Pam Didner at Content Marketing World 2011/Photo courtesy of Content Marketing World

You were a speaker at last week’s Content Marketing World conference in Cleveland. Tell me, what does a company that makes computer hardware have to do with content?

It’s funny you asked. We did in-depth research on how consumers and IT managers view Intel. Words such as “innovation,” “quality,” “performance,” “trust,” “reliability” are used to describe our brand.

Once we start talking about “technology” and “innovation,” there are a lot of stories that we can tell. Imagine the content we can create or stories we can tell through the experiences that technology enables in people’s lives. We have more to do with content than ever before.

Computer chips don’t necessarily lend themselves to great storytelling. How do you weave the many, complicated things Intel does into a compelling story?

It can be very challenging to find the right story to tell. We look to our R&D department, which we call Intel Labs. Not sure if you remember the Intel Rock Star Commercial. We showcased Ajay Bhatt, who is the co-inventor of the USB drive. There are some amazing things our engineers are doing at Intel Labs. The stories are there, we just need to find them.

Intel is a multiplatform company, and it’s also an international one. How do you create content that works across geographical and cultural boundaries? Which platforms work best for which audiences?

I’d like to address that at the B2C and B2B levels. B2B is much easier to scale, especially since our target audience is IT managers, whose challenges tend to be similar across regions. Most IT managers battle similar issues such as security threats, Windows upgrades, downtime, etc.

In addition, IT managers tend to be the no-nonsense type of guys. B2B content and creative are easy to scale.

Cultural differences play a much bigger role in B2C, especially on creative development. During the creative development and storytelling stage, we engage with geographies. From time to time, we customize multiple versions of the same content to meet different geographic needs. For example, for the Intel Rock Star commercial we have a Chinese version featuring a prominent Chinese engineer from Intel China.

Can you talk about how you’ve leveraged social media to promote Intel products around the world?

Social media is part of the overall integrated campaign, especially in North America. We leverage Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – wherever it makes sense.

Outside North America, our various regional offices need to make the call on how to leverage local social media. Social media does require subject matter expertise and some regions just do not have the resources to do that.

You were involved in creating Intel’s online IT Manager Game, a simulation of an IT professional’s average day in the office. With social games going mainstream, is it only IT professionals who are getting in on the fun or have you seen other, more surprising demographics participating as well?

IT Manager Game was first launched in May, 2006. We are currently designing IT Manager Game 4.0. The game has more than 120,000 registrants in 16 countries. There is no paid media promoting the game, so it’s been a purely viral success.

We specifically target IT professionals. The player profile: men under 40 working as IT managers or in IT support/Help desk for big, small or medium-sized companies.

You’ve said that marketing and innovation are “BFF”, but that current corporate practices of putting marketing at the end of the process often put them in more of an “it’s complicated” situation. Can you unpack this analogy for us?

All marketers can relate to this situation: A product group hands over an almost-finished product and expects last-minute marketing magic. At Intel, we follow a process called the “Marketing Life Cycle.” We move marketing upstream.

Marketing is engaged with the product group 24-36 months prior to the product release. Our marketing research and branding teams work in tandem with the product groups to provide input on product features, research and brand strategy during the product definition stage. This gives us enough time to create a comprehensive marketing strategy.

How can marketers be more like magazine editors, as you’ve suggested?

Social and search are rewriting the rules of engagement. Our audience is out there constantly searching for information and evaluating new technologies, even when they are not purchasing.

We need to engage with them on a timely basis. Most importantly, we need to engage with them on the topics they care about, yet in an authentic way. This requires some level of planning, especially when multiple marketing functions are involved.

The first step is to have an editorial calendar which rallies the different teams. Once you know what topic you would like to use to engage with your audience, the next step is to build a story that’s both relevant to your audience and your company.

In a way, it’s very similar to publishing a magazine. You have the theme for that edition, then you build stories around it.