Intel’s missing ingredient – excitement

intelIntel’s admission that it is guilty of overcomplicating its marketing (MW last week) raises questions about how best to communicate uninspiring brands to consumers.

The computer chip giant’s worldwide head of marketing Don MacDonald says Intel has “taken its eye off the ball” and given rivals such as Apple an edge. “Our inability to tell our story cost us dear,” he adds. “Our brands were too complicated and too confusing.”

MacDonald’s frank assessment follows Dell’s decision earlier this month to hire Mother for an overhaul of its global advertising. The company’s founder, Michael Dell, who returned as chief executive in January, is pursuing a new strategy based around simplifying IT for consumers.

One of the major issues facing Intel is the fact that it is an “ingredient brand” used in other companies’ products. Other examples of ingredient brands include NutraSweet, Teflon and Lycra, and research suggests that as many as 60% of consumers are willing to pay more for products containing these brands because of the perceived benefits.

Recipe for success
Euro RSCG creative chairman Gerry Moira says: “The challenge for Intel is to make more people think like that. It should not be too difficult because it’s the magic ingredient in a computer, but they haven’t given their ingredient any meaning.” 

Moira points out that mobile phone operators were in a similar position ten years ago. “They’re basically just pipes,” he adds. “You can’t buy an Orange – it’s a network within a phone. But there is quite a depth to the brand.” 

Much of Orange’s success as a brand is attributed to its iconic strapline “The future’s bright, the future’s Orange”. VCCP founding partner Rooney Carruthers, who worked on the launch of Orange at WCRS, says: “We always said if we can’t sum it up in five or six words it’s not going to work. No one was talking about networks back then. It was down to the advertising to give the brand charisma.” 

MacDonald wants to “modernise” Intel’s marketing strategy and target young professionals with a similarly populist message. Another technology giant, HewlettPackard, has also been trying to “sex up” its image recently by using celebrities such as rapper Jay-Z and fashion designer Vera Wang in its advertising.

Intel had some success in establishing a clear positioning with its “Intel Inside” strapline, which it used for 15 years. But it was axed by MacDonald’s predecessor Eric Kim, who joined the company from Samsung at the end of 2004. A new advertising campaign created by McCann Erickson breaks in the autumn and is based around the concept that “technology matters”, with a focus on mobility.

Marcus Mitchell, a strategist at branding agency Corporate Edge, believes that Intel needs to build its brand on the back of one of its main products, such as the Pentium or Duo processors. Mitchell thinks it should use Sony – which he argues has dealt with a “far wider range of new technologies” – as a benchmark. Its recent award-winning Bravia campaign, he says, has helped “build and keep the relevance and potency of the Sony brand”.

Chip away at the structure
Mitchell adds: “Intel has an incredibly dense and complex architecture and that has made it harder to be creative. Sony also has a complex architecture but when it comes to ‘communicating Sony’ it has concentrated on a few ‘hero’ technologies and brands. Intel needs to take an axe to its product architecture and work out what should be its hero brand and go to market with this.”

MacDonald says he wants to raise the creative bar at Intel and that the “best is yet to come”. The message from the industry is that when it comes to marketing complex, boring products, simplicity and creativity are key.


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