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Redefining the testimonial

March 19, 2008

Hewlett-Packardís Chahil: Word-of-mouth advertising from celebrity customers
Satjiv S. Chahil
Satjiv S. Chahil is an old fashioned marketer living in an extremely modern world. The Vice-President of Global Marketing for Silicon Valley giant, Hewlett-Packard (HP) is responsible for HP’s new ‘The Computer is Personal Again’ campaigns.

The campaigns, which feature celebrities, or as Chahil terms them, ‘achievers’ such as Serena Williams, Petra Nemcova, Paulo Coelho and Jay-Z, are all about testimonials. “Isn’t that the oldest form of advertising?” Chahil asks, “Word of mouth, because that is what this is.”

Chahil was in India to unveil HP’s new line of ‘Imprint Design’ laptops along with one of its ‘achievers’ Serena Williams, who recently won the Bangalore Open tennis tournament. “We do not pay any of these people, we do not believe in the cult of the celebrity. These people are real users of HP products and they tell viewers how using these products have changed their lives,” he says. In fact, Chahil admits that the achievers often write their own scripts for the advertising and all the creative material is created on HP machines.

All this talk of achievement and ‘free’ celebrities is surprising, particularly since HP’s sister-brand Compaq uses Shah Rukh Khan as its brand ambassador in India. “You have to realise that the two brands are different. Compaq is an aspirational brand and is aimed at first-time buyers, and for that segment we believe celebrity endorsements work, particularly in markets like India. We would like to position HP as a brand that makes your life easier through computing,” reasons Chahil.

Unsurprisingly, HP’s campaign has had a viral effect and several user-created adverts have flooded online video-sharing services such as YouTube, including one featuring Apple CEO, Steve Jobs. And, as Chahil would like to point out, it has had a fairly positive rub-off on HP’s marketshare, which has creeped up over the past few quarters in every segment but particularly in the desktop and laptop markets. Maybe Chahil should use the opportunity to create his own HP achiever advert.

Kushan Mitra

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