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HP, Acer take up the brand battle

HP, Acer take up the brand battle

The battle for the PC market is set to intensify after HP unveiled its new back-to-basics "invent" marketing campaign, while Acer detailed its own "we hear you" advertising campaign.

Under new CEO Carly Fiorina, HP has gone back to the garage in Silicon Valley where the company was born and refocused on projecting the image HP (not Hewlett-Packard) as an innovative company.

Acer's attempt is more subtle. The black and white ads from slick downtown New York add the human element to PC marketing.

But at its core, the presentations from the two vendors at Siltek's Reseller Conference illustrate the next step in the branding war that has already been waged by the likes of IBM, Compaq and Dell for years. From the reseller perspective, both Acer and HP explained customers expect PC vendors to commit funds to building brand image and generating leads to keep the channel kicking.

Certainly HP is keenly aware of this issue, explaining the campaign will cost around $US5 million. Greg Trigger, HP's SMB segment manager, was the first to concede the company is traditionally great at "stealth marketing" -- that is, very little marketing at all. "We're [now] trying to build brand awareness," he said.

With an ambitious target of $US250 million for its global consumer business, HP had to do something to grow by 20 per cent by end of the US financial year on October 31. But where the channel is involved there is always more to the story, particularly when the indirect channel represents a big chunk of HP's global revenues.

HP's campaign has "borrowed" from the Dell handbook of clean, full-page ads detailing PCs and prices. A call centre number allows the company to "feed" it authorised resellers leads for fulfilment through Prion.

The catch is HP now has a dedicated team that will ring its customers to make sure the nominated reseller actually made the sale -- a technique called Closed Loop Marketing (CLM). Originating in the UK, the program has reportedly been successful at generating customer pull to the satisfaction of resellers. But isn't customer touch a threat to resellers?

Not so, according to HP market development manager Ian Selway. "The channel adds value by engaging the end user," he said. Resellers still "own" the customer, it's just that HP wants to make sure it doesn't lose leads.

From Acer's point of view, it needs to boost its image in the consumer market to help support its claim to being the second biggest PC company in the world. Acer believes the key to success is by focussing on the SMB market and notebook sales in particular. According to Richard Johns, Acer's national training manager, the company's key value offerings are its youth, ability to add value, investment in Australian build to order and two-hour warranty service offerings and profitability.

And if you want to be an Acer Solution Partner, you will need to commit to at least $100,000 worth of business a year.

Meanwhile, both companies have invested heavily in online strategies to help support the channel. Acer's portal is at http://www.bizsmart.com.au and HP's is at http://www.pol.hp.com/ap.


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