CDW Campaign Emphasizes Choices

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CDW Computer Centers recently embarked on an $85 million marketing campaign to help distinguish itself from other PC direct marketers.

"We have seen a lot of branding coming from Dell and Gateway," said Joseph Kremer, vice president of marketing at CDW, Vernon Hills, IL. "They have been coming out with the message for customers to buy direct, but our message is a little different. Our message is that we think there is a tremendous amount of value in the direct model, but the difference in our model is that we offer choices."

The campaign will highlight CDW's role as a direct reseller of more than 30,000 computer products from an array of brand-name companies, including Compaq, IBM, Microsoft and Toshiba. CDW completes more than 3,000 custom configurations on those products each week and provides more than 50 certified technicians for customer support, Kremer said.

After looking at more than 25 advertising agencies, CDW just completed the first phase of its marketing strategy by selecting Donino, White & Partners, Atlanta, an agency specializing in technology branding. CDW and Donino are developing a media plan that will include television commercials as well as print ads in daily newspapers, computer magazines and business publications.

"Our advertising has been evolving over time," Kremer said. "We originally featured price and availability -- but as we added more technical support and custom configuration, we built that into our advertising. This campaign is not really new for us, it's just much more robust."

In addition to hiring an outside company, CDW reorganized its internal marketing structure by launching two new departments, one geared toward public relations and the other toward strategic alliances. It announced one such alliance with Compaq Computer Corp. last week that will target small- to medium-sized businesses. The program provides customers with an exclusive call center where they can receive Compaq product information and place Compaq orders with CDW account managers. Customers also can visit an exclusive section on CDW's Web site at for direct access to Compaq product information.

"Compaq has a strategy right now where they would like to compete very effectively with white-box manufacturers as well as with direct manufacturers like Dell, Gateway and Micron," Kremer said. "In particular, Compaq would like to compete in the small- to medium-business space, and that happens to be the space where we are the strongest."

CDW will promote the partnership through ads in The Wall Street Journal and a direct mail campaign to customers in its database.

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