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Apple-Intel co-op branding?

BusinessWeek has published an interesting article exploring the question of whether or not Apple's upcoming Intel switch will launch a series of co-branding efforts and joint marketing campaigns between the two companies. On the one hand, it makes sense to expect a Centrino-style blitz of advertising. Not only are both companies in the midst of major platform and product transitions, but there's an obvious logic to combining Apple's brand strength and name recognition with Intel's marketing dollars. As the article points out, however, things aren't likely to be that simple.

Apple's strong customer loyalty and unique position in the computer industry make them an attractive advertising or co-branding partner, but it's hard to imagine Steve Jobs hitching his wagon up to the Intel marketing train. Historically, Jobs has been extremely protective of the Apple brand and careful to avoid anything he felt might dilute it. One of his first actions upon returning to the company was to kill off the last of Apple's clone initiatives for precisely this reason. Intel marketing dollars have undoubtedly helped Dell and HP sell computers, but the ubiquitous Intel Inside logo and accompanying jingle has also contributed to vendor brand dilution across the industry. People may still display a preference for one computer manufacturer over another, but you don't hear anyone talking about HP's new and innovative case design, or the elegance of Dell's CPU cooling system. The only "feature" of a mainstream system people tend to talk about is price, sometimes followed by the processor brand. There's nothing inherently wrong with this approach, but it's definitely not the way Apple does business.

It's possible, however, that Apple is about to shift its branding and advertising focus. Apple may not need marketing funds to appeal to loyal Apple consumers, but there's a lot of software that needs to be ported to, and optimized for, the x86 architecture. Lower system prices could also help Apple retain more users who might otherwise purchase from another vendor, and of course, Apple would like to see its share of the PC market improve. No matter what happens, it'll be fascinating to see how the partnership develops—can two companies with a long history of aggressive branding play nice together?

My guess is that not only will Apple not partake of the Intel Inside marketing, they will downplay the CPU in their marketing altogether. I'll bet the only place you see mention of the processor is on the tech specs page. Other than that, Apple will push their ease of use and design. The only way the processor will make it into Apple marketing is in the form of things the processor allows Apple to do that they didn't do before (smaller form factors for their laptops, etc).

I think this will clearly be the case because the processor is no longer a point of product differentiation. Apple makes money off of the Mac by convincing people there is something special about the Mac that makes paying a higher price worth it. If the Mac has exactly the same CPU as a Dell or HP, then Apple isn't going to focus on the processor, except to assure people that it's just as good as a Dell or HP. They will mostly focus on those things that make a Mac different and worth a higher price (though the price differential might be less now than in the past).

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December 20, 2005 - Posted by | Apple, Intel

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