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SAN JOSE, Calif.-Dennis Carter, who helped create "Intel inside," is defending the powerful branding program amid growing concerns by PC marketers that the co-op effort devalues their brands.

Speaking at the recent Intel-liQuest Brand Tech Forum, Mr. Carter cited Intel-sponsored research showing a PC buyer's preference for a particular PC brand increases about 50% when the customer knows there is an Intel computer chip inside.

IBM Corp. this fall dropped out of the lucrative co-op program, and Compaq Computer Corp. has publicly criticized Intel (AA, Sept. 19). The campaign had made Intel one of the computer industry's best-known names. But Mr. Carter, VP-corporate marketing at Intel Corp., insisted the program has benefited PC brands big and small.

"What we try to do-and what all of our research indicates is in fact happening-is to enhance the [PC] brand that's using our product," Mr. Carter said.

So a philosophical difference appears to be shaping up between the world's biggest chip marketer and some of the world's biggest PC marketers. "We don't see a need for a fundamental shift in the program," he said in an interview.

The second-annual conference drew a sell-out crowd of 500 computer marketing, advertising and media professionals, showing the intense interest in the computer industry for brand-building information. The forum was organized by IntelliQuest, an Austin, Texas, research company, with several sponsors, including Advertising Age's Business Marketing.

Some of the most provocative comments came from outside the computer industry.

PC marketers should build lifelong relationships with buyers by boosting customer service and support, said Benjamin Addoms, a senior VP with Denver research company National Demographics & Lifestyles.

Marketers that reduce the "stress" of buying and owning a complex device like a computer stand to benefit, he said.

"You have to create something that is not parity, and right now you're all on a level playing field," he said. Mr. Addoms offered no suggestions on how the low-margin PC business was to pay for this, though he noted Sony Electronics and Maytag Corp. have been able to build high loyalty in their low-margin industries.

Louis Schultz, exec VP-director of media services at Lintas:USA, New York, challenged the audience to question any proposed marketing plan that doesn't consider some dose of new media.

Marketers shouldn't worry about whether the interactive field is taking off more slowly than some seers had predicted, Mr. Schultz said. He also predicted TV and traditional print media will remain the best way to build brands at least through the year 2000.

In the closing session, industry pundit Stewart Alsop, editor in chief of InfoWorld, offered a concise summary of an IntelliQuest tech marketing study sponsored by Ad Age and Business Marketing. "The results of the survey," he said, "showed that marketers believe that marketing makes a difference."

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