Compaq tries on affinity model

Sources inside Compaq have revealed a planned a foray affinity marketing push through relationships with a series of large corporate clients, such as the Commonwealth Bank, News Corp and Westpac. Leveraging its existing relationship with each of these companies, Compaq plans to target staff members with bundled systems at bargain prices.

According to ARN's sources, the program, designed to net Compaq $20 million in a slow PC market place, was initially planned for a July launch. However this launch date was postponed due to glitches in the CIT technology designed to support the program. According to ARN's sources, Compaq is now working towards an October launch date.

Officially, Compaq is refusing to confirm or deny the allegations. In response to our queries, Compaq issued the following statement:

"Compaq makes it a priority to ensure its customer marketing programs have a maximum impact on its customer base. The nature of our marketing programs are a commercial advantage and, as you can appreciate, we are unable to comment on speculation about how our programs may or may not evolve in the future."

Gerry Harvey, chairman of Harvey Norman, told ARN Compaq had failed to keep him in the loop regarding the program and was wary of the effect such a plan might have on the companies' recent reconciliation.

"If they said it would have a maximum impact on the their customer base it had better have a minimum impact on their retail base," Harvey warned. "What is this? Are we going to be on-again, off-again?"

John Slack-Smith, general manager of computers and communication at Harvey Norman, predicted a lukewarm response to the deal based on past vendor forays into the world of affinity marketing.

"If they come into direct conflict with their retail channel, then it's simply not a sustainable model," Slack-Smith said.

Meanwhile distributors such as Dicker Data and Ingram Micro are taking the news with a pinch of salt.

Fiona Dicker, managing director of leading Compaq distributor Dicker Data, pointed out that Compaq had already indicated it would deal directly with the top 50 companies in Australia in the second quarter. She remains skeptical about the vendor's ability to provide fulfilment.

"I don't know what the fulfilment model would be for this, but our experience with similar organisations is [they discover] it is very difficult to deliver single orders to households during the day," Dicker said. "I guess we will have to see what the supply model is."

Steve Rust, managing director for Ingram Micro, believes the ramifications for his business will largely depend on how the program is implemented.

"It might take some business opportunities away from the retail and consumer channel, but it may also be incremental -- they may find new markets," Rust said. "Other vendors have run similar campaigns in the past."