THE MARKETING 100; ACER ASPIRE MICHAEL CULVER

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Americans can get a computer in any color, as long as it's putty. Except at Acer America.

The U.S. arm of Taiwanese electronics marketer Acer Group last September introduced Aspire, a home PC whose sleek colors and industrial design helped it break away from a sea of putty-toned PCs.

Acer, noting that most consumer electronics products come in black, tested a black PC in the fall of '94 and it sold out. So Michael Culver, then a product director and now VP of Acer America's consumer products division, asked frogdesign, a Silicon Valley design studio, to create a new PC.

The goal was a PC with the appealing good looks of consumer electronics-and a computer, Mr. Culver says, that would not remind consumers of work.

Mr. Culver had to deal with a more serious challenge for Aspire: Is its beauty only skin deep? Research showed consumers wondered what Acer was leaving out.

One month before launch, Mr. Culver revamped all print advertising and point-of-sale materials, and focused on what the PC could do. Although he decided to offer two colors, charcoal and dark green-because research showed customers liked to have a choice-he let the unusual design speak for itself.

"People are going to walk up to it and say, `This is great or really ugly,"' he says.

Aspire went from concept to launch in nine months; success is in the numbers. Acer sold more than 200,000 Aspires from launch through Christmas, doubling its '94 holiday results.

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