IBM’s Marketing VP Dishes on Its First Major Brand Campaign in a Decade

Posted on by Kaylee Hultgren

On the heels of IBM’s spinoff of its managed infrastructure services business, Kyndryl, the 110-year-old tech company has launched its first significant brand campaign in more than a decade. Dubbed “Let’s Create,”  the multi-phased initiative highlights a new focus on hybrid cloud and AI. We spoke with Joe Rivas, Vice President of Marketing at IBM, about the motivation behind the campaign, the brand’s new direction and how it’s harnessing creative technologists to help convey that message.

Chief Marketer: What’s the inspiration behind IBM’s “Let’s Create” campaign? Why did you decide to do a significant brand campaign after more than a decade?

Joe Rivas, Vice President of Marketing, IBM: Creativity has always been part of IBM’s DNA—every day we find ways to reimagine what is possible for our clients. “Let’s create” was a way to reinforce and reintroduce our mission and who we are, but also emphasize creativity. We wanted to introduce the world to the fresh, modern IBM, that IBMers and clients and partners experience every day. Today’s environment requires speed and nimbleness to encourage and execute innovation. We believe “Let’s create” embraces these challenges and invites our clients and partners to co-create with IBM toward first-of-a-kind solutions.

The “Let’s create” campaign spotlights the importance of creativity, often seen as the currency of business today. Creativity has been cited as a critical component in developing solutions to address the increasingly complex and interconnected challenges facing our business, our clients and the world.  According to a Forrester survey, companies that have creative leaders grow 2.6 times faster than their peers, while three in four employees at firms operating under a hybrid model say creativity is now a requirement in their day jobs.

And as companies of all shapes and sizes look to digitally transform everything from their business models to their customer experience, creativity is essential in imagining how technology can be applied to business in new, more innovative ways.

CM: Who is the target audience for this?

JR: Our target audience is made up of business and technology decision makers, globally. And not just the decision makers of today, but the decision makers of tomorrow, who are growing into these leadership roles within their organizations.

CM: How is this a departure from previous brand iterations?

JR: At its core, IBM has always been about one thing: applying new technologies to help our clients solve their biggest and most important problems. “Let’s create” underscores our strategy and commitment to lead in innovation, development and application of advanced technologies on behalf of clients, partners and the world, driven by creativity.

Creativity isn’t a new idea for IBM. This campaign reiterates how IBM strives to lead in discovering, designing and developing the most advanced information technology. We don’t see it as a change to our mission or thinking, just expanding existing strategies and core values.

CM: How are you marketing it to customers?

JR: In the last two years, the pandemic has driven a dramatic shift in content and media consumption behaviors. In response to that, we’ll be putting more focus on creating rich content that both entertains and educates our target audiences about IBM and our work. We are also exploring other formats and channels for content such as podcasts and other audio platforms.

CM: IBM recently spun off its managed infrastructure services business. How is the campaign related to that?

JR: Following the Kyndryl spinoff, we doubled down on hybrid cloud, AI and our consulting expertise. IBM today is more strategically focused, technologically capable and financially sound, and this new campaign highlights and brings these core capabilities to life.

CM: Who are the “new creators” you will focus on for part three of the campaign, and in what way will you deliver that?

JR: The new creators are individuals and teams leveraging technology to create everything from new business models and ways of working, to new solutions and customer experiences. They are CIOs, CTO’s, developers, data architects and business leaders—people who apply a combination of technology and creativity to solve business problems and transform their organizations. Our goal is to highlight and celebrate these “creators” and the work they are doing every day.

CM: Speaking of the industry generally, what are the top trends on your radar in B2B marketing?

JR: Increased personalization and hyper-targeting. Brand personalization enables B2B brands to stand out. Smart marketing intersects who and where our partners and clients are, what they need and how we (IBM) can uniquely fulfill that need. Increasingly personalized marketing lands consistency, clarity and precision to the audiences that we understand acutely, and cuts out the noise.

And cross-platform engagement strategies. A cross-channel, client-centric strategy taps classic platforms like Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, in addition to the “newer” creative platforms like Reddit, Discord, TikTok and others, when appropriate. B2B brands today have more opportunity than ever to meet their audiences where they are with relevant content and experiences custom-designed for the behaviors of each respective platform while also keeping an eye toward integrating these channels together into a consistent brand experience.

CM: Discuss the importance of brand for a B2B company today. How do you measure it?

JR: In the highly complex and increasingly competitive market of technology infrastructure, software and services, one could argue that brand is more important than ever. Brand is the sum total of the perceptions and beliefs that exist of your company and capabilities. As industries like technology increase in importance and investment, your reputation, perceptions of trust and expertise and the knowledge of your offering must all be strong enough to be included in the initial consideration set of both potential clients and partners.

Moreover, most B2B companies operate in industries where the battle for talent has become a top corporate priority and more competitive than ever before, and brand perception plays a central and irreplaceable role in both talent attraction and retention over time.

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