Taking Transmeta from Obscurity to Celebrity
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Taking Transmeta from Obscurity to Celebrity

Transmeta labored for five years in secrecy to develop its product, which created widespread, pent up interest in the company.

Paul Holmes


The Set Up: Transmeta was an unknown semiconductor (“chip”) company whose business success hinged on establishing itself as a mainstream company with a “must have” technology solution.  Transmeta labored for five years in secrecy to develop its product, which created widespread, pent up interest in the company.

The Solution: Transmeta’s main business objectives were to launch the company, build its product brand and generate sales.  The company relied on PR as its sole method of establishing itself publicly as a leader in “convenient mobile computing.”  Ketchum developed a six-month PR program to support Transmeta’s goals.  The program focused on communicating the company’s messages to business and consumer audiences and building brand awareness for Transmeta’s chip.  Ketchum identified three objectives to achieve these goals:

— Build global brand awareness and demand for Transmeta and its chip, inciting customer partnerships.

— Maintain media interest and momentum for Transmeta from its introduction through first customer wins.

— Disseminate Transmeta’s “convenient mobile computing” positioning to Transmeta’s top-tier media in the consumer and business press.


— Analyzed the types of publications that cover chip companies.  Considered circulation, audience, publication focus and impact.  Concluded that trade press would become mired in the details of the technology rather than focusing on the consumer benefits.  Shifted focus to business and consumer press.

— From research firm IDC and through Transmeta’s focus groups, found that consumers’ three top laptop demands were ease-of-use (93%), lightweight/portability issues (82%), and high performance (80%). Developed positioning around these three features.

— Researched product launch timeline of Intel, Transmeta’s main competitor.  Discovered that Intel scheduled the debut of its rival “SpeedStep” technology for the day before Transmeta’s launch. Prepared Transmeta with SpeedStep messaging.

— Conducted media audit of Intel’s positioning on laptop computers, battery life and energy efficiency.  Examined Intel’s planned mobile product announcements and anticipated Intel’s messaging and mobile strategy.

— Researched relevant tradeshows, story angles and themes.  Developed aggressive six-month media and speaking campaign around our findings.


Based on trade press research, determined that the traditional method of launching a technology company would not achieve Transmeta’s long-term goals.  Realizing trade reporters’ comfort with and dependence on Intel’s messaging, we went straight to the business and consumer press to seed the trend of convenient mobile computing.

In response to the focus group and IDC research, framed Transmeta’s positioning around the questions “Isn’t it frustrating when your laptop dies mid-flight during a business trip?” and “Do you have a dent in your shoulder

from lugging around your 12-pound laptop?”

Strategy:  Ketchum targeted consumer media by using the following tactics.

— Developed a policy of no press or analyst pre-launch briefings in order to capitalize on the growing interest in the company and make it the industry’s “best kept secret.”

— Seeded the trend of convenient mobile computing to business and consumer press. Once the idea was accepted by mainstream influencers, we spoke with trade press about the technology.

— Created global awareness for Transmeta by holding a U.S. and European product launch.  Developed relationships with top tier media from Japan, where many major laptop manufacturers are based.

— Identified a goal of communicating Transmeta’s messaging and differentiation to 75% of the top 50 business publications.

Positioning: Transmeta is a formidable competitor to Intel as proven by the following benefits.

Energy efficient – Transmeta’s chips run cooler than other chips. Keeps your laptop - and your lap! - cool.

Long lasting – Transmeta’s technology keeps the battery running all day.

Small and lightweight – for business travelers and on-the-go consumers who appreciate thin and light laptops.


— Took the traditional technology press kit format to a consumer level, featuring eye-catching graphics, easy-to-understand technical glossaries and information on Transmeta’s executives.

— Developed video news release for distribution to worldwide media outlets. Coordinated broadcast and Web cast of launch with CNN and ZDTV, respectively.

— Onsite at launch event, registered press, staffed presentations, managed set up of broadcast crews and facilitated more than 30 interviews, including CNN, ABC News, Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

— Developed a DVD featuring broadcast clips from the launch and provided to potential customers for a sense of the U.S. launch’s impact.

— Worked with Ketchum London to coordinate a European launch. Scheduled interviews with BBC Radio, BBC Television, The Independent and ZDNet UK.

— Maintained launch intensity by working with media to write in-depth stories on Transmeta. Pitched theme stories to select media emphasizing Transmeta’s talent pool, its business model and significant design wins.  Managed cover story development with Red Herring, Upside and IEEE Spectrum, though no customer wins had yet been announced.

— Selected PC Expo, one of the industry’s most high-profile conferences, as the venue to debut Transmeta-based laptops and Internet appliances.

— Invited more than 400 media to Transmeta’s PC Expo booth. Onsite, monitored press attendance and staffed interviews including CNN and Time Digital as well as trade press such as InformationWeek and PC Magazine.


Ketchum’s PR program for Transmeta was a decided success.  In the words of Frank Priscaro, Transmeta’s director of brand development, “In terms of brand value, one measurement of Ketchum's successful effort, we remain convinced that our stock market performance -- up 115% the first day -- is an indirect but no less valuable result of Ketchum's contribution. Needless to say, Transmeta is extremely pleased with the partnership we've established with Ketchum/Silicon Valley, and look forward to our mutual continued success.”

Objective #1: Build global brand awareness and demand for Transmeta and its chip, inciting customer partnerships.

Results: In winning numerous “hot company” and “cool product” awards and achieving maximum media exposure, Ketchum helped establish Transmeta as a serious competitor to Intel, which fueled customer interest.  Between January 19, 2000 and Transmeta’s debut at PC Expo in June, Transmeta announced the following customer partnerships: Gateway/AOL, IBM, NEC, Hitachi, Fujitsu, S3, Diamond Multimedia, Sybase, AllWell,

Phoenix, and FIC.

Objective #2: Maintain media interest in Transmeta from its introduction through first customer wins.

Results: Media interest in Transmeta was sustained through strategically placed feature stories, controlled information dispersal, and carefully timed patent announcements.  Even during the month of March when Transmeta was concentrating on product development and not on media, Transmeta received 61 print and online

media hits.

Objective #3: Disseminate Transmeta’s “convenient mobile computing” positioning - lighter, cooler and longer - to Transmeta’s top-tier media in the consumer and business press.
Results: Our coverage analysis showed that Transmeta’s key messages of lighter, cooler and longer-running laptops penetrated 90% of the top 50 business publications, as cited by Dow Jones News Service.

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