Thursday, January 31, 2008

Intel's Image

Ryan at Worldchanging Business posted yesterday about Intel's new "environment" site. He commends Intel for the site's design, its inclusion of detailed information about commitments, and notes that the launch of the site is an especially meaningful move given how prominently it's featured on Intel's company home page. "Intel’s new environment site makes understanding its achievements in and goals for its impacts on the environment easy."

The commitments are important, and Ryan makes a great point about the prominence of the site, but, while I do think Intel is now presenting its information in a comparably understandable way, I don't think any list of sustainability-related achievements or goals can be truly easy to understand unless those achievements and goals are put into context. As a consumer wanting to make a choice, I want Intel to tell me exactly how they're better than the competition. If they showed me what they're doing, explained why it was more meaningful than what AMD is doing, gave me some points of comparison, and invited me to check their numbers and opinions with impartial third parties, then I'd really be impressed.

Opinions about the site and its impact and potential aside, however, does it seem weird to anyone else that it's Intel that's just launched a site like this and not HP or Apple or Dell? Intel's most well known products are processors that reach consumers as components of other brands' products. Isn't their good global citizenship image significantly less important to their financial success than the images of companies that actually sell directly to consumers?

It is true that Intel has never been afraid to spend time, money, and creativity on branding. It's still worth noting, however, that even though Intel usually stands a full link removed from the consumer in the supply chain, they' think it's important to invest big bucks in letting us know what good things they're doing for the world.

Note: My personal jury is still out on whether to support Intel. I appreciate the new site. I like that Intel, like McDonalds, is taking a leadership role in engaging consumers on social and environmental issues. But the whole One Laptop Per Child partnership fiasco gives me pause. On one hand, I do want to commend Intel for building a USD 350 laptop and distributing it to children in developing countries. On the other, I feel like I have to be suspicious, given the accusations that Intel got sneaky and tried to pickpocket market share from a non-profit partner. And then there's the fact that I like the tone of Intel's Director of Corporate Responsibility in his blog post on the subject. Hmmm. I guess I'll be staying tuned as the drama unfolds.