Intel is the kind of client that branding consultants dream of. In addition to being the world's largest manufacturer of semiconductors, Intel has also run one of the most successful ingredient branding campaigns in history. Beginning in 1991, Intel successfully stemmed the tides of commoditization with a simple sticker that assured consumers that the computer they were buying was powered by the latest and greatest technology. Over the years, the campaign has changed to reflect Intel's enormously complex product portfolio, but the basic parameters of the campaign (backed up with some serious co-op marketing dollars) have kept would-be competitors like AMD at bay.
Today's announcement that Intel would be introducing Atom, a new brand for its line of low-power processors is the next evolution in this ingredient brand strategy.
This new generation of extremely small, energy efficient processors are the core of Intel's bid to power smaller devices such as mobile phones, ultra mobile PCs and low cost laptops (Intel calls them Mobile Internet Devices). Intel has struggled to find its place in the market for mobile phones, the hope now is that Atom will allow them to do so.
As a name Atom is so good that it's a miracle it made it through Intel's trademark attorneys. It elegantly conveys the key benefits of the product line in a simple and appealing word (and only 4 letters!).
And yet while the technology is revolutionary, the marketing strategy looks like more of the same. Great brands are defined by the flexibility with which they evolve to meet the challenges of new market realities. Intel on the other hand seems stymied by the success of a strategy that it has employed for 17 years.
The market for mobile phones and ultra portables is much different than the market for PCs in which Intel's brand strategy worked so well. Is there room for another ingredient brand in this muddled, fast-changing and poorly understood marketplace? Is there room for an ingredient brand on the slim and forever slimming form-factors of cellular phones? Will the Intel brand hold the same degree of influence with consumers in emerging markets; for whom mobile devices will be their first and primary computing experience? Finally how should the Intel brand--and its ingredient brands--adapt to the realities of a world where computing power is less relevant than connectivity?
No one can know the answers to all of these questions, but slapping another "inside" brand on this new generation of devices will almost certainly fall short of the mark.
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