If I were a marketing manager of a mobile computing hardware or software products today i wouldn't be sleeping very well, First off I'd be on the phone almost daily with my Intel contacts to see how Paul Otellini's cuts would effect my category in general and my brand specifically.
In short, I would be preparing myself for some frank discussions with my supervisory managers that dealt with short and mid-term sales projections, marketing programs and how I would be able to distinguish my products in a market where virtually all of my competitors were building similar machines that used the same processors, identical core logic, like-sized screens and were merely one brand swimming upstream amid a crowded school of like species. Rolling into mid-year, notebooks sales continue to gather momentum and clear price bands have emerged. But few companies have managed to carve distinctive places in the market, which means the degrees of risk individual brands face in increasing.
Unfortunately the notebook market has coasted along on Intel's greased skids for more than a year now. Intel has pumped enough money into its Centrino technology branding that most of the buying public now understands Centrino means solid integrated wireless and hardwired networking, reasonable 2D graphics performance and good battery life (thanks to Intel Duo Core Pentium M's). I have to give kudos to Intel for using the Centrino brand to rein in unrestrained processor branding. Based on my own personal experience, I gave up chasing the most recent monster Pentium processor two notebooks ago.
In fact, the last Pentium 4M machine I bought is now in Iraq where it's shared by some young marines for email, games, blogging and as a digital image archival device during the deployment.. i keep in touch with the machine's new users who report it's working reliably and used nearly everyday. The only complaint is the machine's weight It's heavier than the M16 they carry.
I believe Weight, versatility and basic performance are the keys to the success of an individual brand. However the only brands that have communicated these messages successfully on their own are: HP, Lenovo and Toshiba. (although recently Gateway is joining this foray). Intel has used Centrino brand marketing to hit versatility, basic performance and wireless connectivity but seems unable or unwilling to have more than one message point at a time in its broadcast advertising.
This sad fact leads me to conclude that the fastest way to lose market share in today's market is to rely on Intel for product capability marketing.
The speed of this luge race to the bottom of the slag heap can also be increased by relying on market research organizations that dispense advice from the last century. TCO and corporate standard brands as purchase decisions may well have gone the way of the Model T.
Hello! how many of those research consultants have been told by their off-to-college prodigy exactly what notebook they want for their flight out of the nest. Furthermore, I'd be willing to bet that there's a damn near one-to-one correlation between what the nestling wants and what the parent buys.
College Nestlings are a very good indicator of how radically different things are today. And the best way of understanding the extent of this difference is for notebook brand marketing and engineering managers to hit the road and do some first hand research on college campuses.
A third way to lose market share today is to fail to communicate the versatility of brand specific products. A number of manufacturers probably have at least one brand that should be sacrificed on the altar of increased product awareness. The same features that are important to business users are vital components to general consumers. Perhaps even more so as larger corporations adopt "buy and bring your own notebook" policies.
But the real hot rod to the lost market share could be to waste money on marketing messages that stress expensive wireless connectivity options or reliance on unproven web-based applications. Hey I know this is heresy to some marketing professionals, but how you gonna finish that marketing presentation that's due on arrival in Boston when you're at east-bound 37,000 feet over the Heartland with no access o the Big Server down next to a farm in Walla Walla, Washington?
A final path to Doom is to use marketing agencies with little, or no investment or specific knowledge of portable computers, other than the ability to turn on a machine. If you're going to pay big bucks to a PR agency make sure they know how to differentiate your product against comparable brands in a crowded market. Over the years I've come across several talented marketing professionals who did this better than others. Their names were Anne F. , LJ S., Ruth R., Lisa Z., Heather L., Kevin C, and Bob M. respectively representing HP/CPQ Toshiba,Dell, IBM and Toshiba again. In each and every case these professionals differentiate their products in a logical fashion without using PowerPoint and leave me and other editors with a thorough understanding of their products and correct positioning that helped attain marketing and sales goals. But more importantly, they didn't rely on Intel or AMD for prime marketing. There are few names of PR personnel in my list of all stars who helped build market share, but some are there, Bob M, Ruth R, and Lisa Z. who worked for agencies deserve special credit and are members of my personal all-star Mobile computing marketing hero's list.
That's my rant on how to lose market share. Now go out and make a list of what makes your notebooks different, build and communicate your messages and thrive!--Jim Forbes, wirelessly on a lightweight, rugged. tablet PC that I'm using right now for keyboard data entry here in rural northern San Diego County, California.
(obligatory disclosure statement. I have covered mobile computing for more than 17 years, written several hundred notebook product reviews and served as an independent member of (mobile) product advisory councils for IBM, Toshiba and Palm.)