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Just added for my chapter on marketing planning, what I think is the best integrated marketing campaign ever created. – T.M.
Chapter 4 Case Study – IBM’s Smarter Planet Campaign
The vision for IBM’s “Smarter Planet” campaign was laid out in a November 17, 2008, speech by IBM chairman and CEO Sam J. Palmisano. “The world will continue to become smaller, flatter … and smarter,” he said. “We are moving into the age of the globally integrated and intelligent economy, society and planet. The question is, What will we do with that?”
The speech emphasized how the world’s systems and industries were becoming more instrumented, interconnected and intelligent, and that leaders and citizens could take advantage of this state of affairs to improve these systems and industries.
IBM is a $100B+ company with thousands of computer hardware and software products, ranging from mainframes to disk drives, databases to retail point of sale systems. A campaign had to be expansive enough to include all of them, and it had to be credible and relevant to customers.
According to Michael Paterson, creative director at Ogilvy & Mather, IBM’s agency of record, “The ‘smart planet’ thought was sparked by Palmisano’s speech, but the challenge in executing the campaign was coming up with imagery that would vividly illustrate abstract concepts. At the agency we began noodling around with ideas based on this, and one day one of our junior art directors came up with this beautiful graphic icon of a planet with little ‘think rays’ popping out of the top. It looked like the planet just got smart.
The Smarter Plantet campaign was rolled out in 2008. Ogilvy went with a concept they called “op-ads” – a takeoff off newspaper op-ed opinion pieces – that featured a provocative headline, a think-ray-inspired image, and copy that presented a viewpoint from IBM. The campaign was rolled out first to The New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
A good campaign has a theme and has the durability to last a year or more. Based on those criteria, Smarter Planet is a great campaign. As of the writing of this book, the campaign has been running for five years. It not only provides a theme, but a unique “visual vocabulary” that is instantly recognizable. Smarter Planet succeeds on a number of levels:
- Awareness – the imagery, or visual vocabulary, is immediately recognizable, unique to IBM, and the op-ad format allows room to present the IBM viewpoint
- Agenda – building on Palmisano’s speech, the campaign sets a business agenda that describes IBM’s opinion on where the industry is going.
- Motivation – part of the reason for the success of the campaign is that it is so much more than advertising. It is an ad campaign, but it was also a mandate, and a vision. The campaign works to motivate customers, employees and partners alike.
- Conversation – the campaign acts as a conversation starter for IBM’s sales reps. “We think this is a business-building platform. We know our clients are looking at this time as a time to drive transformation and change, and the prospect of making their industry smarter, we believe, couldn’t come at a better time,” said IBM’s head of corporate marketing, John Kennedy.
- Organization – IBM uses Smarter Planet not just in advertising, but in product and solution marketing. The IBM website, and the Smarter Planet microsite, neatly organize the large and diverse set of products IBM sells.
Smarter Planet won the Effie Award in 2010. The Effie Awards are the American Marketing Association’s awards program to recognize the most effective advertising efforts in the United States each year. Smarter Planet has had a measurable impact on IBM’s business. According to IBM’s marketing team, by presenting a unified vision across every IBM channel and touch-point, the campaign changed perceptions and drove a 37% increase in revenue, with a campaign that paid back media dollars 10x in profit.