Freescale Semiconductor takes advantage of SMS' popularity in China to convey branding effort
Answer a trivia question, and win a free trip for two to Hong Kong. That was the starting point for a branding campaign by Austin, TX-based Freescale Semiconductor, a maker of embedded semiconductors that last year sought to promote its name change to the huge design and engineering community in China.
Understanding the broad popularity of short messaging services (SMS) in China, the former Motorola Semiconductor launched a trivia contest during the Chinese New Year last year that prompted respondents to register at its Web site for the opportunity to win the trip to Hong Kong. The question, easy enough, was: "What's the name of Motorola's new company?"
SMS messages went out to lists of hundreds of thousands of engineers and businesspeople in China's electronics industry, and more than 30% responded by registering at the site to win the prize, with about 500,000 people visiting the quiz site over 12 days, says Matthew Piette, Freescale's global branding director. With fewer PCs at home than in the US, but a high rate of cell-phone penetration, China is the perfect place for SMS-based marketing, Piette says.
Tim Doke, VP of corporate communications at Freescale, says the SMS campaign complemented other company efforts to inform existing and potential customers of its new name. The company had already planned extensive print and outdoor advertising in China, and realized that SMS, in combination with the traditional "Lucky Draw" that social events in China always end with, could add an extra dimension.
"You try to surround them in many environments, including print, online, and in airports, since the design community has a heavy propensity to travel," Doke says. "With the SMS approach, there's a viral component that's fun, where someone gets the message, thinks it's cool, and wants to pass it on to friends or business colleagues."
The campaign started off with a "teaser" that ran for three or four days, allowing visitors to register at the site to win the trip, and then followed with additional SMS messages with a "fireworks look" to them, in keeping with the Chinese New Year, Doke says, that proclaimed the name change from Motorola to Freescale.
Speaking generally of SMS, Peter Jarich, a senior analyst at Current Analysis, says SMS as a marketing medium might not make as much sense in the US, where the prevalence of Blackberries and other mobile e-mail devices make SMS less appealing, but that the shorter, quicker form of e-mail is indeed popular throughout Asia. In the Philippines and Malaysia, for instance, whole TV channels are devoted to SMS, with messages scrolling across the screen.
"From a business perspective, in terms of using it for a PR purpose, SMS is definitely more advanced in Asia," says Jarich.
Spun off from Motorola in 2004 to allow the company to pursue electronics manufacturers that had resisted purchasing semiconductors from a company owned by a rival manufacturer, Freescale was faced with the challenge of making everyone aware that this was the same company they'd known before, but also now independent.
Craig Mathias, founder of the Farpoint Group consultancy, says Freescale is a leading semiconductor manufacturer - its revenues stand at about $6 billion annually - but that the industry is hugely competitive, prompting the need for aggressive promotion. Mathias notes that the wireless market alone, with 900 million wireless handsets expected to be sold this year worldwide, is huge for semiconductor makers.
China, in particular, is an emerging market for electronics because of the large population and a growing middle-class sector with money to buy consumer goods, from toasters to thermostats, cars, and anything else that, like the ever-present cell phone, also contains semiconductors. Piette notes that while China accounts for only about 15% of the global semiconductor market, the country alone generated about $40 billion in semiconductors last year, up 35%.
Seeing the attention it got in China from a relatively inexpensive effort - the SMS component of the China branding campaign cost less than $10,000, compared with the $300,000 to $400,000 Freescale spent overall on ads in China - the company decided to use SMS this past February to promote an exclusive after-hours party at the 3GSM Congress wireless trade show in Barcelona, Spain. About 700 people - many of them senior executives - attended the party, which featured the UK's Sugarbabes pop group, at Barcelona's trendy Bikini Club.
"The intention was to cut through the very competitive customer relations crush of companies in Barcelona and assemble the largest wireless trade meeting on the planet," Piette says. "We created a micro site where people could sign up for SMS updates. The medium is the message when you're at a wireless show, so it makes sense to communicate through the medium."
AT A GLANCE
Company: Freescale Semiconductor
Chairman and CEO: Michel Mayer
Headquarters: Austin, TX
Revenues/Latest Figures: $212 million in net income on net sales of $1.53 billion for 1Q06
Competitors: Texas Instruments, ST Microelectronics, Philips
Key Trade Titles: EE Times, EDN
Marketing Budget: Less than $15,000 for China and Barcelona SMS campaigns
Corporate comms VP, Tim Doke
Global branding director, Matthew Piette
Global comms director, Samantha Crosby
Marketing Services Agencies: Godfrey Q and Partners, Weber Shandwick