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CMO50 2016 #26-50: Darren Needham-Walker, HP

  • Name Darren Needham-Walker
  • Title Head of marketing, South Pacific
  • Company HP
  • Commenced role October 2010
  • Reporting Line Dual to MD and APJ VP marketing
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 9 staff, 8 direct reports
  • Industry Sector IT and telecommunications
  • 2015 ranking New to CMO50
  • Brand Post

    One of Darren Needham-Walker’s most game-changing marketing programs over the past year for HP was targeting the millennials segment.

    For the first time, the PC manufacturer wanted to launch a campaign that would appeal to a female-skewed, younger millennials demographic, a previously untapped market. There were three objectives: Get the target audience to consider the brand, increase market share, and produce a critical mass of content that would resonate with this audience.

    The problem was, HP knew 52 per cent of millennials considered it irrelevant and ‘The Dad’s brand’. They’d been weaned on and obsessed by other ‘perceived’ innovative brands.

    “However, when we exposed them to the HP Consumer Laptop range, they were surprised. We set ourselves a goal to be the most considered brand in this space. To do this, we had to earn the right to play and produce content that is relevant and authentic,” Needham-Walker says.

    This evolving journey saw HP focus on social and mobile channels first, using online media for engagement, digital data sharing and omni-channel consistency, and segmenting millennials into sub-groups for nurturing.

    A key insight was realising this audience rejected conventional and manufactured celebrities and had embraced a new breed of celebrity: The ‘digital brat pack’ found on YouTube.

    As Needham-Walker puts it, in an act of “pure and utter bravery”, HP gave up control of the brand and let the cool kids create content and do the talking. The HP YouTubers campaign enlisted several Australian YouTube stars to create content featuring the technology. At the core of the campaign was a partnership with YouTube which included a major sponsorship of the YouTube FanFest Sydney event.

    HP partnered with three Aussie YouTube creators for bespoke content: Award-winning singer Troye Sivan; SketchShe, the Aussie lip syncing sensations; and Tyde Levi, an up-and-coming Australian DJ and vlogger. Each produced bespoke video and social content, integrating various HP devices including Sivan’s Fools music video, in which the HP Pavilion x360 played an integral role. The video’s world premiere was launched at a special HP stand during YouTube FanFest.

    The work paid off. The measure of the ‘only brand to be considered’, for example, increased by 75 per cent, and ‘a brand I trust’ increased by 9 points. Brand consideration lifted 12.5 per cent, putting HP higher than any competitor across the campaign period, and market share reached an all-time high during and post-campaign.

    Artists produced 66 dedicated content posts featuring HP across the campaign. These reached a total of 14.86 million people, with a total of 1.97m engagements.

    “This was an incredible result for HP. To let go of the reigns and let HP Australia cede control of their brand to a bunch of kids was a huge and brave undertaking, which had to be signed off at both a regional and global level – no mean feat,” Needham-Walker says.

    From the CMO50 submission

    Data- and technology-led approach

    With the Web key in technology research and purchasing, investment in digital media and associated deliverables is inevitable on the rise. Over the past year, Needham-Walker has been looking at how HP could help validate end-to-end value of the digital customer journey by forming digital data-sharing partnerships with retailers.

    “This has taken a change in skillset within myself, my team and agency support, and most importantly, changed the conversation with the retailer partners,” he explains.

    Needham-Walker says when he positioned this data-led pilot to be funded from incremental investment from HP marketing, partners were enticed. All acknowledged the opportunity to share the digital shelf, optimising for results, reducing duplicating search engine marketing between brands and retailers in both targeting brand and generic terms, which can inflate SEM costs.

    HP partnered with key retail partners to share digital pixel information, via co-ordinated SEM and retargeting display, giving the consumer a more seamless experience through the funnel. Building a robust, data-driven bridge was about optimising results between the two campaigns and allowed teams to measure the end-to-end effectiveness of conversion to sale from video, display and SEM, down to specific key words.

    HP saw a 10:1 ROI based on transacted sales within ecommerce, and through attribution modelling, this grew to over 20:1. Needham-Walker says it’s also been able to prove increased SEM impression share on optimised key words, an ability to geo-target retailer location based on display/stock availability, and increased dwell time on retailer site from digital traffic passed from HP versus organic unique visitors to the site.

    An additional challenge for HP’s programmatic agency is to explore where the brand role ends and the retailer’s begins within the digital customer journey. To do this, HP is looking for further optimisation on the path to purchase.

    “My assumption is through this robust integration and end-to-end reporting, we will be able to define what media type and creative is most effective not just based on CTR, but on generating tracked revenue contribution,” Needham-Walker says. “Ultimately, this is delivering data-based ROI discussion back to the business in the form of revenue.”

    Customer-led approach

    Whether in the B2C or B2B space, Needham-Walker is working hard to challenge business leaders to define the customer and issue statement.

    He points to efforts with the millennial group, and how HP is striving to be the most considered brand in this space. Being social-first is seeing the brand building mobile assets, embracing the need for the brand to be vulnerable, and further segmenting the millennial target into sub-groups to nurture the next wave of consumers.

    “This consumer-led initiative now supports our B2B as we adapt our marketing and communications in the commercial arena to speak to the some 60 per cent of IT decision makers that are millennial,” Needham-Walker says. “This is changing how and when these 'professional' millennials want to engage in a B2B transaction.”

    Empowered business thinking

    Strategic thinking is something Needham-Walker consistently seeks to demonstrate via data. An example he points to is demand generation activities around enterprise customers, work that’s driven both quality and quantity of leads and generated more dollar value opportunities than any other country in Asia-Pacific.

    Through this process, he identified opportunities that fell outside the definition of enterprise customer and would be better supported by commercial channel partners. With speed and agreement from the sales leadership team, HP deployed the Salesforce enterprise program into the partner business manager team supporting the channel.

    Over the last 12 months, this channel program has contributed significant opportunity and value to both the business and our aligned partners, he says.


    Creativity is pivotal across HP, whether it is through developing end-to-end campaign assets, or activation of global assets in a way that provides cut-through for success to agreed objectives, Needham-Walker says.

    At times this, requires marketing to step out of its comfort zone and partner with publishers, media houses and individuals to help create fresh momentum. “The creativity I build within my team takes on these various forms, but most importantly through the lens of the customer, and should always be tested for the desired result,” Needham-Walker says.

    “If I execute something, I want to ensure that it resonates, if not, don't execute. Working with fact allows the marketing professional the level of authority to craft a message, and to take the subjectivity away from conversations from the ‘arm-chair marketers’.”

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