Show, Don’t Tell

Moving Brands on their recent rebranding of HP:

As with all powerful brands, HP needed a strong story at its heart. A story that would embrace the proud heritage of a Silicon Valley pioneer but lean forward to the future. HP was founded on the belief that technology will improve people’s lives, and HP should always aspire for better. This founding principle was unearthed through co-creation workshops with the key stakeholders across the business groups, the HP Labs, product design and insight groups. It was articulated as ‘Human Progress’.

Companies like HP are more excited about telling people who they are and what they do instead of showing it through their actions.

I’m a big fan of branding as a process of defining who you are, but the failure of business today is that we’re breeding a generation of employees who are more excited about telling than showing.

Skimming through the HP videos, I saw words and phrases like “progress,” “forward thinking,” and “acting with confidence.” But HP is none of that, and just telling people you are doesn’t change the fact that their flagship product is a giant ripoff.

Great companies don’t spend three years defining their “brand,” and talking about who they are. They just ship great work and delight their users. That’s a message infinitely stronger than any branding exercise will ever be.

Just like user experience design, a brand can just be lipstick on an ugly company. A new logo isn’t going to change who you are. Show, don’t tell.

December 14, 2011