Poor little Qualcomm: $100 billion in market cap but nobody knows your name. At least that’s the song the company is singing in a new MIT Technology Review article today, which features Qualcomm Chief Marketing Officer Anand Chandrasekher basically begging for attention. Qualcomm is the Intel of the mobile world, after all, but without garish stickers on every PC, a two-word catchy slogan and mascots in brightly colored cleanroom suits, it doesn’t enjoy the same level of public recognition.
A multibillion dollar company whining about average people not paying it enough attention may seem the pinnacle of first-world problems, but Qualcomm has legitimate business reasons to be concerned about its profile. The fact is that brand recognition translates to consumer influence, which in turn means bargaining power when Qualcomm goes to sell its processors to OEMs. It sounds stupid and greedy, but in fact, it’s smart and greedy.
The good news for those of us watching as Qualcomm tries to emerge from the shadows and into the light is that the company seems ready to do embarrassing, amazing, splashy stupid things in order to raise its public profile. The company’s keynote at this year’s CES show in Las Vegas is a perfect example, which centered on the laughable “Born Mobile” slogan, as introduced by one of the worst on-stage attempts at play-acting in trade show history (Samsung’s Galaxy S4 show wasn’t at a trade show, so it doesn’t technically count). The Verge’s supercut accurately captures the Qualcomm CES madness in a two-and-a-half-minute clip.
And unlike Intel, which just had actors depicting engineers dress up and dance, Qualcomm is actually using engineers to try to ‘go viral.’ Last year, the company had its engineers sit down and “help brainstorm” so-called “viral video,” which resulted in gems like this surprisingly dry demonstration of phones melting butter to display heat produced by various mobile SoCs. There’s a record scratch sound effect in there, that’s how you know it’s viral.
The problem is that no one wants to be the quiet technology partner anymore, and for good reason: in consumer tech, operating behind-the-scenes is less lucrative than selling to consumers. Qualcomm is amping up its PR and marketing efforts to try to elbow out a space in the public consciousness, complete with this dragon thing apparently designed to play on people’s love of Game of Thrones, but its approach still seems a little half-baked. As far as media campaigns go, however, messy misfires are almost always more entertaining to watch than uncontested successes, so Qualcomm could get its wish, albeit in a roundabout way.