I recently met with our Summer Interns to find out how their experience working in Marketing at Intel was going. After we broke the ice, I asked how their impression of Intel differed now versus 3 months ago. Not surprising, it was different. Not to say the first view was bad. They talked about Intel being an important technology company and how they didn’t see a future of computing without Intel. One person said the company was viewed as disciplined and a global brand. All was said with respect, but not much enthusiasm. Where it gets exciting is how they view the company today. I heard adjectives such as “exciting”, “passionate”, “innovative”. One woman said that Intel is different from some of the companies that are known for attracting young adults. In her words “It’s not about how cool your campus is but rather doing cool stuff”. They all felt Intel was doing cool things both in marketing and in how we’re shaping technology.
With that recent experience in mind, I thought it would be appropriate to write about a marketing program that was created in the past year. Consumers have now become a critical marketing and sales channel for brands. In several media research studies, it has been noted that 70% of consumers influence a purchase decision. With that in mind – Intel believes it is critical to engage directly with consumers. Thus, Intel has invested heavily in our Social Media strategy. Recently, the team added to our social media efforts by launching Smart Squad.
To illustrate this case study, I’ve asked Scott Jaworski to sit down with me. He joined Intel in 2011 quickly became involved in our buzz marketing initiatives. It’s in this current role where Scott is leading internal and external social influencer programs aimed at having a lasting impact on Intel enthusiasts and, particularly, on current and potential consumers.
Hi Scott, thanks for joining me today. Let’s start with the basics. I want to talk about Smart Squad. What exactly is it?
It’s a social influencer program that we’ve activated with both employees and external influencers that are passionate about technology and like to share their views. There are lots of different types of influencer programs. They come in all shapes and sizes. At the heart of this program, it’s about the identification and activation of specific individuals that have influence over potential buyers. We call the team the Smart Squad.
How did you get started? How was it structured and what resources did you leverage?
We started with a marketing strategy of course, which was around the objective of driving awareness of Intel and Windows based tablets as well as a charter to help people understand what you can do with these new tablets. We then identified a group of people that were interested in tablets and passionate about sharing and communicating. We used an agency to help with the development of initial content, provide an influencer online portal that allowed for aggregation, curation, and program tracking. It was critical to build a light infrastructure to support these activities. We used 3rd party social media monitoring tools for a broader look at the social space for a higher level look at the social conversation and sharing. As I mentioned, we leveraged both internal and external influencers. In most cases, they were so excited about the program they developed their own content. And finally we worked with our Intel Social Media Team for amplification.
How easy is this to replicate? I know one of the goals of the program was to drive impact at a very limited budget as well as to build many Smart Squads around the world.
The elements may sound complicated and expensive but they weren’t. For example, the first program which ran 2 months, cost approximately $200k. We also gave people new Intel based tablets to use and write about. After doing the first one, we are able to develop an out of the box program that can be repeated across markets, without much investment.
How did you come up with the name?
Actually my manager came up with it. She feels social is about conversations with real people, and people bring a brand to life. We wanted to unite a smart group of people with a common passion and desire. It was clearly a team effort with everyone united across organizational lines. Thus the name Smart Squad.
That reminds me of a quote from the Founder of ING (Arkadi Kuhlmann),“We wanted to hire workers but Human Beings show up.” Tapping into people’s passions is not a new thing. Harnessing and leveraging that can be a challenge. Can you talk about why you chose to solely focus on social versus any traditional marketing?
Since you used a quote, I’ll start my answer with one: “You can buy people with your wallet or stimulate them with your academic prowess but that won’t last long. What you need is their heart. They need to believe in what they’re doing.” While budget and efficiency was a big component, I feel that the passion of the influencers was critical to the program’s success. The first motivator was to participate in the forefront of a new marketing program and help introduce a new product. The second was their desire to get involved, regardless of their day job. You can’t put a price or value on passion. We led them to water and they drank. They were empowered and given permission to be candid and honest. That’s demonstrated by the fact that 93% of the content was original and came from people speaking to their personal experiences. We wanted to truly test the power of social.
Let’s get back to the objective of the program again. What were you actually doing?
Our goal was to ease the decision process for our consumers during the holiday season, the most confusing shopping period in the year. We wanted to introduce and articulate what you can do with an Intel (and Windows) tablet, as they were new market entrants. Also to showcase and share how you can use your tablet and the different ways it can be integrated into your life. This is where Windows vs Android or iOS came into play.
What’s the value you’ve seen in doing this?
On the softer side, employee morale was wonderful. You wouldn’t believe how excited employees were about the program and having a voice. It was also collaborative. Given the team was comprised of 20+ organizations, we introduced some people to each other for the first time. It really helped break down silos. And gave the team a common goal to unite everyone.
How about business results?
On the business side we have metrics from content creation to sharing to impressions. Even though we originally produced some assets to share, we found that people liked producing their own material. In fact 93% of the content that was shared was authentic and original. That in turn drove 1450% amplification rate (the percentage in which the original content was shared a second or more times.) We drove over 44,000 social actions (we define them as a social activity taken by an influencer or their audience). Overall activity resulted in 14 million impressions. From a sales perspective, and there was a small pilot in which we saw an 80% product sales lift with a specific promotion with a key online retail partner.
That’s impressive for a new program and approach. Are you expanding the Smart Squad footprint across Intel?
Yes. We have several new Smart Squad programs under way. Some are in different markets. Some are around different form factors. People have been both positive around the effort and receptive to trying it. It’s also notable how much interest there has been in this across the company. I continue to be asked to present the program and results to different product and marketing organizations, even to Finance.
Why do you think so many diverse orgs were interested?
They like the fact we are trying to drive and promote change – both internally and externally. They all liked the idea of Intel’s role as a thought leader and our proactive outreach. They were also interested in our activation – how we worked across different teams and organizations and pulled together a highly matrixed, yet collaborative group. Leveraging diverse skill sets and interests, to drive Intel value which also translated into personal satisfaction. In many ways this was about a culture change.
Intel is very interested in developing new forms of collaboration, and certainly efficiencies in our marketing efforts. It’s wonderful to see the combined benefits of this type of program. Where do we go from here?
These programs are not one offs but intended to build on Intel’s investment in the influencer space. We’ve activated several programs across audiences – business and consumer – and across products – such as tablets, ultrabooks and smartphones.
Talk to me about how you build on influencer programs. How are they linked?
We are building relationships with our consumers and positioning Intel as a trusted advisor. (This philosophy actually goes back several years, even to when pc.com was launched by Intel). We will continue to be a thought leader and provide proactive tips, information and even training around new products and technologies. The more we influence and extend our voices, the more we connect the dots.
I love the fact that Intel employees took this on in addition to their day jobs. How did you manage to create such passion and interest among an already very busy group?
First and foremost, we had to provide value back to the community. It’s not just about the external effort, but motivating the internal influencers. The people that raised their hand to participate are motivated in different ways. They want to talk about something they care about. It’s part of their DNA. They were thrilled to be part of this team and to measure their impact in tangible way. One of the team members sent me a note saying : “I’m an out-of-the-box thinker and the Smart Squad is the very definition of breaking the rules!”
How do you think this has changed how Intel thinks about marketing?
It’s opened some eyes. I’ve talked to people that I never would have known prior to this effort. We had great learnings. For example, an online publisher slapped our hand for using a hashtag and threatening to lock us out of their community. After speaking with them directly and explaining our objective and approach, they provided us with a verified handle to participate in their forum.
Thanks Scott. This example beautifully illustrates a few points. Intel marketing is about innovation, taking risks and uniting people towards a greater good. Big brands aren’t always about big budgets. Large organizations and companies can drive culture change, one project at a time. Our Smart Squad participants demonstrated how important passion and enthusiasm can be. And they aren’t the only group at Intel. We’re seeing the beginning of a new era.