Three companies that have used creative marketing strategies to sell semiconductors are Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, and Atmel. Please find my methodology and detailed case studies involving these three companies below.
Finding case studies of semiconductor manufacturers or computer hardware companies that have utilized creative branding strategies and advertisements provided to be extremely difficult. This is likely because the inner parts of computers are rarely viewed as "creative." However, it appears this theory could be changing, as in the past three years, there have been several thought leadership pieces published that discuss how to make semiconductor marketing strategies more creative. These articles and white papers could provide some insight into better marketing and advertising strategies for internal computer part companies and manufacturers.
After extensive research into academic studies, industry white papers, and marketing company case studies, I was able to identify three U.S. companies that have taken creative approaches toward marketing, messaging, and advertising. Although not all examples incorporate storytelling and clever messaging, they do show how semiconductor companies are thinking outside the box when it comes to reaching more consumers.
Please note that due to the lack of recent examples of semiconductor or computer hardware case studies showing creative marketing and branding examples, I was forced to expand my search to earlier case studies. However, the marketing strategies for Texas Instruments and Qualcomm are still ongoing. It is also safe to say that if it hadn't been for Amtel's merger with Intel in 2016, its social media marketing strategy would still be the most successful in the industry. As such, I feel confident the branding and marketing strategies utilized by these three companies are not only still relevant, they were actually ahead of their time.
Case Study #1 — Texas Instruments
Despite the fact that Texas Instruments (TI) has a "well-established brand identity," its Medical Business Unit (TIMBU) was not as well-known. TIMBU originally provided semiconductor chips for medical devices like CT Scan and X-ray machines, but it was expanding to provide semiconductor chips for use in "devices related to healthy lifestyle but not necessarily medical (e.g., pedometers, blood glucose meters, blood pressure cuffs, heart rate monitors)." As such, it needed an impactful way to "explain the new products, emotionally connect with customers, generate brand awareness, and educate and equip their sales team."
CSCreative, a branding firm, created a "branding blueprint (for TIMBU) that included a new name: TI HealthTech" and a new tagline: "Engineering Components for Life." The approach featured "the people who benefit from the products developed from TI technology, and invite[d] the viewer to connect emotionally with them." Since TIMBU's target audience was engineers, the branding was presented in a way that appealed to the "left brain." Several mosaic advertisements were created that were "created from hundreds of images of TI products and their end-use applications. Clients and prospects [could] easily see how TI HeathTech is applicable to their business and will benefit them and their customers."
The new branding was launched at the Consumer Electronics Show, the industry's largest trade show. In addition to the "cohesive and polished branding," there was also a message map and "internal training sessions [to educate] the sales team to better understand and communicate their new direction."
The internal training sessions empowered the sales team to "be brand advocates and to drive their message to more divisions at prospective companies." As a result, TI was able to expand its customer base and saw "a tremendous increase in web activity, data sheet downloads and product design wins." Overall, the company saw a 23% increase in revenue following the branding launch to new and existing customers.
Case Study #2 — Qualcomm
Qualcomm, a semiconductor company that specializes in mobile technologies, needed to find a way to target B2B customers though the inspiration of "conversation among the enthusiasts of technology without flashing their products every time." Qualcomm wanted to focus on creating a "strong brand awareness" rather than on advertising their products directly.
Liya Sharif, Qualcomm's senior director of global marketing, said, "We are a b-to-b company that doesn't spend a lot on consumer advertising. So we had to find a more nimble and asymmetrical way of targeting consumers. And it became clear that we needed to get closer to consumers in terms of them being familiar [with] why certain technologies matter on their phone." As such, Qualcomm needed to focus more on reaching "early adopters and tech-savvy consumers", but not to actually sell its products. Instead, the goal was to sell the brand through teaching "them about the power of mobile and... that it's what's in their device that really matters."
Qualcomm created Spark, "an internal news website living on Qualcomm’s website" that is designed to "engage and cultivate discussions on topics such as technology and innovation with tech-savvy consumers, rather than bombarding them with advertisements." The ultimate goal of this content-marketing strategy was to educate "consumers on the power of what was inside their mobile devices." Recently, Qualcomm has also unveiled a "visually upgraded version of Spark on their blog called OnQ," which is intended to keep customers updated on Qualcomm's technological breakthroughs and gives its "perspective on where technology is headed."
Using a team of journalists, marketers, and producers, Qualcomm's Spark brings in "inventors, artists, movie makers and photographers" and has them "talk about interesting things through op-eds, which are dubbed as 'salons.'" The Spark team has complete autonomy over what is published on the site and they are even allowed to discuss a competitor's product or subjects that may not be fully in line with Qualcomm's ideology.
The company has been so successful at creating brand awareness through Spark and OnQ that it has "effectively removed ‘marketing’ from ‘content marketing’ and [has] inclined towards being a publisher rather than a marketer. This kind of marketing wouldn’t have been possible with old-age textbook marketing gimmicks." When Spark first debuted in 2013, Qualcomm's "average monthly site visitors increased by 70 percent, and [the company] saw a lift of 28 percent in monthly uniques."
Another reason this endeavor has been so successful is because Qualcomm hosts Spark directly on the company's website. This means that "the linkage between the stories covered and the brand were that much stronger, and likely to produce more direct ROI." Articles on the Spark and OnQ website "have hundreds of comments and shares on social media," which is proof positive that this content marketing strategy has worked for Qualcomm.
Case Study #3 Atmel
Until 2011, Atmel, a semiconductor manufacturer, was "focused on continual price and performance improvements to commodity semiconductors" and did not have much of a role for marketing. Sander Arts joined the company as the Global Head of Marketing and immediately made it his goal to "develop the marketing function to be a valued part of the organization." Specifically, he aimed to do three things:
1. Develop communities of users
2. Develop an "extensive social media presence"
3. Create a marketing model that allowed Atmel to "close the loop (generate revenue) from the marketing activities."
According to Arts, "a customer is a customer. I don’t think it really matters what a customer is buying because the dynamics of the purchase process are the same." Essentially, he believes marketing has not changed much, since it's all about finding the "most innovative channels for getting the word out."
Arts recognized that selling semiconductors "used to be pretty linear. You’d have a product, go talk to an existing account and explain why they should be buying it." Now, however, semiconductor companies are often meeting with people they don't know and trying to make a sale, which has changed the marketing game dramatically. Trade publications and trade shows are no longer sufficient for selling internal computer products, and as such Arts "expanded that traditional model to reach out to individuals and companies through social media who wouldn’t normally even be acknowledged under the usual semiconductor business model."
Arts established not only a company blog, but also built up Amtel's social media footprint to include "Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, YouTube and Instagram." In addition, Amtel's customer service team "responds to questions from professionals, students, tinkerers and hobbyists regarding our hardware, software and tools."
Prior to Atmel merging with Intel in 2016, Atmel was receiving "as many blog post shares as all other 39 Semi companies put together." In addition, the company had 60,000 Twitter followers, 38,000 LinkedIn followers, and its blog had received more than 3 million views. The results have shown that "even a B2B marketplace like semiconductors can use the power of community to sell products."
Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, and Atmel are all semiconductor companies that have abandoned traditional computer hardware marketing strategies in favor of creative branding and marketing methods that have proven to increase revenue, develop brand awareness, and reach more customers through social media.