by September 14, 2012 0 comments

Wall Street Journal technology columnist Walt Mossberg advised consumers in his spring buyer’s guide earlier this year to wait for the “Ivy Bridge” family of chips before buying a laptop. The tacit recommendation of the company’s latest microprocessor was a positive for Intel, but also revealed a challenge for the company’s branding team.

Consumers who search for an “Ivy Bridge” chip on computer spec sheets will come up dry. What they will see instead is 3rd generation Intel Core processors — “Ivy Bridge” is the internal Intel codename. For the next family of chips, the company is trying to raise awareness for the official product name before it is launched. This is a shift from past launches, where the codename is intended to fade as the products become available. That’s why you are starting to see 4th generation Intel Core processor rather than the internal code name “Haswell” even though the products won’t launch until the second half of 2013.

Inside the tech industry and in the media use of codenames such as “Sandy Bridge,” “Ivy Bridge” and “Haswell” is widespread, but the distinction between codenames and product names can confuse consumers and in some cases generate more equity for the codename.

“No one can go to a store and buy a ‘Haswell‘ system,” said Brian Fravel who oversees Intel’s global brand strategy. “The easy thing is to use ‘Haswell’ and build equity in the codename instead of the product name. But there’s a problem with that,” he said. “When we launched ’3rd generation Core,’ Walt Mossberg said people should buy an ‘Ivy Bridge’ processor. The endorsement was great, but from a brand perspective, that wasn’t helping us at all. No one can buy an ‘Ivy Bridge’ computer.”

If it works, the shift in name usage will start inside Intel. A recent internal communiqué urged employees to use the proper brand name and not the codename whenever possible, including executive keynotes and class presentations at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.

“There’s nothing wrong with asking our speakers to first call it ’4th generation Intel Core,’ codename ‘Haswell,’” said Fravel. “No one’s saying you must say ’4th generation Intel Core’ or telling reporters it must be ’4th generation Intel Core.’”

While acknowledging there are times when the codename makes more sense to use in conversation, for instance, when talking to about the Haswell architecture, Fravel said those instances should be the exception, not the norm.

“There are good reasons to have codenames,” he said. “Typically they are created years in advance of a product launch.” However, he added, “there comes a day well before launch when we do brand name the product. From that point forward, we have the opportunity to build and reinforce the brand instead of the codename.”

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