Doing deals is not marketing

February 16, 2005

Fiorina Carly Fiorina was the ultimate celebrity CEO. She was a brilliant, brash and bold leader who used public relations to build the great Carly brand and become the most powerful woman in business.

But one thing was lacking in her formula for success: good strategic thinking for the company she was running. What made Carly front page news, the merger of Hewlett-Packard and Compaq is what ultimately brought her down.

Carly did deals to do deals. Deals, of course, generate tons of press, prestige and personal profits. But all too often deals spell doom for the company that got dealt the deal.

H-P is a printing powerhouse. H-P invented the desktop laser printer and dominates the market on a worldwide basis. Why would they want to attempt to prop up their sagging personal computer division by merging with Compaq?

Leaders should focus on their core strengths, cut their losses and look for ways to improve upon success. The merger with Compaq did none of that. It made H-P a bloated company trying to compete against Dell on personal computers, IBM on larger systems and Accenture on consulting and out-sourcing while still tying to maintain its lion’s share of the printer business. A difficult and ultimately impossible task.

As a woman, I admire Carly for her drive and dedication. As a brand, I admire Carly for her astute use of public relations to build her brand. But as a marketing strategist, Carly leaves me cold. I do appreciate, however, her gift of another case history that demonstrates the folly of trying to be all things to all people.

Hewlett-Packard is another example of why keeping a brand and company focused is the best advice.

For another insightful piece on H-P and what they should do next read Al’s article on