As the new CMO of AMD Colette LaForce started with the basics -- the ABC's of her marketing mix, if you will -- and she began with its most basic ingredient, her brand.
That shouldn't be surprising, she says, because as the marketer of something consumers only experience through others' brands, she says AMD actually is "an ingredient brand." So she's beginning with how those baked-in brands -- the computer and gadget marketers who decide whether to put AMD's microchips, well, inside.
To do that, she's beginning by redefining AMD's brand with the people who have the greatest influence on those so-called OEMs (original equipment manufacturers): AMD's own 10,000-person organization -- everyone from the people who design its chips and microprocessors to the people who manage, sell and them.
“You’re not going to see us running any spots in the Super Bowl this year,” she says, adding, or any other high-profile media buys, for that matter. With the exception of placing some high trafficked billboards at one of the computer industry’s important event Meccas, say CES, LaForce says you probably won’t see much if any paid media for AMD -- at least not directly. While AMD will continue to support and fund the obligatory co-op budgets that “buy” ingredient brands distribution and some exposure through their OEM’s trade and consumer brand and retail advertising, almost all of her initial efforts will be focused at the grassroots level, including internal communications and trade communications with a heavy emphasis on social media, PR and pressing the flesh.
In that sense, LaForce is the medium that is the beginning of AMD’s new message, and she’s putting herself out there -- in interviews like the one that led to this story -- to prime the pumps, and begin the process of generating awareness and buzz for the next iterations of her brand strategy.
Don’t expect any agency reviews, new campaigns, or even a new logo design -- for a while, anyway. The initial focus is 100% on researching, understanding, and then communicating the essence of AMD’s brand.
“It’s not what you think. It’s not about speeds and feeds,” she says referring to the technical performance of microprocessors. Instead, she says AMD’s stakeholders and customers are, “far more concerned about AMD talking to them about outcomes.”
“If you buy a new car, an attribute like ‘safety’ is going to be at the top of the list, and yet most car manufacturers don’t market airbags, because they don’t drive purchase intent,” she explains, striking an analogy with another industry’s ingredient brands. Instead of product performance, she says it is emotional attributes that drive purhase intent, so AMD began by conducting research to understand where its brand fit into its targets’ emotional matrix.
To understand the emotional drivers influencing the AMD brand, LaForce began by conducting research among its stakeholders, including its own workforce and its consumer and industrial targets.
It began by identifying a sense of “purpose,” “why we exist,” which led to a mission statement -- the first in the 44-year-old brand’s history: “To pioneer technology that frees people to push the limits of what's possible.”
That purpose grew out of research indicating that far from being a generic widget, AMD is actually a very emotional brand. “It showed that we are a beloved brand, and have a devoted fan base,” she says.
But since it is effectively a B2B brand that relies on interpersonal connections among people -- its 10,000-person workforce and their OEM representatives -- she says AMD is focusing on how to utilize people to activate those emotional drivers. Not surprisingly, the initial strategy relies heavily on social media to do that. As well, as AMD’s co-op marketing budgets to extend its emotional message through to its end-users.
LaForce calls this a “rolling thunder” strategy that will begin with messaging on its website, social media and co-op advertising that ties AMD’s mission statement to the products it helps bring to life -- everything from computers to gaming consoles.
“If you think about the ecosystem AMD serves, it’s everything from PC to tablet to gaming consoles to embedded technologies like digital signage and casino gaming."
Not surprisingly, the execution relies on an ample dose of social media and content marketing, including an internal contest to write the “AMD story” and new taglines for the brand.
“A lot of what we’re doing is in social and in video. The team is calling it ‘new media’,” she says, noting that AMD has already doubled its YouTube subscribers in the “past few months” by getting “a little big edgier in some of the videos,” with an emphasis on humor.
“We’re doing this without the money to do big branding,” LaForce admits, adding that aside from the ad budgets it gives to its OEMs, most of the next phase of the AMD brand story will be “pushed into the new media,” because it is both “more economical and more aligned with the audience we want to reach.
“We’re not going to be doing a Super Bowl ad this year,” she says. But there’s always next year.