The eight-decade old tech giant HP is looking for fresh legs to drive its business in APAC and wants to build out its gaming brand, Omen, as a standout offering for the region's growing gaming community. Beginning with hardcore gamers in Japan and Korea and then to China, the company is targetting a large and still growing gamer population with its assortment of laptops and associated gaming peripherals. To succeed, the company faces a dual challenge: luring fans of standalone game consoles over to the PC-gaming universe, and making sure that Omen has the cred to be a go-to brand for gamers who do buy PCs.
"The pandemic has really caused an increase in gaming in Asia," says Siew Ting Foo, CMO for HP in Greater Asia. "In the last one year, we actually saw an increase of 42% in gaming time, and we know that two out of three people are actually spending more time watching videos on gaming." In this growing market, HP sees an opportunity to "elevate the power of inclusivity and the power of community" with its Omen gaming brand and its 'Play to progress' tagline.
To make a mark in Asia, HP will need to build a distinct brand offering for Omen, one that makes the sub-brand more desirable to the target audience than parent company's brand, which is perceived to be more dated and, according to some data, in decline. In Campaign Asia-Pacific's Asia's Top 1000 Brands, for example, HP's brand has fallen from as high as fifth place in 2008 to 49th in 2021. In Japan, it was last in our list of the top 100 brands in 2015 at 94th; in 2021, it is placed at 147th.
While Foo acknowledges the challenges of dealing with this brand dichotomy, she doesn't think it will stop Omen from building its own distinct identity in APAC. HP recognises that the console market is three times the size of the PC gaming market, so the Omen brand has to try to reach the PC-curious among the console fans. "Our core target audience is what we call the console wobblers..., meaning people who are the gamers who are actually interested in looking at other choices beyond just a console itself." To target this group, HP is looking to build a "a sense of community" with gamers and offer products "where their skills can be upgraded".
Today, Japan is home to 97.4 million video game users. With a population of approximately 126 million, more than 75% of its population are playing games—on phones, consoles and PCs, as well as in arcades. Gamers strongly identify with their platform of choice too, with PC gaming often perceived negatively.
However, a new generation of gamers, and the exploding popularity of Asian esport stars who have found success in PC games, are now changing the perception of PC gaming, says Foo. HP sees an opportunity to convince Japanese console players who are considering PC gaming to make the switch. HP looks to excite console gamers about the world of PC gaming, using local insights to drive culturally relevant and inclusive campaigns.
In the case of its Japanese campaigns, for example, in the hero film, a gamer reverentially thanks their console for some good early years, bonding with friends and enjoying a fun-filled childhood. However, the gamer also seeks something more from the gaming experience—an upgrade to both their gaming experience and the lifestyle afforded by top-end gaming gear. "We recently launched an Omen gaming hub," Foo adds. "It's a software that's embedded in the product itself, which enables a community to be built, and they can really talk to the different gamers as they get immersed into this experience."
In Japan alone, HP estimates there are 7 million users willing to make a change. Foo aims to make Omen the No. 1 brand in PC gaming in the next five or six years.
She says HP and Omen are taking a more nuanced approach across APAC. For example, in Korea, a recent Omen campaign targets status culture, in a market where traditionally economic and social clout mattered a lot. Instead, the 'We don't care' campaign aims to boost Omen's standing by pointing out that in gamer circles, nothing matters but your skills.
In China, meanwhile, Omen's focus has been on the frenemy status between gamers in the market. 'Frenemies' depicts a group of passionate gamers who furiously try to win a game, until one of the teammate's laptop conks out (see "When your laptop sucks so bad you kill it with noodles"). Fury ensues as the members of the group take turns bashing the useless computer in imaginative ways before ultimately replacing it with—you guessed it—an HP Omen. "Cultural relevance to get their attention and sense of community is important," Foo adds.
Besides catchy creative, HP is also looking to partner across the exports market to increase the popularity of Omen's brand, even as it focuses on a social and digital push for its initiatives in year two of the pandemic. Foo also wants to partner with different pieces of the gaming market to increase Omen's brand recall.
"Esports partnership are critical for us," she says. "We have to understand their behaviour and where they go... so social is a key way to influence them." According to her, these pacts are important to reach hardcore gamers, because brands having "a gaming mindset" is what they are really interested in. For instance, in Korea, Omen partners with LCK as a gaming partner and in Japan too the brand is looking at similar partnerships to drive both market share and higher brand equity.
On top of this, Omen will use influencers as a way to "drive authenticity" across its key markets. In Japan, for example, Omen is working with Asuka Kijima, a female gamer, who is in the process of moving to PC gaming and speaks of her own experiences in making the shift and with Omen. Foo wants to work with more influencers, not just in Japan and Korea, but also beyond, in markets such as China, India and Southeast Asia.
Speaking of Southeast Asia, Foo says it is a high-potential market for HP and Omen, given its fast growth, but the brand may need to tweak its focus to work with ecommerce platforms such as Shopee and Lazada in order to make an impact in a fragmented and mobile-first market. The core challenge for this market is it is pretty fragmented, so Omen would need to ensure marketing investments translate into access, Foo contends. "In many of them, [gaming] is still very much an offline-driven market, even though the online market is growing quickly," she observes. So, from an opportunity standpoint, while Southeast Asia may be big, HP will take a more measured approach to tapping it.