STRONG BRAND IMAGE YIELDS TECH BUYER

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SAN JOSE, Calif.-Strong brands in the cluttered technology field are increasing in importance, an IntelliQuest official told attendees at the market research company's Brand Tech Forum here last week.

IntelliQuest President Brian Sharples said the Austin, Texas, company's research showed that while unaided awareness among purchase influencers in the desktop and notebook computer markets rose this year compared with 1993, the average number of brands considered for purchase remained about the same.

"Buyers are much more aware of brands.....Brand recognition is clearly up," Mr. Sharples said. Time and resource constraints prevent buyers from adding to their list of contenders. "That's where image really comes in."

When it comes to building strong brands, Christine Hughes, senior VP-corporate marketing at Novell, said there's no such thing as below-the-line marketing. "You have to be aware of every contact your customer has with your company."

Other speakers echoed Ms. Hughes' statements in pointing to brand-building tools other than advertising. "At Electronic Arts, unique packaging has been about the most effective brand tool we've ever had, but also the most difficult to control," said Bing Gordon, exec VP of EA Studios, an arm of the computer and videogame marketer.

"One of the great issues facing the [reseller] industry is globalization. And we're not even close to being ready for it," said David Dukes, co-chairman of Ingram Micro, a leading technology products distributor.

"We have historically had to develop one brand for one market," said Michael Gale, managing director-international research for IntelliQuest. "Well, that's not the case anymore."

He and others said to effectively build global brands, a company must focus on attributes that work in different markets, although how those traits are portrayed may vary. "You won't get results overnight. It's a two-, three-, four-year commitment," Mr. Gale said.

Wayne Cerullo, senior partner-brand strategy and research director, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, said the challenge in recent IBM Corp. advertising has been to improve its brand perception. Tracking shows the "Solutions for a small planet" campaign "has recast IBM as surprisingly approachable and human. There's been an improvement in [perception of brand] personality in every country."

The Internet's growing popularity is accelerating globalization, Mr. Gale noted. A company's Web address may soon be as recognizable as its logo. "You have to realize your brand will have a global position because [customers and prospects] will be able to access it through the Internet," he said.

Nick Buck, senior account supervisor at Poppe Tyson, Mountain View, Calif., said the Web is "a place to build your brand. It's a place to talk to your customers."

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