Intel Bringing "Intel Inside" Stickers, Flashy Advertising to Smartphone World

September 25, 2012 11:21 am

Mobile chipmaking giants Qualcomm, Inc. (QCOM) and Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd.(KSC:005930) are warily eyeing veteran Intel Corp.’s (INTC) noisy, lumbering advances into the mobile market.

I. Intel Tries its Traditional Branding in a New Space

In the personal computer space Intel slowly destroyed would-be rivals by offering both solid product, downright nasty business tactics, and the iconic “Intel Inside” campaign that created an association between Intel chips and performance.

Now Intel is looking to take its sticker branding to its smartphones, starting overseas before eventually arriving in the U.S. next year.  A number of smaller players have already gotten on board, but the biggest catch so far has been Google Inc. (GOOG) subsidiary Motorola Mobility, whose “Intel Inside” bestickered RAZR i launched Sept. 18 in London.

Intel Inside RAZR
The new Motorola RAZR i promotes its Intel internals with splash graphics and a sticker.
[Image Source: CoolZig]

Some fear that Intel’s noisy branding may create customer confusion — a so-called “NASCAR effect”.  Jack Gold, a tech industry analyst at J. Gold Associates, tells Reuters, “Can you generate end-user demand for your processors? That’s what they’re all looking at, and that’s not an easy thing to do in the mobile space where people aren’t accustomed to it.”

Andy Smith, a former Intel employee who was involved with the “Intel Inside” campaign in the late 1990s, warns the approach could backfire, commenting, “Putting an ingredient brand on the outside of your product should be like driving a sports car, something you want people to see you do because it’s better.  But if the reality is that there’s nothing great about the chips, then it’s going to be hard for them to repeat it.”

II. Promising Results?

But Intel branding chief Brian Fravel claims his company’s early research shows the approach to be working, commenting, “Without a doubt, my goal would be to have consumers walk into stores and have Intel Inside as a key driver of which phone or tablet they choose, just like we’ve done in the PC space.”

Intel is also paying for commercials for phonemakers who feature its brand logo prominently, similar to how it helps pay PC OEMs advertising costs.  France Telecom (EURO:FTE), owner of the UK-France Orange network has been promoting an Intel handset using a flashy commercial with a supersonic car and a pilot wearing Intel-branded clothing.  

Mr. Fravel says his company’s research shows the commercial to be working.  He said a survey showed customers responding enthusiastically, adding, “It wasn’t as though these were tech-savvy people who were reading all the benchmarks. They said Intel Inside meant performance to them.”

III. Rivals Take Note

NVIDIA Corp.’s (NVDA) Tegra 3 line has been receiving a fair amount of brand promotion, despite a smaller budget.  Ujesh Desai, NVIDIA’s corporate marketing VP, says this is due to the grassroots enthusiasm surrounding his company’s products.  He says, “Intel spends way more money branding Intel Inside, but we’ll go to events, and gamers will come up to us with the Nvidia logo tattooed on their body, shaved on their head.  Our tack doesn’t start with, ‘How much are we going to pay you so you put our logo on there?’ Our tack is more, ‘Here’s how we can partner with you so we can create a great experience.'”

Qualcomm is looking to step up marketing of its Snapdragon chip line, corresponding to the launch of Windows 8.  While the company has traditionally relied heavily on social media, YouTube videos, and other low cost options, the company is eyeing TV ads to raise its profile.  The company recently scored Anand Chandrasekher — a veteran Intel chipmaker who helped design the best-selling Centrino platform.

But while NVIDIA, Qualcomm, et al. are growing more aggressive in terms of advertising they still have a long way to go to match the level of glitz of Intel’s efforts.  The question is whether those Intel efforts will hurt the chipmaking giant in the mobile space or help it, though.

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