Dear Intel, you had me at “Intel Inside”. Now enough already!

An open break-up letter to the Intel brand.

Dearest Intel, cure

This is hard. We had such a good thing going once, and in a lot of ways, I still love you. But, well, things have changed. You’ve changed.

And I’m afraid you just don’t understand  why… [sniff]

…I no longer want you inside. [sound of sobbing]

Romance Pic - with words

The early days

The early days. It all seemed so simple then...

I remember the first time I saw you in that cute little “Intel Inside” logo on the side of a new laptop at Office Depot. Wow. Knock-out.

I remember how you made me feel: safe, secure, like I could be better than ever. But mostly you helped me feel smart, just because you were there. Inside.

And that made everything else so easy. And really, that’s what I loved you for. You made my choices easier because you stamped them with an extra little promise that said “I’ll be there for you”.

And while I’m confessing everything, here’s something else I never told you: I never even knew what an “Intel” was, how it worked, or why it was important! And you know what? I never wanted to. I couldn’t care less about silicone chips or dual-core doodad clock times or whatever. I vaguely knew that those things were important, but because you were there, I didn’t have to worry about it.  You cared, and that’s all I needed to know.

Where it started going tragically wrong

Trouble on the horizon
Trouble on the horizon

I think it was Pentium. That’s when I started wondering about us – when you convinced me that just having “Intel” inside wasn’t good enough. No, now it needed to be Intel and Pentium. “Just one other brand” you said. And sure I went along with it. Because I loved you, I put up with that little three-way thing. I even enjoyed it a bit.

At least, I thought, there were limits. Your friend Pentium had the decency to know its place, quiet, complementary, never intruding on your “Intel Inside” area.

But it didn’t stop there. No, then it had to be a Pentium 2, then a 3, then a 4. Always bigger, faster, with more complicated features and power.

And over the years, you found new names to stamp on all kinds of different parts of yourself: Celeron, Centrino, Core, Atom, Itanium, and on and on. Something called Xeon – honestly, was that one even from planet earth?

I couldn’t keep them all straight and I couldn’t tell the difference. But all along I thought: at least I still have my Intel Inside…

Not sure about smart being the new speed, but you sure kept me shifting...
Not sure about smart being the new speed, but you sure kept me shifting...

But now, it’s gone too far

intel-core-i7Well today I received a flyer from Dell telling me about some new laptop brand, and there, screaming from the upper left corner was one big  massive graphic with your name on it. And if I was confused before, now I’m totally baffled. Now you’re “Intel Core i7 Inside”, with four different type-styles and a litte barf-coloured mosaic-ish thing. I don’t know you any more Intel!

And after all that, you have the gall to tell me: “Look for Intel Inside” and a bunch of randomly placed stars.

Well you know what? I did it: I looked for Intel Inside, and I found… wait for it… nothing.

Sorry Intel, you may still be inside my computer, but you’re just not inside me anymore.

And you know why I’m so angry and hurt? With Intel Inside, you seduced me into caring a little bit about something I’d never wanted to care about before. And it worked. You helped me feel like a smart, informed consumer by giving me a simple tool to feel better about my purchases.

But I never wanted to care more than that. And I will never, ever care about it as much as you do.

So enough already. Get rid of all those other brands, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll THINK about coming back.

No, scratch that. You see? Just for a second you made me want you again. But this time it’s over. [door slams]

Another blogger’s take on the evolution of Intel Inside:

intel_inside evolution
Evolution of Intel inside: from

18 thoughts on “Dear Intel, you had me at “Intel Inside”. Now enough already!”

  1. Agree – this was a great piece on how Intel has ‘gone off the rails’ of their core message (pardon the pun).

    1. Puns are always pardoned David. Now, in a follow-up. I was back and forth with a few Intel folks yesterday on Twitter (after they Re-Tweeted my post), and they insist that:

      1) clean-up of the Intel brand architecture is happening,

      From @Intel_Jim: @DenVan Love the “blogger’s take” stuff. Seriously, Deborah Conrad is working very hard to improve our branding. Thanks

      2) that we should keep watching:

      From @Intel_Jim: “Check back on our progress every quarter or so. I think you’ll like our progress (but it wont’ happen overnight.)

      3) That although we are still broken up, maybe we can just be friends…

  2. Dennis, bang on target I must admit. I haven’t seen a simple, yet very powerful article on the Intel brand ever. The organization has gone thro’ multiple iterations of building “corporate brand recognition”, but they someone falter at the product. Every product needs to be on the logo… or does it? Well, wait till you see more from Intel coming next year I am told… Will it get simple? time and consumers will tell…

    1. Thanks for that Stitches (may I call you Stitches?). For my small blog, this post has been a big hit, and actually seems to be getting the greatest amount of attention from Intel employees – which is gratifying.

      Right now Intel seems to be realizing that they can’t keep strapping accessories on the golden goose that financed their tremendous rise (how’s that for mixed metaphor(s)?) So I look forward to seeing what comes of the internal re-think. Subtraction of distractions hopefully – or “de-branding” if you like – to get back to the real value Inside Intel.

      And for any Intel marketing folks, please feel free to ping me ahead of time if you want my feedback. As I said on Twitter, maybe we can still be friends…

  3. Dennis,
    I agree with you. The beauty of ”Intel Inside” ws that it was simple. Then ,unfortunately, every expert in intel wanted to contribute and the result was an ober-engineered mess.
    To give a real-life example: I wanted last week to buy a Sony Vaio notebook PC- the leaflet said it had an Intel Core 2 Duo.
    The sticker on the PC ,however,showed ”Pentium”. I pointed out to the salesman that I did not want a Pentium, but, the Core 2 Duo. Salesman was confused, called up his tech help desk-returned to me and said: Pentium IS dual core!!.
    I said , i’m not sure anymore what I want-after working with Intel 37 years, I thought I should have known.
    Net result, I did not buy anything.
    The make things worse, i notice a new ad is running in Germany titled : Our idea of cleanlyness is different from yours(my translation)-Yes, Intel is so proud of it’s manufacturing!But, no onle else give a sh-t.
    Why waste that money on such ads.

    1. Benny,
      How nice to see you have not lost your clarity of expression. And how clearly Dennis articulated a complex issue. Do you think anyone buying an iPhone would be interested in Intel Flash Inside? And do you think any of this has anything to do with the stock price?

    2. Thanks for the personal insight. Yes, the recent branding efforts smack of “design by committee”.

      It’s also interesting that as an “insider” at a company you had to switch to a your “outsider” hat when you went shopping. Your “I got confused so I didn’t buy anything” is exactly what’s happening with your customers – and research shows that when people are presented with too much choice, it not only makes the sales task more difficult, it 1) creates actual paralysis, and 2) makes them less likely to make any choice at all, and they abandon the search. If you’re interested, there’s a great talk by Barry Schwarz on this that I saw recently:

  4. I simply adored the last logo ‘to infinity and beyond’. That would actually help my decision to purchase it 🙂

    But I agree with you on the confusion on the branding.

    I have to disagree on the Intel commercials though – I think they are a clever way of keeping the Intel brand in front of people. Seriously, the rock star commercial is brilliant and funny.

    1. Yes, but no commercial – or even billion dollar ad campaign – can save a brand when customers can’t recognize its value at decision time. I’ve laughed along with the commercials of many bankrupt companies whose names I can’t remember…

  5. I really appreciate your astute observations interspersed with humor — to keep folks awake, we are talking about a chip after all!

    As a serial ingredient brander (now there’s a narrow field) I’ve given this de-evolution a lot of thought and while I could go on, I’ll leave the insight that I keep coming back to:

    Ingredient brands such as Intel exist to compliment another companion brand. They need to define a category and knock out of the park something complimentary to that companion brand that actually matters to the customer.

    In the beginning of Intel Inside they addressed “safety and technology” or translated from Intelese: It works, and it’s fast. That was great when people cared about that a lot. Remember when people actually knew and could recite how fast their PC CPU was?

    Now, however, hardware reliability is not a problem and speed is not constrained at a choke point that Intel manages. Intel is experiencing a crisis of relevance, and that’s a problem that bigger, star-filled, shiny badges can’t touch.

    1. Wow. Thanks for “chipping in” and I’m deeply sorry I missed your comment last week after our brief Twitter conversation Andy.

      Particularly salient is your point about the “crisis of relevance” Intel is facing right now – with the chip market becoming commoditized as reliability and speed become table stakes. Which is why it’s such a shame that they’re still wandering away from the one clear differentiator that could keep them on top: a clear, consistent brand.

  6. Hi Dennis. I think your text is wonderful. It has comedy, it is smart, but most of all, it has a lot of true things simply put in a way that everyone can understand. I disagree with you on the Pentium “three-way thing”. I think the brand Pentium(I II III IV) was very clear, simple, sticky, and provided a lot of information in a simple way. At that point Intel was in a place where people wanted to know why one machine cost more than others. By having a brand like Pentium followed by sequential numbering a clear definition of “what was better”, was provided. Even my mother knew that Pentium 3 was better than Pentium 2. And to be honest my mother knew what Pentium was (something that made the machine work) but did not know what Intel stand for(Intel should have put more emphasis on the INTEL INSIDE). Today the brands, numbers and specifications are confusing and misleading. I just hope that Intel starts doing a better job with the new I3 I5 I7, by increasing the Intel Inside message and providing clear, simple and useful information to the end user.

    1. I totally agree with you. The “three-way” bit was played up for comedic effect, but you’re right, “Pentium” was the clearest, simplest, most powerful name in the Intel product name portfolio. And it’s not bad strategy to have one strong brand share the marquee with a powerful ingredient brand like “Intel Inside” – if it’s handled with care.

      But that’s the problem here. That’s where Intel began to let their success go to their heads and lose sight of the customer. They thought: well, we got away with it with Pentium. Why not twice? Why not 5-6 times? The delicate balance in branding is knowing exactly how far you can push before the effort becomes self-defeating.

  7. One other issue is that if you are in a scenario where you will not have a co-signer then you may want to try to make use of all of your school funding options. You could find many grants and other scholarships that will offer you finances to help with school expenses. Thanks a lot for the post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *