Intel Reboots Its Marketing Strategy
A new, more agile approach to content marketing is powering the computing company's marketing plans.
Intel is a brand that's synonymous with modern electronics. In fact, the Silicon Valley giant is reportedly the world's largest maker of semiconductor chips, which techies consider to be the foundation of modern gadgets. The company's leading position is due in large part to its carefully crafted “Intel Inside” ad campaign, which in the 1990s branded its semiconductor chip as the must-have technology and helped catapult the sales of Intel's consumer-targeted Pentium processors.
Producing ever-faster processors for gadgets, widgets, and tech tools continues to be the life blood of the company, which in 2014 reportedly raked in nearly $56 billion in revenue. In fact, Intel's rich 47-year history is centered on innovation. And marketers for the technology company are looking to fuel their latest efforts with innovative marketing strategies—charged, of course, with the same fervency and pioneering spirit that's sustained Intel for decades. At the center of Intel's retooled marketing strategy today is a robust and agile approach to content marketing.
“Historically, it's been all about trying to get new readers in the door. In other words, trying to go out and find new audiences. But now, it's not just about getting new audiences for our brand and our content; it's about keeping existing audiences,” says Luke Kintigh, Intel's global content and media strategist. “It's takes a lot—a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of energy—just to get someone to even come to your site and read a piece of content. So that's a pretty amazing feat in itself.”
It's an amazing feat, but not an impossible one. In May 2012 the company launched Intel iQ, a content hub featuring technology-centered stories that highlight news, trends, and celebrities making waves in tech innovation. Stories range in topic—everything from why video gaming makes players smarter to mobile tech for the deaf, to, of course, the booming wearable tech movement. Kintigh says the aim of Intel's content marketing strategy is to target tech enthusiasts, create brand loyalty, and reassert the brand as a leader in innovation.
Intelligent content, clever marketing
Content alone—even inspiring, problem-solving content—simply isn't enough. After the marketing team created iQ, it still needed an audience and steady site traffic. Intel's marketing team realized that there has to be a content strategy, not just a freefall of stories that flood the hub. The answer, they say, is content sequencing.
“Content sequencing is telling a story one part at a time,” says Adam Weinroth, CMO of content marketing software company OneSpot, which Intel enlisted to create a unique approach to its content distribution. “If you're a brand and you're trying to communicate that story to [a potential buyer], then you can't tell that [narrative] all in one sitting. So, the challenge—and the opportunity—is figuring out how to deliver the different parts of that story over time and in the right order. That's what Intel is seeking to do with content sequencing.”
Weinroth says the idea is that rather than retarget people with the same content—or even the same style of content—over and over, choose the next piece of content based on the person's response to the preceding story and format.
Through machine learning OneSpot analyzes, at each stage, how a person interacts with content that's served to him and determines what Intel should serve next. Rather than preset content for each consumer, Intel will take a piece of content from, say, iQ, present it on a social platform such as Facebook or in a mobile or display ad, see how the reader responds, and then eventually present an entire series of Intel content based on a series of interactions. A sequence of 10 pieces of content, for example, is unique, and in effect personalized, for every person throughout her entire journey with the brand.
“We're not paying just to reach them again and again, but instead we're trying to build more loyalty. We're trying to think about content that's more long term,” Kintigh says. “A piece of content—at least in the beginning—is a hook. But, ultimately, we want a reader to convert to a dedicated subscriber, not just a visitor.”
Make new friends, but keep the old
With a staunch focus on dedicated subscribers, the goals at Intel have evolved into acquisition and retention. “Retention is of the utmost importance,” Kintigh says. “We want to leverage our existing audience, especially those who've engaged with posts.” Leveraging an audience, he says, opens up the doors for marketers at Intel to produce and distribute content in an entirely different way than in years past.
“We're actually moving toward a serialized approach to production,” Kintigh continues. “We're doing a 10- to 12-part series on everything from women in gaming to technology in the NFL, so when someone interacts with a piece of content they have a reason to keep coming back.” Kintigh says he and his team are seeing much-desired success in acquisition and certainly in retention—success that's corroborated by the numbers: “At this point, we see about two [million] to three million unique visitors a month. We're continuing to grow our repeat readers. Some 65 percent of our readers are new, so that means 35 percent of our readers are repeat [visitors]. About six months ago that was about 20 to 25 percent.”
Kintigh says that time on iQ continues to grow too—among all visitors. OneSpot's Weinroth notes that, just like treasured friendships, Intel's growth is built on strong relationships. “[Intel] is delivering more content-driven relationships, as opposed to just distributing content.” he says. “Because if you just wanted to distribute content, there are a lot of ways to just rack up those clicks and make performance metrics—those vanity metrics—go up and to the right. But if you want to do a really good job that's in line with the brand goals that Intel has then you have to build relationships.” Weinroth says that type of relationship isn't possible with a one-time engagement. “It's only available through repeat engagement,” he says.
Act like a publisher
Modern marketers realize that effective marketing isn't about just campaigns—whether direct mail, email, mobile, or social; it's about the knowledge and information that businesses can provide to prospects and customers. Providing that information then establishes a company as an industry authority. The team at Intel says much like journalists and publishers, marketers need to think of audiences first. “We have to start to embrace being a publisher and acting like a publisher,” Kintigh says. “When you do that…you really understand the importance of the audience element of it. It's not about producing 20 posts a month; it's not about how much content you create or even how great it is. It's really all about [the way] you pull the audience into the content, that audience-first mind-set, and acting like a true journalist or good writer.”
He adds that his team at Intel understands that as publishers of content, the push for its products takes a back seat. “It's more about how do you fill in the whitespace,” he continues. “The challenge for everyone, especially for brands, is that with all of this content out there, how you find that little uncovered whitespace within a really complicated topic, especially technology. It's [seemingly] being covered by everybody out there.”
Kintigh insists that solid content allows Intel to draw on its resources of top employees who can give an inside look into the tech world, provide new insight, and introduce new thoughts. “It competes well because it's just as good as any material on an editorial calendar,” he says.
The future of agile content
Intel's plan is to continue to grow its content hub, iQ, to optimize the skills and knowledge of its employees for audience benefit, and to continually evolve the image of the company. Intel is a relatively older tech corporation, but content is proving to be the impetus that continually updates customers' perception of the brand. “We're trying to communicate to a wider audience—and a younger audience—that Intel is powering all of these innovative things,” Kintigh says. “It takes a long time to build an interactive content strategy and build an audience. But we recognize this isn't a short race; it's a marathon. IQ is always on, and it's going to go on forever.”