While Intel was struggling to fight off AMD in 2006, it was also unable to exorcise the influence of former Intel employee Dennis Carter, creator of the ground-breaking Intel Inside marketing campaign.
After formally abandoning its Intel Inside logo after 15 years at the end of 2005, the company plummeted 10 places – from number 15 to number 25 – in the 2007 rankings of the world’s 100 most powerful brands published by Millward Brown Optimor last month.
Mr Carter, now retired, launched the marketing programme in 1991, marking the first time a company making something for the internal workings of a PC had tried to communicate directly with computer buyers.
The idea stemmed from a desire to create consumer demand for its higher-value 386 processors, at a time when manufacturers were happy to keep selling computers containing its 286 chips. The Intel Inside slogan was born to differentiate itself from AMD after its rival entered the picture in 1990 with a 386 processor.
Eric Kim, brought in from Samsung in November 2004 to revitalise marketing and branding, had taken the decision to retire the slogan.
Mr Kim was in turn replaced by Don MacDonald, a Briton who became vice-president of marketing and brands.
“We had Dennis in about two weeks ago and I joked with him that it was my job to banish the ghost of Dennis Carter,” says Mr MacDonald. “He is my hero, what he did was fantastic, but our goal is to try to come up with something better.”
Mr MacDonald believes the survey showing a decline in Intel’s standing with consumers lags behind reality, and fails to reflect new products and revived fortunes.
But the way he is unpicking the strategy of his predecessors suggests Intel acknowledges missteps in its branding campaigns.
“Intel has allowed sub-brands to proliferate to such a degree that they are pulling down the parent and much of this problem was created by Eric Kim,” says Rob Enderle, technology analyst with the Enderle group.
Intel pushed its Centrino platform, which stood for chips with wi-fi capabilities for notebook PCs, before Mr Kim’s arrival. Mr Kim then introduced the Viiv digital home platform at the beginning of 2006 and the vPro brand for enterprise computers. The Intel logo was played down and a subtler version of the “Inside“ formula was used.
Mr MacDonald says some consumers failed to associate Centrino with Intel at all. He says Intel is reverting to a “master brand” strategy, with Intel writ larger in the logos for the new sub-brands.
“People got confused by all the shiny badges,” he says. “I actually think we have too many brands and I want to simplify that.”
Intel’s sliding standing could also be linked to the PC no longer being the technology focus for consumers, as equally sophisticated devices enter living rooms.
Intel has risked diluting its brand by pushing into these new areas with products such as the Viiv platform.
“Your brand has to be relevant to your consumer and we have got a lot more physical presence in consumer electronics devices such as set-top boxes,” says Mr MacDonald.
Gary Barnett, research director at Ovum, a technology consultancy, says: “What Intel did very successfully was establish itself as the premium brand when, on a pure comparison of performance, there often wasn’t much difference with AMD.”
Millward Brown says Intel’s “leadership” score has fallen between 2004 and 2006/7, according to its survey of 20,000 US and UK consumers, although its advertising claims that it made superior products were still credible to them.
Stuart Whitwell, managing director of Intangible Business, a specialist branding company, says its new line of dual and quad-core processors should help: “Intel has to be seen to be leading innovation, otherwise its brand can become secondary to the main brand being advertised such as a Sony or a Dell. And to do that, Intel needs good product. It can’t rest on its laurels.”