Company: ASUS (North America) and Intel
Contact: Various representatives of Intel, ASUS, and Federated Media
Location: Santa Clara, CA (Intel) and Fremont, CA (ASUS)
Industry: Personal computing
Annual revenue: Confidential
Number of employees: Confidential
Tradition dictates that companies avidly protect and maintain control over their brands, products, and ideas, but marketers can't ignore the transition now taking place: Web technologies, and social media in particular, are quickly and irrepressibly transferring a growing share of that power to consumers, who now have a highly robust and economical platform for broadcasting their opinions, rallying their friends and followers, and introducing a new level of public sway that few marketers are prepared to manage.
Like most things in this world, you can choose to fight it or you can choose to embrace it. ASUS and Intel have chosen the latter; and, so far, it's working well for them.
Their joint online marketing project entails launching a branded social community in which users discuss ASUS and Intel products, shed light on what their ideal PCs would consist of, and share their ideas with other users.
For ASUS and Intel, the program offers the opportunity to bring the world's first socially designed computer to market, the ability to strengthen consumer loyalty and trust, and unrestricted access to unique and valuable user insight that will continue to feed product development and propel both companies' leadership positions.
Santa Clara, CA-based Intel Corporation considers itself much more than a parts supplier for the computer manufacturers that produce machines proudly announcing "Intel Inside." Instead, it sees itself as a partner and routinely teams, one on one, up with those companies to develop and launch major marketing initiatives in support of both companies' objectives.
One such recent campaign was conducted in cooperation with notebook manufacturer ASUS, the stated mission of which involves developing "a deep understanding of, and genuine empathy for, [customer] needs" in order to "create user experiences that transcend the norm."
Campaign goals included the following:
- Creating brand and product awareness, affinity, and preference for both companies
- Generating feedback for ASUS engineers on user experience for R&D
- Building relationships with consumers and trust in upcoming products
- Creating a loyal community that prefers and evangelizes Intel and ASUS
- Driving desire and sales for current ASUS notebook products
The campaign entailed launching a branded online community—WePC.com—in October 2008. Its mission: to create the first socially designed PC to be brought to market.
"ASUS and Intel wanted to allow the consumer to have a seat at the design table and really listen to what they want and then go to market," explained Jason Ratner, director of sales at Federated Media, the agency hired to help develop and manage the project.
"The challenge was developing a Global Social Exchange that inspires high quality conversation in an authentic environment, generating awareness and affinity for ASUS, creating preference for Intel, and informing a go-to-market strategy to produce actual notebooks."
To ensure an authentic environment and drive qualified registrations, submissions, and feedback, the companies employed extensive marketing communications and engagement strategies.
The communication and promotion piece included the following:
- Blogger outreach: High-profile bloggers were commissioned to start conversations with their readers that would help drive traffic to WePC.com and increase engagement once on the site.
- Banner ads: A banner campaign, which syndicated user-generated ideas and key conversation points, was used to further promote the community on those blogs and via strategic media buys.
- Video: A weekly video series called WePC TV, which demonstrated how tech-savvy consumers are customizing technology to better suit their connected lifestyles, was created to promote the site. In addition to being featured on WePC.com, the series appeared within a branded YouTube channel. Separately, WePC also sponsored Boing Boing's series of CES 2009 videos.
- Social media: The companies also generated awareness through participation in online forums, Twitter, and the launch of the "Future of Technology" Graffiti contest on Facebook.
- Sharability: Share features—including email, AIM, text, and 45 social sites such as Delicious, Mixx, Technorati, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Reddit, and FriendFeed—were added to all content on the site, including videos, user submissions, and discussion-board posts.
- Events: The companies used large public events such as CES and CeBIT to further raise awareness of the WePC community's mission and progress.
- Coordinated PR: The Intel and ASUS PR engines were also employed for major announcements, such as the community's launch.
The engagement strategy encompassed the following:
- Clear calls-to-action: The first thing that users encountered when they visited the site was a series of calls-to-action encouraging them to join the community, submit their ideas, vote on others' designs, and get involved in the conversation surrounding "crowdsourced" PCs.
- A user-friendly site: In addition to using clear calls to action and section headers that helped to simplify navigation, the companies licensed the Graffiti Design tool from Facebook to provide a straightforward, intuitive platform with which users might be already familiar and so could use to design their dream PCs. They then customized the tool so that users could easily upload images into pre-existing PC form factors.
- Multiple means to engage: The community was divided into three categories (netbooks, notebooks, and gaming notebooks); in each, users were given a choice of activities, including (a) submitting their own ideas using either the Graffiti Design tool or text; (b) voting on others' ideas; (c) defining their dream PC by using sliding scales and a check-off list of 36 options to specify the features most important to them; and (d) contributing to the blog and various discussion posts.
- Incentives: Along with potential bragging rights should their input take hold, users were informed of prizes to be awarded based on level of participation in the winning designs. In addition to spurring submissions, the incentives helped goad users to contribute to and refine others' ideas.
- Influencer involvement: Tech-focused bloggers, selected for their online following and influence, were appointed to contribute fresh content to the site, initiate conversations among users, and advocate WePC within their own communities. "ASUS and Intel chose authors that would help represent and help drive both traffic and engagement within the community. We felt that the author's influence from different industries and cultures would bring a diverse community with lots of great new ideas," representatives from ASUS explained.
- Company moderators: A dedicated team made up of ASUS and Intel staff was assigned to introduce the voice of these two companies into the community, to answer user questions, and initiate questions designed to garner feedback. Katie Wallace, campaign manager on the Intel side, noted that the companies' involvement has also allowed them to mine for answers and feedback to specific questions or usage scenarios.
- An e-newsletter: An email newsletter was launched to keep the community informed of important project updates and encourage return visits. On average, the newsletter has a 29.02% open rate and 25.04% clickthrough rate.
- New site functionalities: New features and functionalities, such as category skins and a homepage slide show viewer that cycles through the 100 most-recent user submissions, have been added to help keep users engaged.
- Engagement: As of the end of April 2009, WePC had 6,565 registered users, with 2,138 ideas submitted, 13,566 votes received, and 3,944 "dream PCs" described. To the 205 blog posts on the site, 5,392 comments had been added. In addition, the WePC TV videos have been viewed 325,958 times.
- Brand awareness: WePC has received industry buzz from the companies' PR efforts, including mentions on Wired, CNET, Notebook Review, and The Tech Herald; the 11 Boing Boing CES videos alone have received over 3.4 million impressions, 258,000 views, and over 39,000 downloads. In addition, more than 36,000 Google searches for WePC have been performed, and users from 23 countries have participated. Based on unique and repeat visitors, among other metrics, Intel and ASUS say they have achieved a lift in brand awareness and there is strong recollection and correlation between the two companies and WePC.
- Product awareness: Wallace noted that the companies have witnessed an unusually high number of people investigating the products they've advertised on the WePC community. "This community has produced more e-tail interest than any other campaign we've been involved in," added Ratner. "By asking people to dream, there seems to be a direct correlation to investigating what is available from ASUS and Intel now."
- Product development: Of course, the ultimate goal of the community is to bring the world's first crowdsourced PC to market; and although the final product likely won't be unveiled until at least 2010, the companies continue to demonstrate that progress is being made. Recently, all idea and dream PC specification submissions were whittled down by company engineers into four main recurring themes (multiple screens, touch interface, docking, and kid's PC), and community members are being asked to again weigh in and further define market demand. And at CeBIT 2009, ASUS showed off the first notebook concept to spring from the WePC community; that presentation has further generated attention and new and repeat visits for WePC.
Let go and harness the faculties of others. Intel and ASUS are realizing a bounty of rewards for having brought outsiders into the mix:
- Real insight into user demand, not to mention the capability to better monitor and manage consumer opinion and how it is propagated online
- Increased consumer interest and preference, both by being able to understand and provide consumers with the products and features they really want, and by forging a connection and sense of pride among users who contribute to the community mission
- More brand and product awareness through not only the novelty of the program but also the amplification effect of (1) using well-connected bloggers to spur adoption and engagement, and (2) inspiring users to generate support for their own ideas (and thereby building awareness for WePC, ASUS, and Intel) by championing a democratic voting process and incorporating a variety of share features
This idea of allowing, activating, and helping influencers to expand awareness and engagement is a very economical but powerful strategy. "[We found that] communities do in fact follow their leaders," said Ratner, who went on to note that this approach instilled an added layer of authenticity that further assists the overall goals of both companies and of the community itself.
Wallace noted that the companies took important steps, including the following, to effectively leverage influencers in this way:
- Assuring complete transparency: Bloggers wield influence through the trust and loyalty they have established among their readers, and that credence must be preserved. For this reason, ASUS and Intel made sure their appointed authors clearly communicated their participation in the campaign to their readers. The authors were further encouraged to focus on the future of technology and the merits of community involvement versus endorsing the brands involved.
- Trusting them to know what's best for their audiences: No one is more in tune with their followers' wants, needs, and trigger points than the influencers themselves, and ASUS and Intel found that they were able to better attract, engage, and build loyalty among users by allowing the appointed authors to come up with their own ideas, content, and approaches for appealing to their specific audiences.
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