BenQ America has been trying to build its brand awareness for four years in the U.S. market with limited success. Meanwhile, BenQ Canada has in one year made its brand on par with other leading vendors in their space.

With that, Ralph Tang, president of BenQ America has promoted Jimmy Davlouros,

GM of the company’s Canadian subsidiary, to run BenQ North America as executive vice-president.

Davlouros will still manage the Canadian operations and is grooming Mike Booker to eventually take his place. But his main concern will be to replicate the same strategy he used in Canada for the U.S. market.

CDN recently interviewed Davlouros about his plans for the U.S. The following is an edited transcript:

CDN: How did this job come about?

Jimmy Davlouros: BenQ Canada’s overall claim to fame came from branding. It was on fire and we got a lot of clout in the Canadian market . . . In the first year of business we accomplished a lot, while in comparison in the U.S. the brand stayed still for four years. We managed to deliver the brand message out of the gate and in the U.S. it was still not near what we have in Canada. So they asked me to do the same thing in the U.S.

CDN: Do you report to Ralph Tang and how does that change from when you were Canadian GM?

J.D.: I still report to Ralph. He manages South America and Mexico and I take care of Canada and the U.S.

CDN: Why did you want to take this job and uproot your family to L.A.?

J.D.: I am at a certain age where you have to make a choice. There are two roads. One road is going left and the other is going right. The left road is an easy way to go and I am comfortable, or I can go right and do it all over it again. I’m 45 and I have the opportunity to retire in 10 years. So I wanted to establish myself in these next 10 years. I want to be entrenched in my work and in Canada we did too much to fast. So what do you do for an encore? It was over for me — mission accomplished. So what do you do next? Lets see if wecan do a billion dollars in a year. Then I would write a book if I can build a success story here. Can’t do that anywhere else but the U.S. No one will read my book if I did this in Canada.

But, I have to say if it wasn’t for BenQ I would not be anything. I can easily read an article of me that says I am a marketing genius, but the truth is any VP from Sony or IBM or HP could have done what I did. I was in the right place at right time and I could not have done this if the organization was not in dire straits and put people in position to accomplish these things.

CDN: Are you actively looking for a new GM for Canada?

J.D.: No. Mike Booker, he joined me at BenQ. He has a powerful level of common sense and he has the expertise need to expand and grow the organization (in Canada). The business, however, is split up between IT and CE. He has the IT perspective and we have matured there. Mike will fit the role well and we will be moving forward, and if he has the appeal and current desire for the job then we will see how we do this year.

CDN: Do you believe you have unfinished business in the Canadian market place?

J.D.: Tonnes of unfinished business, especially in CE. CE is still in its infancy stage and the market share we have has been good in LCD TV. We are just shy of being No. 1. There are some areas that are booming such as in storage in IT and the input business. Who thought that buying an OEM keyboard for $1 would today be as high as $300 and become high end product? BenQ will bring more or those products to market, and the notebook.

CDN: In your new job will you be trying to replicate the same strategy you used in Canada for the U.S.?

J.D.: Luckily, I lived here in the U.S. about 15 to 20 years ago. This market is a little bit different: About 15 per cent or the population is military and vendors cater to them. There is a government program to support them and there is a lot of Air Force and Marine resellers who cater to them. They have a lot of niches that require different marketing strategies. The U.S. will mimic some of the brand programs in Canada, but we will have to develop a lot of niche market programs.

CDN: In the U.S. where is BenQ biggest area of need?

J.D.: Brand recognition and it is an obvious answer. Any reseller will tell you it is the most popular products are the most expensive and BenQ currently does not have this capability. So my first priority is to build a brand to match the service, the quality and the advertising.

CDN: You said that this opportunity gives you the change to position BenQ as a Tier One brand in the market. What are you going to do to accomplish this goal?

J.D.: I’ll tell you so ViewSonic will read it. It is not that difficult. For the most part we have a wonderful story to tell contrary to our competitors. The brand is credible and we use only Grade A panels (in monitors) and this alleviate concerns over why it is cheap. This information has to be brought to the resellers. That gives you an indication of where we are going. We’ll have quality, service and a channel strategy where we will not participate with e-tailers who do not have stores.

CDN: How long will it take you?

J.D.: It will take me a year. Unfortunately, I got started in Q2. I just got off the plane two weeks ago and it will take me some time. People will say there are ten times the challenges here in the U.S. than in Canada. But, you have ten times the wealth. On a ratio, it is the same thing. The population does not intimidate me and California put you in a relaxed mode. It is not like New York or Boston. It puts me at ease and reminds me of Canada.

CDN: Do you think that without a viable computing platform getting Tier One status in notebooks will be hard?

J.D.: The markets right now are not stable. We talked about keyboards. Would resellers rather sell a $300 keyboard over a $300 PC? So the external DVD burners are on fire and RAM card thumb drives are on fire, and to build tier one status and make BenQ a really cool brand, which it already is, the next part is to bring in the notebook.

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