As the Television Corporation of Singapore has seen fit to position some of the best sitcoms to the less than earthly hour of 11pm, you'll (or rather, I'll) have to stay up pretty late to watch the likes of Ellen, Friends, Seinfeld, and so on (no, I do not have a VCR). However, I do remember one episode of Ellen where her ditzy friend Audrey bought a new car.
But it wasn't just a car, she actually bought a lifestyle where she got to join a club, meet up with other car owners, discuss car stories, go for group outings and . . . what's that? Get on with the program?
Right. Well, you would think that such things only happened on TV, but Hewlett-Packard has a similar marketing device up its sleeve as it attempts to differentiate its Pavilion line of home PCs from the competition.
But back to the differentiation strategy. I will be the first to point out that a home PC is a home PC is a home PC. But is it? It seems HP is actually trying to get its home PC to promote a lifestyle.
"We have found that family intimacy is important for the home," said Richard Walker, worldwide marketing manager for HP's Pavilion line of consumer PCs.
"And we try to build features that domesticate our home PC line."
Such features include PhotoDrive, which is a small scanner built into the PC that lets the user compile an electronic version of the family album in the PC (from 5R-sized photos and similar). It also includes a 33.6Kbit/sec modem, speakers, and a microphone, to let family members communicate with each other (in addition to the household phone, of course).
The very same modem will also allow registration of the PC to be done online.
Then there is software: the bundled CD titles like "Ultimate Writing & Creativity Centre" and "Reader Rabbit 2" are designed to foster family togetherness and quality time. (Other titles like "MechWarrior 2" and "Fatal Racing", while ensuring entertaining PC usage, may or may not quite fit the family theme.)And for all the Singapore readers, if you buy the Pavilion at Best Connection Computown, one of three retail chains (the other two being Challenger Superstore and Electric City) that sell these home PCs, you will be given a foldable bicycle as well - yet another family-oriented consumer product.
(I'm not sure what the Australian equivalent gift could be. Any suggestions? - Ed)The launch price of the multimedia PCs range from $S2999 ($2899 in Australia) to more than $S4000 ($A4999) which, while not the cheapest, does include features like Altec Lansing speakers, wavetable sound, and a multimedia keyboard that allows control of the CD-ROM drive, and of course it comes in a nice, new-look case.
HP is also throwing in its renowned support services, which includes telephone support beyond the normal working hours, up until 8pm. Plans are afoot (but not yet in place) to connect support to other centres around the world so that there will be 24-hour support for the home user.
I agree that you could probably get all these features separately, and that you may not even need all of them, but they do differentiate HP sufficiently well to capture the consumer's attention.
Will all this be enough to differentiate it from the competition - Acer's Aspire, Compaq's Presario, IBM's Aptiva, as well as all the no-name brands (of which I have one)?
Well, with HP's target of being one of the three top-selling home PC vendors within a year (which translates to selling about 1000 PCs a month), and its habit of consistently meeting its targets, I won't be surprised if it is.
Already, the company is also planning add-itional programs to entice the home consumer to enter its Pavilion.
HP Australia has announced a new free call seven-days-a-week Pavilion hot line support centre, operating from HP's Melbourne head office: 1800 621 147.
Tel 13 1347