Thinking Tech

Taiwan tries to build a big name brand

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Today a Taiwanese OEM stepped out of the shadows and began trying to become a big name brand.

Today was a big day in the history of Taiwan high tech.

Today a Taiwanese OEM stepped out of the shadows and began trying to become a big name brand.

My marketing friend Rob Frankel (below) is very strict in his definition here. A big name brand, he says, is the only choice for a particular product, service or niche. The American flag is a big name brand. Microsoft, not so much.

Somehow I don't think this is what he was getting at. Scantily clad models parading thin boxes about the stage to the the thumping beat of disco from 1988. Madonna called, she wants her "Vogue" album back.

MSI is launching its branding effort with a line of PCs that look a lot like the Mac Air. Only they're WinTels. They're not bad. They weigh less than 5 pounds, they have lots of USB ports, Intel Centrino processors, big screens, usable keyboards.

After leaving the press conference I saw one of these same models, the 3400, on sale at a local shop for the equivalent of $800. It will be quite competitive at Fry's.

My objection is to the marketing, which is very Taiwanese. Judging from the crowd at the computer store (actually a collection of kiosks in a three-story frame) I went to. Taiwanese geeks are Bill Gates wannabes, with libidos and personalities to match. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

It's just that's not how we sell PCs in the U.S., and I doubt it's how they do it in Europe. These are the markets where MSI is trying to compete, and there's a lot on the line.

Figure you pay $800 for that MSI box in the States. Half of that goes to the sales channel. The company which made it gets only half the rest. MSI is trying to go from getting $200 for each PC it makes to $400.

If it makes it, it's a game changer. Companies like MSI have to make it, moreover, because they're facing increasingly stiff competition from mainland companies that can beat them badly on price and which are starting to get closer on turnaround time.

The game plan here is to move bulk production to the mainland, turn Taiwan into the region's Silicon Valley, and move up the food chain.

No offense, but to get where you want to go ditch the ad agency selling sex and get yourself some pros.

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Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure