“Qualcomm: why you love your smartphone,” proclaims the company’s regional ad campaign, the one you may have seen on billboards, at bus stops, or on electric taxi carts around town.
Curious: an ad campaign that isn’t selling a product, except maybe Qualcomm, Inc. stock (at this writing $52.29 a share). Joe Commuter cannot — no matter how delighted he is by the thought that Qualcomm had made it so his phone is also his camera — exit at the nearest Best Buy and pick up a Qualcomm mobile device. Because Qualcomm doesn’t make mobile devices or anything else that gets sold directly to the consumer.
Nor do they make stadiums. In 1997, the company spent $18 million to put its name on San Diego’s biggest stadium for 20 years. It did wonders for brand awareness, but maybe not so much for brand recognition. When I call, the first thing Qualcomm marketing vice president Susan Lansing asks me is, “Do you know what we do? A lot of people in San Diego have heard of Qualcomm, but they think we’re in some way associated with football. I’ll get into a taxi and tell them I work at Qualcomm, and they’ll ask what it’s like working at the stadium.”
Qualcomm wants to be known, and not just for its Mira Mesa campus — neighborhood? — multifarious structures festooned with the company’s Pantone 286 Blue logo. One of Lansing’s favorite boards reads, “We’re not the name you think of when you think of smartphones, but we’re the smart behind every phone you can think of.” “It’s just a simple way for people to understand that our technology is in smartphones,” she says. “We just feel it’s helpful for people to understand what our contribution is as the creator of the fundamental technologies in the smartphone, especially with regard to 3G and 4G.”
Because how can you love someone you don’t really know? And Qualcomm definitely wants to be loved. It has nearly 2.8 million likes on Facebook and 378,000 followers on Twitter, but of course, those numbers could always be higher. And besides, the internet is a vast nothing full of strangers. They have a different campaign aimed at the wider world of “doers” and designers, one full of “what’s next” talk about smart homes, smart cities, what have you. This one is local and looks back on past glories. “The genius behind your smartphone’s smart is a San Diego native,” reads one board, tickling your civic pride and hinting at your shared history. And if you visit the website listed at the bottom, a pop-up immediately asks you to rate your overall impression of Qualcomm. If it’s anything less than “very favorable,” then you’re the target audience.
“We’re just basically creating community goodwill, frankly,” says Lansing. “I think, whether it’s a person or a company, if the meaning and the value is obscured, then it’s hard — it has the potential to lessen the value of how the company is perceived. We want our employees to feel that people understand what they do. That’s validating.” That’s love.