Web 2.0 In Depth
Applying the Marketing Center of Excellence (MCOE)
A case for the MCOE: The HP TouchPad "Fail"
By: Lori Witzel
Jan. 15, 2013 05:00 AM
The HP TouchPad was launched July 1, 2011, and was discontinued August 18, 2011. The Marketing Center of Excellence (MCOE) may provide a framework for understanding (and preventing) the sorts of “black swan” marketing failure that HP experienced with its TouchPad launch. I think the key value provided by a MCOE for reducing the risk of a “black swan fail” is its enablement of a holistic, cross-disciplinary approach to marketing at enterprise level.
Leslie Ament, SVP at Hypatia Research Group, asked a great question that points towards the complexity underlying the situation, and the potential value of a MCOE: “Is this a failure of 1) product features, 2) timing of launch, 3) targeting of market segment and/or 4) demand generation, branding, and execution of campaigns?” In the framework of a MCOE, the operator here would be an “and,” rather than an “or.”
Hypothesis: Events and Issues
A number of poor reviews.
Walt Mossberg wrote, “[The HP TouchPad] suffers from poor battery life, a paucity of apps and other deficits.”
Said David Pogue, “In this 1.0 incarnation, the TouchPad doesn’t come close to being as complete or mature as the iPad or the best Android tablets; you’d be shortchanging yourself by buying one right now…”
Matt Buchanan on Gizmodo opens his review, “I am so goddamned tired of the iPad. Which is why I was so excited for the TouchPad. And that's why I feel so completely crushed right now.”
And from Eliane Fiolet on Ubergizmo: “Overall, the results speak for themselves: the touchpad is the slowest tablet that we have tried in 2011. … The HP TouchPad did not stand up to expectations, so much that it died before getting a chance to be improved.”
Underwhelming consumer demand at launch compared to projections.
Reading through an aggregated analysis of the HP TouchPad fail on The Week, some high-level themes emerge:
Channel issues. As reported by Matt Rosoff in Business Insider SAI, "Best Buy doesn't want all that unsold inventory taking up shelf space, and is asking HP to take them back. Todd Bradley or another HP exec is reportedly going to fly to Minneapolis to try and persuade Best Buy otherwise." While no other channel issues surfaced in my research, Best Buy can’t have been the only retailer pushing back.
Launch issues. HP had a daunting task—to cut through WebOS being lumped into Android “me-too-ness” while grabbing market share from Apple’s iPad. Rather than launch later, which would have put its new product in the run-up to the 2011 holiday shopping season, HP chose to launch on the July 4 weekend.
Despite the July 4th timing, Google Trends shows an incredibly steep climb in search volume for “HP TouchPad”; there was a lot of buzz and interest. Unfortunately, the climb quickly dropped off into a cliff that seems to represent an abrupt collapse in interest and demand.
Using the MCOE evolutionary model to respond to Leslie Ament’s question, what Marketing Communities of Practice would have been involved?
If we make the assumption (and I know it’s a whopper) that a company like HP would at least be at Levels 2 to 3 on the MCOE Maturity Model across the horizontal domains of People, Processes, Technology, and Data, how could a failure of this magnitude occur?
Using the MCOE framework may help clarify where things broke down:
People. Even if each disciplinary area was focused on “best practices,” were there shared goals to drive and support cross-disciplinary work by the Communities of Practice? Were there breakdowns in communication like this one, but among disciplinary areas? How was conflict (for example, possible conflict between the Hardware team and the WebOS team) managed?
Processes. How were risks (for example, press/reviews) identified and weighted among and by the Communities of Practice? Was some form of cost/benefit analysis applied to risk, so executive management could be advised?
Technology. What inventory and sales forecasting systems were used, how accessible were they to the Communities of Practice, and could they provision for fast (near real-time) corrections?
Data. Were there issues with the data used in planning/reporting that affected accuracy?
In my opinion, the biggest risk to an organization from enterprise-scale marketing comes from silos that inhibit business agility and useful communication.The key value provided by a MCOE - not just for reducing the risk of a “black swan fail,” but also for enabling innovation, effectiveness, and efficiency—is its enablement of a holistic, cross-disciplinary approach to marketing in the enterprise.
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