Close-up with Nigel Dessau, CMO, AMD

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Nigel Dessau, who has served as senior VP-CMO at chip-maker AMD for just over a year, has been focused on doing more with less in a down economy.

Dessau has more than 20 years of technology marketing experience, previously serving as senior VP-storage marketing at Sun Microsystems. He also spent 19 years at IBM Corp., during which time he led the marketing strategy for its e-business and On Demand Business platforms.

In the following interview with BtoB, Dessau talks about how AMD is using social media and other cost-effective marketing programs to engage its target audience and compete with larger competitors.

BtoB: How is the economy impacting your marketing budget this year?

Dessau: As with many other businesses, the state of today's economy has forced us to take a hard look at our investments and closely manage the programs we choose to advance. This has meant having to do more with less, and with a closer eye on efficiency in all we do. However, this has also given us the opportunity to re-evaluate the status quo.

BtoB: How are you finding ways to do more with less?

Dessau: AMD is in a unique position because we're faced with directly taking on our competitor [Intel], yet we have a much smaller budget and fewer resources. This pushes us to rely more on high-ROI activities and less on expensive initiatives such as traditional TV or print advertising. Using free and universally available social media tools leverages my team's existing core competencies and helps amplify the impact of our other traditional marketing programs. We are also very honed in on our focus—marketing to the “processor-aware.” For us, this is a finite universe of about 25 million people. When we pursue new channels such as social media, we still need to be keen on the audience for each channel and constantly challenge ourselves with the question “Is this reaching the processor-aware market?”

BtoB: What are you doing with social media?

Dessau: We are continuing to place a greater focus this year on social media and are building out some of our programs around video, blogs, Twitter, Spiceworks and LinkedIn. Video in particular has taken off over the last nine months, and we've been able to use our AMDUnprocessed YouTube channel successfully to deliver “technology-in-action” videos and also host contests. This year is AMD's 40th anniversary, so we're rolling out a series of contests to give back to our dedicated fans, using primarily social media channels as the platform for this. We've just completed the video-submission contest arm of the program through YouTube; and, in the next phase, we're planning to use Twitter.

BtoB: What are the challenges for marketers that want to use social media?

Dessau: To use social media effectively, you have to have a very strong sense of what is and is not social media. At a minimum, social media is a two-way conversation that emphasizes relationship-building with your audience and customers. It's a means of spreading messages and influence, and something that should be equally applied across all corners of your brand. On the flip side, social media is not just a new way of push marketing. For us, it's not just a Facebook or blog strategy alone. And it's not just for business-to-consumer marketing. We have a thriving online community with our partners and enterprise customers who appreciate the value of having AMD employees openly addressing issues and listening to customer feedback. I use my blog not as a place to just push out content but as a platform to discuss and engage with AMD's partners, customers and enthusiasts.

BtoB: How do you blend social media with traditional marketing programs?

Dessau: We ensure that we take an integrated approach with social media. It's not just an add-on or afterthought but an integral part of our marketing campaign.

BtoB: What types of traditional media programs are you using?

Dessau: We are continuing to leverage many traditional media outlets to support our product marketing efforts, but we are trying to go about it in a meaningful and measurable way. This means that all the advertising that we do is tied to specific success metrics so that we can make the most out of our investments. We do have finite marketing resources, but we recognize that advertising is a very important part of the overall marketing mix. So we are running concentrated and focused advertising campaigns throughout the year on key products and new offerings. An example of this would be the server campaign that we currently have running on targeted IT business and technical decision-maker sites. We are also complementing these traditional marketing methods with our social media efforts and PR efforts.

BtoB: What about events?

Dessau: While the economic downturn has had an impact on our overall marketing strategy as it has for many companies, our event presence is something we've been assessing for several years. We are constantly evaluating our presence at industry events to optimize our activities and decide on the ones that are vital for us to participate in each year. For example, to keep costs down but still drive awareness, we may have a presence at an event through a speaking spot or by hosting a reception, but not a booth.

We don't traditionally hold yearly customer or user conferences; instead, we focus our efforts on participation in partner and industry events such as CES. We use these industry events to launch new products, provide forthcoming product demonstrations and conduct customer meetings. Customer intimacy is a critical component of our approach toward events and is a core tenant of our overall marketing strategy. Typically we will have product executives and sales managers alike leverage events to meet with customers.

BtoB: Are you seeing a return on your social media efforts?

Dessau: Yes, we measure our investment using tools like Radian 6, which tracks online conversations and shows us which messages are having the most impact with our audience. We do monthly blog traffic reporting to investigate the topics that get the most interest and the sites that bring us the most referrals. We then use this knowledge to shape the way we plan our social media programs moving forward. The great thing about social media is that you can have all these very detailed metrics on the success of your program. If your YouTube video gets 40,000 views in a day, you can easily see it's an overwhelming success. However, if your video gets three views in a week, that is also very apparent, too. It forces you to constantly evaluate and innovate.

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