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What were they thinking? (JOUR 4460)

Two weeks ago, HP shocked the tech industry when they announced the death of their 49-day-old tablet device and revealed that they were considering leaving the PC business altogether.  They cited low sales as the driving force behind their decision, which made complete sense business-wise.  If you aren’t making a profit, something needs to change.

In an attempt to unload all the extra tablets taking up shelf space in stockrooms across the country, they dropped the price to $100, and unsurprisingly, the HP TouchPad started flying off the shelves.  I even considered buying one for myself (and as a die-hard Apple supporter, this would have been quite the switch for me).

Then the news came yesterday that they would start producing more tablets to meet customer demand.  From a business perspective, this also makes sense.  If something is selling well, you want to make more of it.  However, from a communications perspective, it makes HP look manipulative or confused, or maybe a little of both.  Yesterday’s announcement was proposed as a knee-jerk reaction to renewed interest in HP’s products.  But they should have seen it coming.  Selling an iPad-comparable device at less than one-fourth of the iPad’s cost?  Did they really not expect a huge uptick in sales?  Or was that exactly what they were expecting?

It’s a clever bait-and-switch move used in plenty of other industries.  Take the Michael Jackson documentary “This Is It,” for example.  Its major marketing hook was: “EXCLUSIVE TWO-WEEK ENGAGEMENT.  DON’T MISS IT.”  People then rushed out to the theater with a “now or never” mindset.  Of course, once the studio saw some impressive box office returns, the film’s run was extended by three weeks.

Disney’s upcoming 3D re-release of The Lion King is using a similar tactic.  Anyone think it will really only play in theaters for two weeks?

Regardless of HP’s intention behind these conflicting announcements, one thing is NOT clear:  their message.  A brand will die if consumers don’t trust it.  For them to come out with such a dramatic statement that has the potential to change the entire tech marketplace, only to backtrack two weeks later is not a way to earn customers’ loyalty.

When I read the CNN headline, “HP kills tablet, looks to exit PC business” I couldn’t click through to the article fast enough.  A few of my coworkers had a hard time believing it until I forwarded them the link.  It was a big deal.  Now it just seems like a sloppy communications move to sell products.  I imagine that consumers will start to get confused and frustrated if HP continues to play the “will we or won’t we” back-and-forth game for much longer.

Maybe HP doesn’t even care what consumers think; their plan worked.  In two weeks, the TouchPad has skyrocketed to be the second-best selling tablet behind the iPad.

Maybe to them, the ends really do justify the means.

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One response to “What were they thinking? (JOUR 4460)

  1. So tell if I understand this correctly? HP announced the discontinuation of the product and then dropped the price to hopefully boost sales, right?

    While I don’t think it was a dumb move to drop the price because it obviously worked, I do agree that the order of the two actions seems a little mixed up. You’d think a business would try dropping the prices first BEFORE announcing the failure of the product. So yeah, that doesn’t quite make sense.

    However, was that tablet really ONLY 49-days old? I feel like I’ve been seeing that commercial for months now. But maybe that’s just because it was played so frequently.

    But you, of course, know where I stand on the tablet as a whole issue. Gimmick. If it were up to me, all of them would go bye-bye because I truly think they’re just a scam. But to each his own, I guess.

    Anyway, good blog. It was a very nice and interesting read. I didn’t know that The Lion King was coming out in 3D. I’m sure you know how I feel about that one, too? If not, you can ask. 🙂

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