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  • Carolina MIlanesi

The “Edge of Possible” Qualcomm’s First Advertising Campaign Aimed at Business Decision Makers


At the recent Qualcomm Snapdragon Tech Summit, I had the opportunity to sit down with Qualcomm's Chief Marketing Officer, Don McGuire, to discuss the impact 5G can have on society as well as the importance of marketing storytelling on technology. Last week I caught up with McGuire on a new marketing campaign Qualcomm just launched. Titled "The Edge of Possible," the campaign aims to humanize artificial intelligence (AI) and showcase its potential to improve people's lives. This is Qualcomm's first campaign targeted at business decision-makers and seeks to demonstrate the company's leadership in AI, particularly in on-device intelligence. Starring actor Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Memoirs of a Geisha and Everything, Everywhere ll at Once), the campaign will have three chapters that explore Qualcomm's story around the connected edge. This first chapter aims at humanizing AI and explaining the technology in relatable terms.

As Qualcomm diversifies its business and moves more into automotive, industrial Internet of Things (IoT), and smart cities, its audience is shifting from consumers and telcos to business decision-makers in enterprises, regulators and investors. "This is the first time we focus on Qualcomm's brand, innovation story, ecosystem reach and leadership in the connected edge. And we wanted to have a familiar face and voice and someone who we believe aligns really well with the brand," says McGuire. In order to humanize AI, it was important for Qualcomm to make the campaign relatable by having a real person rather than just using CGI or a voice over and Michelle Yeoh was just the perfect choice. She is an expert in martial arts. She has been in very tech-forward movies like her latest "Everything, Everywhere All at Once" centered around a multiverse.

Yeoh, like Qualcomm, has been in business for many years and yet, at the age of 60, she is on the rise with an Academy Award nomination, which, as a woman in ageist Hollywood, is no small thing. Yeoh was not familiar with the Qualcomm brand but got excited about getting involved. In a prepared remark, she said: "This project with Qualcomm opened my eyes to what's possible, as the AI technologies that make our smartphones smart are put into all kinds of devices, from cars to VR glasses and so much more. AI is transforming industries, including my own. This technology is changing the way we make films or even view them. It's so exciting to see the social and cultural impact these kinds of technologies can have for people around the world."

The campaign was built around Yeoh's personality and career, like the reference to her Star Trek role: "Not everyone can sit in the captain chair," to add more authenticity to her voice. This first segment of the campaign plays like a short when watched in its entirety. Still, it will be divided into shorter vignettes focused on different industries to reach a broader audience. I found the entire video, which will live on the Qualcomm website, to provide a good set of implementation examples that do not oversell AI but clearly highlight how businesses and lives will be impacted by it.

The timing and the message are important for Qualcomm because of the business diversification but also because the focus on 5G for the past few years has detracted from the overall Qualcomm brand strength and narrowed the value of the company to equate to 5G when of course the impact Qualcomm can have as a technology enabler is both broader and more critical. "Aside from the value of AI, we want this campaign to underline how, as a company, Qualcomm can combine low-power high-performance computing with the best in class connectivity and on-device intelligence to deliver a solution. These are the conversations we want to have with business decision-makers," says McGuire. What is critical here is that, like 5G, AI is a horizontal enabler that offers Qualcomm a sizable opportunity for the future.

While the long-term opportunity is clear, it is hard to think about this campaign and ignore the current political climate. As a CMO, McGuire is no stranger to tightening the belt in times of economic downturn, as marketing is usually the first item on the list to have to spend scrutinized. "I am fortunate to have a CEO, Cristiano Amon, who believes in the power of storytelling and has been very supportive of my strategy since I became CMO. That said, we are in a volatile economic environment and had to prioritize and focus," he said.

Such a prioritization might also produce a more explicit message for the audiences Qualcomm is trying to reach. McGuire said: "It drives discipline and helps us with optimization, with internal efficiencies, and making sure that we're getting the most out of every dollar we spend. Prioritization also means we are ready to move in the second half of 2023 if the economic environment does improve as the industry is expecting."

Overall, this campaign leads back to the discussion McGuire and I had at a Snapdragon Summit. Gone are the days when talking about technology for technology's sake is enough. Instead, McGuire wants to shift from talking about the speeds and feeds to how technology works for the user, whether an individual or a business. In doing so, the storytelling highlights the experience and the emotional connection between the technology and its users. As we move into the world of AI, driving the value, making the technology more accessible and transparent and creating a connection will all help drive more trust, which in turn will drive adoption. Failing to see how marketing can be a way to build trust would be very shortsighted and not a mistake McGuire and Qualcomm are going to make.

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