Semiconductor Marketing gets Sexy

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TI's Wolverine Ad

Semiconductor marketing has for a variety of reasons historically been incredibly turgid, technical and dull.  This is often explained by arguing that B2B and B2C marketing are very different animals – never the twain shall meet - and that the marketing of semis falls squarely in the B2B domain, therefore not sexy by nature, and not even appropriate to be sexy. In this paradigm there is little or nothing that can be learnt or adapted from B2C marketing as it is “just not applicable to our situation”.  But life is changing.  My own view happens to be that:
  1. There is much less difference between B2B and B2C than imagined - good marketing follows certain basic principles and process that are applicable in both

  2. The best exemplars of marketing practice are often found in B2C, so why not look and learn what we can from B2C?

  3. B2B and technology marketing will inevitably move, and indeed is moving closer and closer to B2C models.  As it becomes harder and harder to differentiate by technology alone, so products and technologies become increasingly commoditised, and sharper marketing becomes critical - so you might as well learn what you can from B2C and use whatever is going to help you

Whilst some marketers in the semi industry might concede that ‘standard products’ are commoditised and therefore more susceptible to B2C practice, they would still maintain that the more specialised ASSPs and ASICs are fundamentally technology propositions, and therefore B2C practices are not applicable to them.  Unfortunately this is wrong, and we can see the semi marketing become more and more sexy, commercialised, and B2C-like, even for high end and very technical products.  Intel have of course led the way for a long time, borrowing B2C marketing techniques for marketing high-end complex products.  The ‘Intel Inside’ campaign is the obvious, example of their use of sexy B2C marketing, but this misses the outstanding job their marketing do in marketing to engineers, designers and the technical audience, combining technical attributes with real commercial benefits, using powerful, value-based messages such as:   “Security that’s built in” “Snappy, responsive, and ready to go” “Delivering unprecedented capabilities for mission‐critical computing”, “...enables you to build laptops which are quieter, thinner, lighter...” etc.  

For many years Intel was the lone example of employing B2C - today there are many others forging a path into B2C-type Marcoms.  One example I particularly like is TI’s ultra-low-power MSP430 microcontroller platform, badged the ‘Wolverine’ (see the presentation here), and the subject of an earlier blog by me.  

Also, check out the video ad,  which, whilst being slightly hammy, has a reasonable storyline, dramatic music, and quite sharp photography and video editing.

Sometimes, B2C-type marketing comes through in the use of snappy naming, viz:  TI’s Tiva, Hercules, Picolo and Delfino, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors and Gobi modems, SanDisk’s ‘Extreme II’ solid state drive,  Intel’s Xeon, Itanium, Celeron, etc, Samsung’s Exynos application processor, or Nvidia’s GEFORCE graphics processor.   

For those who say that ASSPs are higher level products not appropriate for B2C marketing, Qualcomm’s branding of its Snapdragon processor is an object lesson, which democratises the technology and increases brand awareness and accessibility.  Check out also Qualcomm’s amusing video – ‘A world without video’, another interesting attempt to simplify the technology and develop simple, communicable value messages.   

As another example, Broadcom recently did co-marketing with Star Wars, and the “Qualcomm and the Course of the Force” is a co-marketed  Lightsaber relay event through California, with links to Facebook, and other sites.

Even Broadcom, arguably the home of boring marketing for many years has changed its home page  ( and is communicating some real excitement and interest around products and apps (see “Wearables – find out more”, or  “Television’s next big thing”, on their homepage.

Nvidia have long made a strong bridge between B2B and B2C.  Their website is dramatic, attention-grabbing and exciting.  Their Marcoms language is pretty tight and consumer-aggressive: “Born for the fight”;  “Gear up with GEFORCE”;  “Shattering the boundaries of what’s possible – the Nvidia Quadro K6000”, and so on, and their new GEFORCE GTX teams up with the new Batman ‘Arkham Origins’ game.

It’s not a lot, and it’s not everywhere, but slowly, gradually, semiconductor is starting to change, and frankly, to get better.  It’s not viable for vendors to copy or reproduce the ‘Intel Inside’ trick, but there are many other benefits for semi vendors which can be had for more reasonable (i.e. less) investments than Intel, and particularly as we move beyond Web 2.0, those vendors who can make both emotional and rational appeals to both B2B OEM customers and the final B2C end user can expect to see real ‘share of mind’ benefits, particularly when their competitors’ marketing remains boring and too technical.

Posted on: Thursday, September 19, 2013