Inside perspective

Intel has adjusted its communications strategy to reach consumers with a message about the role its processors play in the overall computer experience.

Intel has adjusted its communications strategy to reach consumers with a message about the role its processors play in the overall computer experience.

When the communications team at Intel decided to retool its messaging, it channeled another era in the technology industry, a time when consumers looking for a computer cared about the processor inside the machine. In recent years, consumers have focused on other features, like video definition, music capabilities, and design. But the processors directly impact these popular features - a message Intel wanted to make sure resonated with consumers.

The opportunity to do so came last year when Intel developed a chip that combines faster processing and higher efficiency. Conveying technical strides to an industry-savvy audience is one thing, but consumers generally take for granted that technology will get faster and cheaper.

Yet, because of changes in buying patterns, enterprise companies cannot afford to overlook this market. Consumers have recently emerged as the largest purchasers in technology, surpassing the government and enterprise, says Paul Bergevin, VP of sales and marketing and GM of global communications at Intel.

"Our challenge is to translate the innovation in the laboratory to certifiable user benefits," Bergevin says, "and that this absolutely matters if you're going on a long transatlantic flight and you're depending on your notebook battery life to actually sustain your flight. It really matters if you're really into looking at really high-quality video on your computer."

The new chip was dubbed "high-k metal gate," but much of the team's message of reinvention was lost in the clunky moniker. So it launched a campaign that said exactly what it wanted consumers to know.

"We built an entire campaign globally around this idea of a reinvention of the transistor," Bergevin adds. The company worked with Burson-Marsteller in the US, and Ogilvy PR and Hill & Knowlton on its consumer efforts abroad.

Establishing relevance
First, the company established the technology's relevance by reaching thought leaders through outlets like The New York Times. The global consumer splash came in late 2007 when Intel launched a series of campaigns targeting consumers by simplifying its messaging, and changing the way the company talks about its products.

"We talked a lot about, 'How do we tell this story to my mom and dad?'" says Kari Aakre, manager of consumer PR. "We want people to [ask], 'What does it mean to me... [and] for my everyday life?'"

Conveying that point was easier this year, as many products featuring the chip debuted, showing tangible examples of what it has achieved. The team also explained the technology through videos it posted on YouTube, Aakre adds. It also thought there was appeal for consumers to know the "science fiction" story of how Intel engineers started replacing silicon with hafnium as an insulator, she notes.

"Most people do remember the days of high school chemistry class and having to memorize the periodic table," she says. "From a PR perspective, a lot of the media picked up on that and focused [their stories] on hafnium."

Because more consumers are using the Web to assist them in making purchasing decisions for computers, the company also wanted to transform its sites to act as its own newspaper complete with RSS feeds, says Bill Kircos, manager of group communications and PR.

"At Intel, we get 1 to 2 million visits to our site each day - that's higher than any newspaper other than USA Today and The Wall Street Journal," he says.

Using social media
Intel launched microsites for several campaigns. But instead of relying on traditional media coverage, the team engaged the blogsophere with strong results. For example, the company launched a contest for PC makers, offering $1 million to the team that designed the most innovative PC for its new chip, and then invited the public to vote on the best design. The site recorded nearly 10,000 hits in about two weeks. But after blogger outreach resulted in mentions on Engadget and Gizmodo, its views spiked to 1 million in a week, Kirkos says.

Bergevin points out another driver for the consumer push - the linking of the processor to popular features, like videos. Although the global outreach for the consumer effort retained the consistent messaging of reinventing the transistor, some markets have conveyed this to consumers using more entertainment-focused campaigns.

"We wanted to appeal to customers at a much more emotional level," says Perveen Akhtar, Intel's UK PR manager. "So we wanted to find something consumers are passionate about and music is one of those things."

In the UK, Intel has launched a series of music-focused campaigns that include building integrated campaigns around sponsoring a talent search at Proud, an iconic London music venue.

As consumer outreach continues, Intel plans to increase its specific pitching to women, who have not traditionally been targeted with focused campaigns by enterprise companies. The team is currently working on a fashion campaign to show how technology helps make smaller laptops that will fit into more stylish bags, Aakre says.

"Now is the time when we can go to a consumer and describe not only the technology breakthrough that Intel has achieved," she notes, "but also give them something to touch and feel - something tangible that can [make them say], 'OK, now I get it.'"

Targeting the gamers
Intel also expanded its outreach to the gaming community earlier this year, with the release of Skulltrail, a high-end gaming platform.

Tactics included:
Seeding 200 to 300 technical publications and Web sites with Skulltrail.

Targeted tech outreach to get the attention of the mainstream press, like The Wall Street Journal.

Hosting events and tours at gaming competitions using Intel's latest gaming software and sponsoring stunts at gaming conferences.

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