Commentary: FX Marketing

Trading enthusiast mind share for consumer sales

AMD - logoAMD’s (NYSE:AMD) marketing has been the center of much community ire as of late. Issues like the mismatch between expectations for, and the actual performance of, its FX series CPU have cost AMD dearly in terms of credibility in the enthusiast community. Despite this, rumors have been floating around that sales of AMD’s FX CPU have actually met their targets. With sales targets at around ten percent of revenue AMD’s sales reps are definitely worthy of some praise for managing to convince OEMs to adopt the arguably minor improvement that the FX series represents over the older Phenom II branded processors. But the way that AMD is marketing its long awaited “Bulldozer” is bothering me.

Let review the background first. I’m sure that you all know about the performance issues of AMD’s FX series CPUs which have been widely covered. A recent Tom’s Hardware article confirmed that AMD was unable to make good on its promises of significantly improved efficiency over the last generation of AMD CPUs. Saying that, “We’re pretty sure something went wrong along the way.” So now that we’re all firm on the general feeling of meh that the FX series of processors engender let’s get back to the way AMD’s marketing them.

“Unlock and load.” Okay, overclocking and gun references, doing good… “Blow away the competition…” Hmm, I doubt any of the reviewers that have FX-8150’s and I5-2500K’s running side by side would say that Intel got blown away… “…with the unrestrained power of an AMD FX processor.” More than silly internet memes though, it’s really hard to take this ad seriously because of how out of touch that statement is with the competitive landscape that AMD is trying to navigate.

With the Phenom II series AMD didn’t tell us that it’s ~$250 CPU blew away with competition with unrestrained performance. Instead they offered a product that, while often slower than their Intel based competition, offered more cores, unlock-able cores, and pricing that made those processors a strong value proposition. Admittedly, this ad gets better as it goes along. These CPUs are fully unlocked and arguably their pricing is competitive. Although, it’s a bit of a stretch to call the performance levels of the FX series aggressive. And as far as “lighting fast responsiveness” goes, pretty much any semi-modern desktop computing platform will offer that if you drop an SSD into it. So basically what we’re left with is an ad that turns off anyone that bothered to read a review of AMD’s FX and then proceeds to some give actual reasons to buy it only after the point that everyone would have quit reading it anyway. *Sigh*

Credit - Newegg

This is not to say that AMD marketing efforts for FX processors is worse than its campaign for the old Phenom II. On the contrary the red, black, and white color scheme is a keeper. But AMD really needs to treat its enthusiast customer base with more respect. The overclocking events and give aways are great tools to build momentum and customer support, but white washing the competitive situation with increasingly flashy buzz words is taking a short term gain at the expense of building long term trust. Is this the right way to make the best of tough competitive position? In my opinion no. But obviously someone at AMD thinks that it is, and I hope for the sake of AMD’s long term CPU business that they did their homework.S|A

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Thomas Ryan is a freelance technology writer and photographer from Seattle, living in Austin. You can also find his work on SemiAccurate and PCWorld. He has a BA in Geography from the University of Washington with a minor in Urban Design and Planning and specializes in geospatial data science. If you have a hardware performance question or an interesting data set Thomas has you covered.