How AMD is rising to the challenge in APAC and beyond
We caught up with Virginia Loh, AMD’s marketing director for Asia Pacific and Japan, about how the company is making strides in APAC and beyond, driven by its challenger spirit and “exceptional culture.”
While chipmakers have gained immense mainstream interest this year from the explosion of generative AI, keen observers of the semiconductor industry know that AMD’s hard-won growth has been a long time coming. Under the stewardship of CEO Lisa Su, who Forbes credited with “[orchestrating] one of the great turnarounds in Silicon Valley history,” AMD has seen an incredible reversal of fortunes in less than a decade, with Brand Finance recording 379% growth for the brand since 2020 in its 2023 Global 500 rankings — proportionally higher than market leader Nvidia.
Last year, the company broadened its portfolio by acquiring adaptive computing leader Xilinx and edge computing developer Pensando, strengthening its position as a leader in high-performance and adaptive computing, powering solutions across cloud, enterprise, HPC, 5G and communication infrastructure; artificial intelligence; adaptable intelligent systems; gaming; simulation and visualisation; and smarter client services.
Exceptional culture, exceptional results
But the secret of AMD’s success isn’t just one individual or even technological innovation. At the heart of its turnaround — the chip powering the chipmaker — is an “exceptional culture” that fosters “innovation, efficiency, and a deep connection with customers,” says Virginia Loh, AMD’s director of marketing for Asia Pacific and Japan.
Virginia, who previously spent nine years at Intel, summed up the most important differentiator between AMD and their competitors in one word: agility. “The people that work in this company are highly, highly collaborative. Regional teams are given a lot of autonomy to make fast decisions in our markets,” she said.
Enabled by an ambitious challenger spirit and culture of employee empowerment, the company prides itself on championing underrepresented minorities in STEM. Fittingly, Lisa Su isn’t the only female role model at the company; there’s a strong showing of women leaders, from senior VP (marketing, HR, and investor relations) Ruth Cotter to Radeon Technologies director Laura Smith. It’s a rare feat not only in a multinational corporation, but especially within the male-dominated semiconductor industry.
The company’s drive to foster diverse talent was evident to Virginia even before joining. During her interview process, she gradually became convinced of AMD’s wider people-first culture after extensive conversations with her future colleagues.
“It’s not just the company interviewing you, right? You also want to know whether you’re lending the next stage in your career to the right company; if that’s the culture and the people that you want to work for long-term,” she enthused. At the time, AMD was still “slowly taking market share” by building up its flagship Ryzen™ processor portfolio — but even then, attrition was uncommonly low, with the average AMD career spanning from a minimum of seven years to people’s entire working lives.
Key to that high talent retention are inclusive company policies supporting individual career growth, with clear career advancement timelines and ample opportunities to lead strategic projects. For Virginia, her first major project was to build a “superstar APAC marketing team from scratch”; an intensive process requiring thorough talent mapping across diverse markets and skill sets.
“If you know this region well, it’s a very fragmented market. Look at Japan and Korea, which are considered mature markets — you can’t compare or take a uniform approach between the two because their cultures are so different,” she said. That need for flexibility, agility, and in-market knowledge has been instrumental in shaping her team, which has grown from just two people pre-pandemic to 21 strong all across Asia Pacific, each with their own individual strengths and passion points, as part of a transition to a “mega-region” model.
Passionate about empowering women in leadership positions, Virginia has “actively sought out talented women marketers” to build a team that’s not just diverse in culture, but also gender. Though she acknowledged that “managing a diverse region with different languages and legal requirements has presented challenges,” coaching, regular check-ins, and open communication channels have helped foster a collaborative and productive dynamic within the team.
Micro devices, major advancements
AMD’s culture of inclusivity and progressiveness is embodied by its brand platform, “together we advance.” One of the most successful APAC activations from the platform that exemplifies this ethos is the brand ambassadorship of famed Japanese shogi prodigy Sota Fujii.
Since 2018, the shogi player’s admiration for Ryzen processors — which he uses to plan his moves for the tactical, chess-like game — has been well-documented in the Japanese press, notably leading to mutual shoutouts from Sota and Lisa on social media and AMD sending Sota the latest Ryzen setup. This relationship is what Virginia credits with making Sota’s brand ambassadorship in 2022 “authentic and real,” but also feasible in the first place due to Sota’s personal enthusiasm for AMD.
Sota now represents AMD as their ambassador at various physical events and programmes in Japan, helping to rejuvenate conversations among AMD’s Japanese partners and customers and sparking excitement in the brand. Virginia recounted a recent trip to Japan, when a local distributor shared that a gamer inspired by Sota walked into their store to purchase the exact same AMD system used by the shogi player, in a “powerful demonstration of trust in our products.”
Another jewel in the team’s crown is the Streamer Challenge, an annual esports event that capitalises on AMD’s cachet among gamers. Spearheaded by consumer go-to-market lead (and self-professed retired gamer) Daniel Chia, the ambitious multi-market campaign was one that invited scepticism within the company before its debut, due to his plans to have it sponsored by a series of OEM (original equipment manufacturer) partners like HP, Dell, and Acer.
“I said that wasn’t possible because we had never been able to get funding support for joint marketing collaborations in the past. He sold me a dream,” laughs Virginia. Four years on, the campaign is a resounding success, attracting sponsors without fail and scooping 14 local, regional, and international marketing awards in categories like ‘Best Virtual Event,’ ‘Best Consumer Event – esports,’ and ‘Best Digital Integration.’
Instead of resting on their laurels, the team actively evolves the campaign with each edition, offering an ever-expanding experience with localised live streams, esports tournaments, user-generated contests, and interactions between streamers and fans. Through partnerships with Asus, Secretlab, Monster Energy, and Microsoft, the team brought Singapore’s first-ever AMD gaming suite to life in the Parkroyal Collection Pickering hotel, garnering significant media coverage and resulting in an impressive 880% increase in weekly gaming unit sell-outs compared to the same period last year.
The reputation for high-performance, energy-efficient CPUs that makes AMD so popular with gamers is also the reason why its chips power so many different cutting-edge projects across the globe. From one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers to award-winning visual effects platforms, AMD’s leveraged brand partnerships strategically in its mission to drive advancements.
For now, however, Virginia’s sights are set closer — namely, on facilitating “culture harmonisation” between AMD, Xilinx, and Pensando by looking into cross-segment expansion and scaling up advocacy for their customers, as well as enhancing marketing effectiveness. “In today’s market climate, we need to do more with less and that is going to be really challenging,” she said. Working across sectors towards one common initiative, the team is taking an insight-led approach to marketing in order to determine which areas warrant continued investment. “It all leads back to advancing together, because we can’t drive innovation or growth alone, and we want to enable our partners to grow and sell more. In the end, it’s all about customer centricity.”
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