Manufacturing brand loyalty

Manufacturing brand loyalty

How many IBM ads have you seen this year? Whatever the number, it's an indicator of the almost $1 billion advertising spend Big Blue casts across the globe each year.

Not far behind, arch-rival HP recently increased its advertising budget to $860 million in an attempt to catapult itself into the ten most recognised corporate brands in the world.

With total revenues that are a fraction of such figures, it's little wonder that local whitebox manufacturers find it hard to putting their brand in front of the user. Nonetheless, whitebox offerings continue to represent more than 50 per cent of systems sold in Australia, according to IDC.

And whitebox resellers around Australia insist the systems provide tangible benefits to their business, despite the lack of general brand recognition.

"We make the decision to sell the customer a whitebox, not the other way around," IT director for Akorn Computer Solutions, Wayne Peterson, said. "People rarely ask for them because they've seen the HP advert on the television and they think that's what they want, so we stock them as well,". "But if we sell them a whitebox we can work out the configuration that best suits the client."

Based in Charmhaven on the NSW Central Coast, Akorn stocks a range of multinational and whitebox brands. However, Peterson clearly leans towards the locally produced boxes, saying the company's whitebox partnerships were easier to establish initially, and ensure more business stays within the shop.

"It's much easier to become a whitebox service agent than it is to get a relationship with HP or Acer," Peterson said. "So we keep our customers happy if we sell them a whitebox system because they can come back to us if they have problems."

The capacity for resellers to control the level of service received by their customers is an important factor, especially for those selling into the small business sector where relationships are critical.

"With whitebox systems we can order what the customer needs, you can do that with the big name brands but it ends up costing a bomb," account manager for Sydney-based network integrator Computer Response Centre, John Wild, said.

"A big boost for me is that we are able to do the service for the onsite warranty, which means I am in control of my customers and they don't end up calling some helpdesk half way around the world."

Ultimately, these resellers rely on factors such as quick service and supply, and the flexibility of affordable built-to-order systems, as bait to lure customers away from the big name brands.

Managing director of Easy Internet Services, Deon Attard, points to the faster turn around times offered by whitebox manufacturers.

"If someone's computer breaks the next day we have it fixed," Attard said. "We're a service agent for Optima, there are no subcontractors so we get the work and we know we can trust it."

For others, such as Joe Knagge, CEO of reseller and integrator Knet, whitebox commitment to the Australian IT industry is also key driver.

"I only deal with companies with a demonstrated commitment to Australian industry," Knagge said. "And they need to do more than just employ a local sales force. Companies such as ASI Solutions and Optima have their production lines, helpdesks, research and development here in Australia and that makes a difference to me and a lot of customers."

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