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Cyber Hero : Baudman’s Mission: Boost Rockwell’s Image Among Modem Users

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

When the world’s computer modems or fax machines are fired up, odds are that they are being powered by a chip made by Rockwell International Corp.

The company has cornered 70% of the modem market and supplies about 80% of the fax chips worldwide, but Rockwell executives believe the company’s dominance has pretty much gone unnoticed.

In an effort to change that, the company has launched a marketing blitz centered around a new muscular character called Baudman. Executives hope that the computer nerd-cum-superhero will make the company readily identifiable to consumers while portraying the intimidating high-tech world as friendly. The good-looking, trustworthy Baudman has been created by the electronics and aerospace giant in an effort to give Rockwell the same name recognition in the high-tech industry as Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp.

Rockwell executives readily admit that they were influenced by Santa Clara-based Intel, which put an “Intel Inside” logo on each computer containing the company’s microprocessor.

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“We are trying to make people understand that the heart of these boxes have our components,” said Armando Geday, vice president and general manager of Rockwell’s Semiconductor Systems unit, who created the character after traditional marketing plans fell flat.

Rockwell has created glossy brochures that go on display this month at 90 Computer City stores nationwide. Rockwell officials say they are trying to arrange similar displays in other electronics stores by early 1996.

The Newport Beach-based semiconductor division has begun producing “Connect with Rockwell” stickers, which manufacturers can place on their products. One of the division’s top clients, Boca Research Inc., a fax and modem maker in Boca Raton, Fla., has ordered 100,000 of the labels, Rockwell officials said.

“Rockwell has seized on Intel’s [marketing strategy] that regardless of the modem you look for, you should look for the Rockwell chip set inside,” said Bill Howard, executive editor of PC Magazine.

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As part of its retail campaign, Rockwell this summer placed ads introducing Baudman in Wired magazine, a cutting-edge periodical of the technology world. The company also is advertising on the Internet.

The glossy pamphlets portray Baudman as a mild-mannered engineer who has unlimited knowledge of the information superhighway and serves as a guide to learning the nuts and bolts of modems. Baudman creator Geday said he wants to keep the marketing theme light. The brochures also feature Baudman’s enemies Disconnecto and Echo, who represent glitches that computer users might face.

Consumers also can “Connect with Baudman” on the company’s new page on the Internet. Technical specialists in Newport Beach, Japan and France, acting in the capacity of Rockwell’s self-appointed superhero, answer computer or telecommunications questions. Company officials report receiving about 180 consumer queries in the first three days last week.

“Building a brand franchise is good for any manufacturer,” said Dwight Decker, president of the Semiconductor Systems unit. “It’s good for us, and it’s good for the consumer.”

Rockwell’s semiconductor division, which makes chip systems for high-speed modems, facsimile devices and wireless communications products, has been one of the star performers recently for the Seal Beach aerospace and electronics company. The semiconductor unit’s sales have increased 25% a year over the last five years, reaching $760 million in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30.

The growth in the modem market in general has been astronomical the last two years.

Creative Strategies Inc., a San Jose-based computer industry research firm, estimates that in 1993, only 20% of all computers in the nation had modems. Now, about 65% of the computers in 35 million U.S. households have modem capability.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

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Seeking Recognition

Rockwell hopes Baudman will help get the word out that its computer modem and fax machine chips have dominated the world market since 1992. Worldwide market share, 1991 to 1995:

1995: 75%

Source: Rockwell International Corp.


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