"Intel Inside" was the stamp of personal computer legitimacy, at least until big changes started diminishing the brand-building power of chipmakers. Intel's evanescence as a consumer brand, or more accurately as a B-to-B brand that consumers cared about because tech brands wore it as a badge of legitimacy, may to some small extent track the rise of competitive chip makers.
But the real solvents that have eroded the profile of the redoubtable company’s brand, whose products are still pretty ubiquitous in smart devices, are the ascension of Apple; the move from stationary computers to mobile devices; the diminishing of terrestrial operating hardware, because of the cloud; the eyeball-grabbing wonders of apps, games, and various software brands; and, in general, the fact that machines themselves have software landing strips, closed boxes, whose inner physical workings, with no moveable parts, are essentially invisible and irrelevant to the consumer.
Arguably, all of this would be relevant to device makers whose sales depended, once upon a time, on the presence of that "Intel Inside" sticker on the outside. So where does that leave Intel? How about wearable tech? Intel, you may know, is partnering with rapper and entrepreneur 50 Cent's brand new Beats by Dre fighter, SMS Audio. The two are doing a marketing program that kicked off in New York last week to tout SMS Audio's biometric headphones, Biosport50.
With an assist from the New York office of global brand-transformation agency Sid Lee, the consumer technology and computer technology brands took over the penthouse of the the New Museum of Contemporary Art on Bowery, the hipster's version of MoMA on 55th (although, to be fair, MoMA has a hipster version of itself in P.S.1 in Queens, which is neither here nor there, so to speak.) The installation party and hip-hop event in the museum penthouse featured Fiddy himself, plus Carmelo Anthony, and top DJ's and … you get the picture.
For those interested, Intel powers the Biosport's little "biometric" sensor in the ear bud that lets users track their pulse, a nod to the fact that some huge percentage of people wear music gear while working out.
Among other things, NY Sid Lee, part of a 600-hundred person agency based in Montreal, tapped production team Tool Interactive director Aramique to make a pulse-sensitive installation called Heart Bot, to illustrate the "innovation" theme Intel is adopting to transform consumer perception. I wasn't there, and won't pretend to try to explain it, but evidently the Heart Bot collected data from everyone who came by, and the result was a "generative art" that will be donated to Feeding America.
The issue for Intel, at least among Millennials, is both awareness and understanding of what Intel actually does. The news may not be great, but it's not too bad: Any product maker, from cars to cards, will tell you that not being known at all is better than being known pejoratively, including as an "old-machine” brand. Especially in the consumer electronics sector where so last week is so last year. And can Intel successfully reverse the way its brand awareness machine used to work: if device makers used to use Intel to get a halo and drive sales, can Intel get a halo by aligning with SMS Audio, which is, theoretically and literally, “so this week”?
Well, the company's having tapped the Sid Lee for these kinds of events pretty much means that, although globally Intel has hundreds of agencies traditional and otherwise, the company is certainly trying something transformative. Sid Lee, which has a shelf of Lions, has done Millennial-facing brand transformation projects for brands like Absolut, Facebook and Adidas. And the Intel image effort is probably the first wave of the company's conversation about connected products Intel is likely to be involved with going forward. As for the party, a participant told me the installation worked. "Usually celebrities leave these things as soon as they can. They hung around for two and a half hours."