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The Hopkinson Report spoke with David Veneski, Senior Digital Marketing & Media Manager, to discuss Intel’s transition from more traditional marketing to social media marketing.

Download the podcast interview from iTunes, or play it below:



As the world’s largest semiconductor chip maker, Intel is a household name in the computer industry and has given us some of the most important technological advances of our lifetime.

But also impressive has been their work from the marketing and branding side, between their long time “Intel Inside” campaign (18 years running) and the catchy “audio mnemonic jingle.” It’s no wonder that a 2009 Millward Brown study ranked Intel as #23 in the world’s 100 most powerful brands.

The one characteristic necessary to survive and thrive on both the product side and the marketing side, is the ability to adapt.

Summary of covered topics:
[See bottom of post for full transcript]

— Discussion of their famous Intel Inside campaign
— The overall goals for all of Intel’s marketing programs
— The shift that Intel has made to focus more on social media marketing, in addition to their traditional marketing
— A look at Intel’s approach to TV commercials, such as their tongue-in-cheek “Rock Star” spot, which showed Ajay Bhatt, an Intel employee and one of the inventors of the USB device

— The innovative ways Intel is promoting their brand and truly connecting with users through their new Sponsors of Tomorrow program
— Intel’s innovative sponsorship of Maggie Mason’s Mighty Girl life list… can you say swimming with Bioluminescent Plankton in Puerto Rico? Check.
— How Intel is leveraging grass roots campaigns, Facebook, and Twitter
— David’s look on the future of advertising

Links from the interview:
Intel scoop blog

Intel channel on YouTube

Intel on Twitter
@intel (Main Intel account)
@dveneski (David Veneski)
@britopian (Michael Brito – Intel Web Marketing)
@kenekaplan (Ken Kaplan – Intel PR/Social Media)
@InsideScoopBlog (Consumer blog account).

Jim on Twitter

The Intel “chime”
The Intel “chime”

Additional notes:
— In the podcast, David mentions an interactive Starbucks marketing program. The correct name for the program is “My Starbucks Idea.” He inadvertently called it the “Idea Exchange,” which is actually another type of innovative customer feedback program from Best Buy. It’s clear he’s consistently monitoring the web for new inspiration!
— Disclosure: Intel often advertises in Wired Magazine and on Wired.com. Neither Intel nor Wired was compensated for this interview.

Interview 8-6-2009
Jim Hopkinson from Wired / TheHopkinsonReport.com
David Veneski, Senior Digital Marketing and Media Manager from Intel

Jim Hopkinson: Hi, this is Jim Hopkinson, Wired’s Marketing Guy, bringing you the marketing trends that matter. Welcome. Today my guest is David Veneski from Intel who gives us insight into Intel’s transition from traditional marketing to social media marketing, and his outlook on the future of advertising.

Today I am very excited to have David Veneski, Senior Digital Marketing and Media Manager from Intel. Welcome, David, thanks for coming on the show.

David Veneski: Thanks Jim.

Jim: Of course, everyone knows Intel, it’s a household name in the computer industry; it’s the world’s largest semi-conductor chip maker, and according to a 2009 Milward-Brown study, was ranked number 23 in the world’s 100 most powerful brands. So, we’ll definitely get into a lot of the great programs Intel’s working on, but first, David, why don’t you give me a little background on your history, how long have you been in Intel, and what’s kind of the path that led you here.

David: Sure, thanks, Jim. So I’ve been in Intel for about ten years, and have worked in a variety of capacities from being directly in a business unit, to working with our partner marketing group in the Intel Inside Program; and most recently, I’ve been in what we call a geography, America’s Marketing Group, since the end of 2006.

And, my role within America’s Marketing Group has evolved from a digital engagement program’s role, to really running all of our digital media in this geography. So, anything from display to sponsorship, to deep-dive digital engagement programs, that are reaching out to our customer on third-party sites. My role is strictly ‘off domain’, so I don’t really spend any time on Intel.com. It’s really a media and digital marketing role targeting our customers on third party sites.

Jim: I’m kind of an old-school computer information systems major, so I actually remember making the progression from desktops, from a 286 chip to 386, and the 486, and, back then the progression and the speed was just so enormous that, when someone in my company would actually leave, there’d be a fight, we’d have to like to go into the ‘Roman Coliseum’, the gladiators to fight who’d get his 486.

David: You know, it’s pretty tough to sometimes market an ingredient brand, and I think when you’ve come up with a pretty innovative program called the Intel Inside Program, it gives us the opportunity to show the value of our ingredient, where it may not always be recognized by an end user opening a laptop or using their desktop system. It’s very important for us to let them know kind of the power behind the computer that they’re using, in fact, the processor is the brains of the system, and/or, relating it on layman’s terms, the engine of the car. And, for Intel, especially in the ’90s when we made that shift over to Pentium, and the Intel Inside Program starting, it allowed Intel to let the consumer know the value of what’s inside their computer.


David: With the rock star ad, with Ajay Bhatt, basically the first spot in our ‘Sponsors of Tomorrow’ brand campaign, (a) great spot, one of the things that we try to do is really have a little bit of fun with our advertising, and, sometimes technology companies I think maybe take themselves a little too seriously, and, with us, we’re looking at kind of letting customers know, and consumers know who Intel is, and how we’ve kind of helped change the world over the last 40 years, and we have some people inside the walls at Intel that are doing amazing things for the future that aren’t always recognized. These are real life people that are creating products that have changed how we compute. And I look back to how many devices that are USB-compliant, or are USB-dependent, and this is one of three guys that came with up the device that has really changed the face of computing in a lot of ways.

Jim: Yeah, it’s a great spot, he’s signing autographs, and people are fawning over him like a rock star. I think it’s great that we’re finally in an era where it’s okay to be a little bit nerdy and be seen; it’s kind of a geek culture that Wired looks at, so it’s great that more and more people are embracing that in kind of a geek culture.

David: Absolutely, and you know what we’re trying to keep those Ajay Bhatt t-shirts on the shelves, and they’re just flying out of there. We’re also, a different brand of company; we’re at the heart of everyday life, empowering people, and really providing the foundation for their computing needs. That’s something that may have gotten lost in the past in some our marketing campaigns, and it was really a goal of this campaign to break it down to its simplest levels and show how Intel is really changing the world.

Jim: So let’s talk about that. So the Sponsors of Tomorrow, what are kind of the elements that have gone into this campaign?

David: So it’s very expansive in terms of our media reach. The Sponsors of Tomorrow media campaign includes print, online, outdoor, and other advertising placements. We do in-store, online retail campaigns, and really what the focus is, is to help consumers choose the best Intel processor that meets their needs.

Jim: So, it started out more traditional, with print and online in establishing Intel’s goals, and now it’s moving more to the people, and bringing them in with social media?

David: Exactly.

Jim: So, talk about some of the things, the case studies or successes you’ve had with social media.

David: Since I’ve been in America’s Marketing Group over the last three years, we’ve had some pretty phenomenal results with our social activities, both in the consumer space and in the business space; and I know Josh Stinchcomb just got off the line. He was privy to one of the executions we did with a new Conde Nast partner, Ars Technica, where we bring in subject matter experts into a community environment and let them interface directly with the consumer, not in a free-for-all environment, we try and put the guardrails up a little bit to make sure that we don’t overwhelm our engineers with 40 different kinds of questions, but we’ll have a regular cadence where we can have a weekly topic, and anybody that joins the forum is able to interface directly with these subject matter experts inside the walls at Intel. We’ve been lauded for that kind of transparency over the last couple of years, and it’s pretty neat. It’s a peek behind kind of the geek curtain that not many people get. And, quite candidly, not a lot of companies are comfortable doing that.

Switching over to consumer, we have a pretty interesting program going on right now with a woman in San Francisco named Maggie Mason. Maggie had made a pretty good name for herself with the ‘Mighty’ blogs, Mighty Girl, Might House, Mighty Kids, Mighty Goods. She’s a very influential prominent blogger located in San Francisco. She’s had over the last year or two, some pretty amazing awards tied to her name – ‘South by Southwest Lifetime Achievement’, ‘Weblog Awards’; she was named Time Magazine’s ’50 Coolest Sites’, and Mighty Goods was also named the best shopping site by both Forbes and Business Week over the last year.

Maggie is a personality – she’s got an audience that is very, very enticing to us with the active pragmatist growing and being a very large segment of our target audience in 2009. (An) active pragmatist is somebody that is not on the forefront of technology adoption, they’re not the early adopters, they’re not going to go out and beta test, and spend a lot of money on a first version technology release. They’re going to be little bit more cautious and a little bit more slow moving than the audience that we’re normally targeting over the last couple of years. So, our execution with Maggie is a little bit different than you’d might have seen, and maybe a little bit of head scratcher from an advertising perspective.

She has created a life list, effectively a bucket list of a hundred things that she’d like to before she moves on in this world. And that was an opportunity brought to us at the beginning of the second quarter, and, what we are doing is sponsoring ten of her life list items. Maggie is a real-life sponsor of tomorrow. She’s looking at what her tomorrow looks like and, has listed things she’d like to do as each tomorrow comes. We’re going to help her with that, and I think it embodies a real-world personification of our campaign.

Intel is definitely interested in making your life better. With Maggie it’s a little bit of a special case. We’re not sponsoring everybody’s life list, but, Maggie was a great opportunity for us to interface with and really kind of show the human element of our campaign.

Jim: What was an example of one of the things on the list that she was able to do, that you worked with?

David: I think we’ve completed four or five of the items on her list. The first thing was redesigning her site, ‘mightygirl.com.’ Another one was, ‘Swimming with Bioluminescent Plankton in Puerto Rico.’ Another one close to home was ‘tap dancing lessons.’ I’m personally flying down to San Francisco to spend a day or two with her to teach her how to roll in a kayak. So, (I’m) really looking forward to that, it’s an opportunity for somebody that sits behind a desk all day at Intel to really help somebody else complete their vision of tomorrow.

Jim: I’m looking at the list now. For the listeners, go to mightygirl.net, and check it out – ‘A 100 Things to Do’ before she goes, and with a little help from Intel; I think people are going to look at this, yeah, I mean exactly, how can I get on the list? How can I get some sponsorship from Intel to work with that?

David: And I’ll expand on that a little bit. We released this, I think, at the beginning of July, and within the first four or five hours Maggie’s original post was entitled I think something like, “My Fairy Godmother Wears a Clean Suit.’ And, within the first four or five hours there were something like 209 comments lauding the fact that this was such a cool idea. I won’t go into the exact quotes for Intel, but the general sentiment from people that mentioned Intel was what a cool to do, especially in these economic times to really kind of take an interest in somebody’s vision of tomorrow and help them achieve that.

Jim: And I think that’s what advertisers need to do, is realize that the older way of just kind of talking at the user, and saying, ‘Hey, buy my product, here’s my product’, people are so much more hyperconnected now, they’re dialed into all these social networks so that word of mouth marketing is more important than ever, and so you talk about those comments, and it’s getting the word out without the hard sell.

David: That’s actually a really great segue into kind of my point of view on the future of advertising. It’s all about connecting with people, right? There’s a school of thought that, and a guy named Barry Judge who’s the CMO of Best Buy, says it best when he says, “You’re part of the conversation, a part about what is being said about your brand. You don’t get to tell customers what they get to think anymore.” I think that’s a great summary on the future of advertising, right? It’s not a brand standing on top of the mountain with the proclamation of the value of their brand anymore. It’s customers engaging with that brand, and the brand engaging back in real time.

Jim: So, in the past, where companies might look at just straight sales as success of their program, how do you measure success of a more social media marketing program?

David: That’s a great question. So, with social media there are definitely elements that are traditional web measurement – clicks, visits, length of stay, referrals, etc. One of the things that I look at most specifically with a social media program is how did we move the sentiment meter with the audience that we’re involved with? Are we making them feel good about what we’re doing in this space and how we’re engaging with them on a human level, from a brand perspective, from a sales perspective – are we facilitating their needs and making it as easy as possible for them to choose Intel, put it in their shopping cart, and enjoy the great experience that you get with an Intel based computer, be it a desktop, a laptop, a netbook, etc.?

I think there’s probably a pretty vociferous sentiment out there that the consumer is always in control as a result of social media. I’d caution against that a little bit, I think the consumer has a lot more control than they used to, but it’s the responsibility of the brand to really get involved in the conversation and influence their customers in ways that they never really could before. So, there is the paid element where it is that kind of one-to-many, declarative approach, but with social media, you have the opportunity to get some great real-time feedback from a customer, and make adjustments to your brand message, make adjustments to how you’re interacting with those customers on the fly, and I think that’s hugely important.

Jim: And are you seeing that people are learning more and more, and thinking about the actual chip inside? I mean, there’s probably one end of the spectrum where people don’t even know how a computer works, and I might be at the other end where I work for Wired, I knew that in my netbook that I could wait for the N280 chip, or get the N270 chip, and I kind of know the specs; but are you seeing that the average user because of all this technology and working with them a lot more has been able to really think about that?

David: Yeah, I think so. And you know, there are a couple of ways to do it. With Maggie we’re obviously tying in a technology sponsorship with some activities that she’s doing. We also have a bit of a grassroots program going on within the ‘geo’ that I call the ASMO conversationalists and ASMO stands for America Sales and Marketing Organization. And really what we’re doing there is using human capital to extend the runway of our paid media. And what I mean by that, Jim, is taking the really smart people that work within the marketing groups and the retails teams, and the sale teams within our geography, and putting them virtually face to face with the customer, be that in the Best Buy forums, the CNET forums, something very simple like Yahoo! Answers. They’re getting asked questions that are forming a person’s decision making process as they’re searching for their technology solutions.

And, it’s a little bit of a slow burn to start, but we’ve seen some very tangible results from that, and I think the communities embrace that. They have the opportunity to meet with somebody one-to-one, but exposing many more to a singular conversation through a community environment, and ask leading questions that will allow our individuals to give them information that will help them create a technology purchase decision that best fits their need. It’s interesting, we’ve gotten very, very technical questions, and those are more in kind of a CNET perspective, or even a Wired perspective, and it’s up and down the funnel. It’s general questions, ‘what kind of laptop do I need’, to very specific questions like you mentioned, ‘do I wait for X processor to come out for my netbook before making that purchase, and what are the benefits of it?’ So, it’s actually neat to see transactions and people being happy with the interaction they’re getting from individuals that are sitting in my row of cubes here in Oregon.

Jim: Right, so it probably becomes a complete feedback loop if the users on there are asking engineers these questions, it helps to benefit the employees that are working on the chips as well, correct?

David: Exactly. And the other thing, too, is with advertising, I don’t think you’re going to see a time where the brand building is just limited to spending hundreds of millions of dollars in direct advertising. Brand building is really listed, in my opinion, by being involved with the consumer on a real time basis, and really hearing what they’re having to say about our product and helping them understand the value proposition of Intel. If a brand in question gets involved in the conversation, we’re going to be able to clarify misnomers about our technology and really answer questions to a consumer that is wanting more information.

Jim: What other future trends do you see with Intel, and how it’s going to be affected with advertising?

David: I think one of things that we always try and do, especially within the ‘geo’ is segment part of our budget out for experimentation. I’m big on test and learn, I’ve definitely dipped my toe in the water – sometimes that water’s hot, sometimes it’s tepid or lukewarm, but one of the advantages that I have is that I have a management team that’s very, very supportive of trying new things, kind of dancing at the edge of new marketing programs, new social media forays.

I think you’ll see from my perspective a continued shift from the traditional advertising perspective to more engaged brand interactions from a company like Intel, or a company like HP, or Microsoft with the consumer. I think a couple things to keep in mind, too, is, I look at a very consumer-oriented company like Starbucks. They’ve created an area on their website called the Idea Exchange [editor’s note: the program is called My Starbucks Idea] where customers really get to have major input on what happens within the corporate culture of Starbucks, and the products that they develop. I think that’s a pretty neat opportunity for consumers to help shape what they’re actually looking for in an end product. I don’t think the consumer doesn’t always knows exactly what they’re looking for.

You look at a company like Flip, so Flip creates a very low cost, hand-held video camera. Before the Flip cam came around, the barrier to entry on HD video cameras was pretty steep. Flip created a camera that was at a price point available to many, many people, and they basically created a market.

I see Intel having the opportunity to do that, and in many ways, has done that with Netbooks. We created an environment that shows a companion device that is at a price point where it’s cost effective to have another portable device with your main computer.

The main points that I’m trying to make, Jim, is the fact that I don’t think you’re going to see any company these days going back to the more ‘Madmen’ type of advertising model. You’re going to see the brand being very much more engaged with the consumer and spending a lot more time listening to what the consumer is wanting out of the brand offering. And, I think Intel has done a phenomenal job with that over the last couple of years, both from a global level, and specifically, within America’s Marketing Group. It’s highly, highly important to us to listen to our customer, understand what they’re asking for, and really work hard to satisfy them from a technology perspective.

Jim: Well, that’s excellent advice for marketers in the digital age; where can users go to find out more information about Intel’s products and the program they have going on?

David: Intel.com is a great place. We also have a consumer blog called the Inside Scoop’ – that is kind of the home of a lot of our great social media folks here at Intel. And then I would encourage people to kind of follow us on Twitter – we have several corporate accounts like, ‘@Intel’, and we have some great people to follow within just the walls of Intel. [Lists other individuals]

Jim: Great, I will get all of those names and post it on thehopkinsonreport.com.

(So), David Veneski, Senior Digital Marketing and Media Manager for Intel, it’s been a great interview, thanks, and I really appreciate your time.

David: Thank you, Jim.

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