Magazine article Marketing

Intel Puts Its Chips on the Table

Magazine article Marketing

Intel Puts Its Chips on the Table

Article excerpt

Micro chip production was once a cosy world. There was Intel and it supplied IBM. But now there is a myriad of suppliers all aping its technology. So it's turning to branding and marketing, says Chris Long

Despite being the world's largest chip manufacturer with a turnover of nearly $6bn, Intel is living in interesting times. From being the only chip manufacturer of any stature in the PC industry it is now standing waste deep in massive advertising campaigns, lawsuits and competitive products.

In a bid to regain an edge Intel last week signed a manufacturing agreement with IBM which sent the micro chip manufacturer's shares soaring. But even this deal is unlikely to re-establish the hegemony Intel and Big Blue had over the market a decade ago.

When IBM launched its PC back in 1981 it used a microprocessor chip called the 8088. Made by Intel the 8088 and its older, slightly more powerful, sibling the 8086 was the backbone of the 110 million strong IBM PC and compatibles market we have today.

By the mid-80s the PC manufacturers recognised the market's potential and soon developed strategies to get their names in front of the public. Intel supplied 99% of the processors (effectively the brain of the computer) for them, the only fly in the ointment being there was no reference to it, users weren't interested in who made the processor chip. This wasn't a problem, Intel figured, only computer experts needed to know of Intel's existence and the general public wanted nothing to do with the impenetrable world of megabytes and binary bits.

But the market was maturing quickly and responsibility for buying computers was being delegated throughout the business world. Up to this point Intel had only marketed itself to the highly technical computer design engineer never the end user. It soon became apparent it had sell itself to people who, if they had any say in the issue, would rather not know about processors of any sort.

Dennis Carter, director of corporate marketing at Intel explains the change: "In the very early days |before PCs~ there were, say, fifty people in the world who needed to understand computer technology to make a buying decision, now that number is up to hundreds of millions." This realisation somewhat raised the stakes.

It was no great surprise that this growth of knowledge should happen, but it still had to be reacted to. 1989 was a watershed for Intel when it made the decision to talk to the public about its products, in a language, it hoped, that wouldn't have the average technophobe running for the hills.

So, in late 1991, came the Intel Inside campaign where a hi-tech company and its products were promoted using big friendly letters on billboards and a big friendly TV ad flew us around a big friendly computer. All with the Intel name prominently displayed; without any frightening technospeak.

Intel's tracking of the campaign produced some interesting results: in 1991 Intel claimed a 24% awareness of its microprocessors among MIS (management information services -- the department responsible for PC purchases) managers. By the end of 1992 it was 79%. A similar success is claimed for professional home users, where awareness grew from 8% to nearly 40%.

A success, but all was not quiet, or happy, in the garden. After the 8088/8086 processors the next chip to make a mark was the 80286 in 1984, followed by the 80386 in 1986. …

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