Intel, just another chip

October 14, 2010

I couldn’t even begin to count the number of technology, manufacturing and service companies that have described their ideal branding scenario as "kind of like Intel Inside." Now Intel will move forward in the consumer electronics space in a much less conspicuous fashion than they historically had in the PC space — i.e. without use of the "Intel Inside" badge.

"Our customers are really trying to deliver industrial designs that are beautiful and elegant," a brand manager at Intel told The New York Times. "We don’t want to be an obtrusive element."

That may be true, but Intel certainly did not turn bashful overnight. They probably had little choice in the matter. In the PC world, Intel exploited perceptions of the commoditized products by touting their chip performance. The Intel ingredient soon became a drug that the Compaqs and IBMs and Acers couldn’t live without, often at the expense of their own brands. Yet in the world of today, the hallowed ingredient will take a back seat (probably a distant back seat) to the dominant voices of the likes of Apple, Sony and Samsung.

As Intel steps out of the PC market, they no longer have the power of their brand to force the hands of their technology partners across a range of devices. While the Intel brand remains an incredibly strong brand among consumers, this is largely a residual halo of the massive efforts behind Intel Inside. Today, Intel is spinning the absence of an ingredient brand program as a way to be a good partner. In reality, it would cost too much (in co-marketing support or retail incentives, etc.) if it could even be done at all.

Consumer electronics brands may communicate the presence of an Intel chip in their products — in part to capture some of the recognition — but they will not allow their brands and their products to be subservient to the Intel brand. And, without the continued expenditure hundreds of millions in media dollars to help consumers understand the distinctions of chip performance, the Intel brand will lose its power as a driver of purchase decisions.

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