I talked with Steve Fund, CMO of Intel, about how he puts the focus on experiences to show consumers what Intel can do.
How did you get into marketing?
I specifically picked consulting because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. When you're young at McKinsey, they give you a broad range of industries and I worked on a whole host of projects. I worked with a beverage manufacturer and I loved the consumer centricity and the mix of skills that it took to be successful. It took both sides of the brain: the analytical side and creative side. I knew I had proven analytical skills and unproven creative skills. So I wanted to do both. I asked the folks at McKinsey what company with leading marketing they'd work for and they all said PepsiCo. So I wrote a note to the HR department and stayed there for a long time.
How did you go from CPG to a tech company?
So Lycos, when I joined, was the biggest Internet company in the world. I was doing really well at PepsiCo and I got this call to be the head of Lycos. I felt like I could leverage all the things I learned around brand building and I also knew that the Internet was not going to go away. I felt like working at an Internet company, I would learn digital marketing that would help me the rest of my career.
How do you try to stay up to speed on some of the latest innovations and new technologies?
This is an amazing company and before I came here I had a perception of Intel that was narrow, but once you get in here it is amazing. It's truly mind-blowing and transformational. We are such a critical part of every facet of the technology ecosystem.
We meet every single Monday morning, so I have a front-row seat to the product roadmaps and tight relationships with the general managers. I have a good understanding of what we're working on and we also talk about what's going on in the broader world of technology. I have such an amazing exposure to what's going on here.
How are you trying to shift the perception of Intel as a hardware and data company to an experiential company?
If you saw Brian's [Krzanich, Intel CEO] CES keynote, you see that customers are choosing experience over product. Our marketing, communications, and advertising were focused on where we are, but what people care about is why we are. So I knew I needed to connect Intel inside with the experiences we create outside. The brand platform almost wrote itself because of that. We've been marching very intentionally beyond the product itself to the experiences that we enable across our entire portfolio. We want to make sure that people understand that the product experiences exist because of the tech inside, which is Intel. We want people to insist on Intel first, and then choose among the various manufacturers.
What are the challenges that the team has when you're trying to motivate an end user to shift buying habits?
That's what excited me about this role, honestly. I have been in consumer marketing forever, I came up through the ranks at PepsiCo and worked at P&G, so I know how to market a tangible product. But no consumer buys Intel directly - so how do I build a brand that gets people excited about having Intel inside. Connecting what we do to why they buy is critical for me.
Where I come from, marketing has always been the center of the company. This is an engineering and manufacturing driven business and marketing has always played a little bit of an ancillary role. It was helping people understand the value of the brand and how it could shape and drive our business strategy. The connection between the value of the brand and the value of the business. I tried to get more focused on the brand by saying, if we let our brand erode, our business will follow. As we build our business we build our brand, and vice versa.
We had looked at all of our brand metrics, whether it was syndicated tracking studies or our own own, where we could see our brand health. When I first came, I saw it was not where it needed to be. The biggest issue we had was that the younger consumers who will define tech trends really didn't understand the value of Intel.
I knew I had to talk with the youth market if I wanted to have a strong and healthy brand. So I went and said what are their passion points and how can we rebuild our brand?
We went out and got Jim Parsons, who's on the most popular show on TV. I also looked at music as a passion point - how can we get involved in music in an authentic way?
The relationship with Lady Gaga is she's using our technology to create an amazing experience on the world's biggest music stage - the Grammys. Her whole performance is powered by our technology. When you see it, it will be mind-blowing, and will only be made possible by our technology.
We're doing the same thing at the NBA All-Star Game next weekend - they're going to use our tech in the slam dunk contest and the game itself. It gets our tech in front of Millennials and engages them.
When I came here I looked at our brand but also our brand personality versus other tech companies - what I found was they were almost indistinguishable - no one was carving out a unique personality. I realized no one has performance as a part of their brand. That's why we're creating all these performance-oriented partnerships.
Are there any trends you're excited for this year?
I think that a lot of these initiatives that we're developing we do not only because of our brand platform, but also creating a tremendous amount of content for engagement. With the new campaign you see an ad, but the power is not just the ad. It's any time you see the Intel logo. We create longtail stories and content that flows directly from the experience that we've been advertising. We create these marketing initiatives to create content and increase engagement.
What we do is not just create a cool event - everything we do we think about how can we leverage the content to distribute across all platforms and through partners. We truly believe content creation and distribution is the key to marketing success.
Steven Fund is the CMO of Intel. He is a senior marketing executive with demonstrated success in building some of the world's best-known brands, driving growth and strengthening reputation at companies in the consumer goods, retail and tech industries.