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PCR speaks to Acer UK country manager Bobby Watkins

A war on three fronts

You recently announced the introduction of your ‘multi-brand strategy’. What essentially is this and how much of a departure is it from your previous way of working?
We did a lot of work with consumer focus groups to try to work out how people make a decision in terms of what to buy. We found that clearly consumers make decisions in different ways. Some consumers make decisions on brand, design and the fashion of a product.

There are those who make decisions based on technology, while others make their decisions based on a budget. There’s also a group in the middle that have to make compromises, and morph between budget, technology and brand. That’s where the multi brand strategy came from, and why we made the call to use different brands to serve different consumer segments.

In a practical sense, our eMachines brand is targeted at the group that purely makes decisions based on affordability. For the customer that rates design and brand appeal highly, but is not as concerned with high-spec technology, that’s where we’d position the Packard Bell brand. For those customers who make their decision based on technology and design, that’s where we’d target the Acer brand. Everything in the middle of those categories is where we’d position the Acer brand as well.

How are you looking to market to different consumer segments?
We will communicate the brands in very different ways. We have major campaigns planned across all the brands. I would say it’s weighted towards the Acer technology and the Packard Bell fashion messages, and it’s an enormous investment. I can’t be specific, but you’ll see it everyday through the second half of the year. We will be dramatically upping the amount of campaigns over the next year.

How significant will the newly relaunched Packard Bell brand be to Acer’s overall business, and how is this different from its core product portfolio?
Packard Bell is a fundamental part of the Acer group multi-brand strategy. We think certain consumers will make a decision based on what a product looks like, and they will be sensitive to design and brand perception. To touch those consumers isn’t the purpose of the Acer brand, which is more around technology leadership, being first to market and giving long battery life – generally being the biggest and the fastest.

To get to these customers who make their decision based on design and brand, Packard Bell is fundamental. In terms of what proportion of the market we can attract with the Packard Bell brand, it’s important to work out what proportion of the consumers buy in that way.

We estimate it’s around 15 to 20 per cent of shoppers out there that primarily buy based on design and brand appeal, and who don’t consider technology at all. That should give you an idea of how much of the market we think it’s possible to address with the Packard Bell brand.

Now that the Acer Point and Acer Affinity business separations have come into play, what will be the main noticeable changes around this restructure of these support services?
The big changes will be the resources we’re putting behind both communities. For the Acer Point – the shopfront – there are experienced people investing in marketing the ‘shop-in-shop’ concepts. On the Affinity front the biggest investment is in lead generation activities.

This is to support the customers of that programme in making it a serious part of their business-to-business sales. The simplest way to put it is that we’re offering them more support in attracting more sales.

You’re currently listed as number one for notebooks in the UK, are these changes and this brand differentiation designed to extend this lead globally?

We think we can strongly extend our lead here in the UK, especially in the consumer arena. We believe we are also number one across EMEA, and over the recent months we’ve extended that leadership. We’ve also had growth in the USA and Asia, which is giving us the opportunity to challenge for the number one spot globally.

I think it would be premature for us to say now we’re going to be number one in the global computing market, but the last market data said we were very close to Dell globally in terms of total PC, and really we’re setting our sites on getting to the number one position by 2011.

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