one of those being HP Inc. We all felt like founders. HP is a great organization to build a great career.
*2022 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: The New Cascade of Influence