TV, Print, Interactive
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– Click links on ‘innovation’ tab to see print or interactive campaigns. [Warning: The Adobe file on the Print tab will attempt to display a .pdf of the 16-page Wall Street Journal advertising supplement - and may paralyze your computer in the process]
Corporate leaders, business process managers and IT Managers
* (TV)/ ? (Print)/*** (Interactive)
This IBM campaign deviates from the ‘Help Desk’ Model to talk about deeper needs and deeper solutions. The campaign includes a tv spot, a print campaign which began with a 16-page Wall Street Journal supplement and has an online component including an interactive website.
The television spot is a radical departure for IBM – and vaguely similar to the new spot from Microsoft. It opens with a view of a factor that looks like an oil refinery, highlighted against a deep blue sky. As the camera closes in on the factory, we see blue flowers streaming from the smokestack, falling into the foreground. “I’m Not Like Everybody Else,” from the Kinks plays in the background. Then the flowers start falling on Manhattan, into the individual streets and past skyscrapers. They blow across a river into an office where people are working in cubicles. An elevator door opens and the people inside are lipsynching the lyrics from the Kinks. Then we see various other workers in other settings also lipsyching the song, including commuters at a train station, a doctor doing rounds and Japanese businessmen at dinner. As the pace of the song increases and the scenes from different cities move with increasing rapidity we see the words “What Makes You Different?” superimposed on the scene. Then, “What Makes You Unique?” Over a view of the Chrysler building we see “What Makes You Special?” Finally, against a long shot of Manhattan and the Empire State building we see the IBM logo.
IBM explains the rationale behind the campaign (courtesy, IBM):
As a study unveiled earlier this month by IBM Business Consulting
Services indicates, 65% of the world’s top corporate CEOs declared that
due to pressures from competitive and market forces, they plan to
radically change their companies in the next two years.As they contemplate this radical change, only 20% of CEOs recognize that
they have been highly successful in such endeavors in the past. In
driving this change, the study found that CEOs are looking beyond growth
through new products and services. They are increasingly focused on
innovation in their business models and operations as key mechanisms for
CEOs stated that approximately two-thirds of their efforts are now
targeted at business model and operational innovation. Furthermore,
fully 61% of CEOs who have a primary focus on business model innovation
fear that changes in the business model of a competitor could likely
result in a radical change to the entire landscape of their industry.
Finally, a word from IBM on the new spot that highlights this campaign (also courtesy, IBM):
IBMâ€™s new integrated marketing campaign illustrates how innovation that
matters is the key to getting and staying special and why IBM is the
company most capable of helping clients create value and competitive
advantage through innovation.
The advertising campaign provides an opportunity to tell the entire IBM
story. It is not only IBMâ€™s technology leadership but its business
leadership, and the ability to integrate both of those to provide real
value to clients.
One goal of the campaign is to cut through the clutter of innovation
messages from other companies because IBMâ€™s view is, in fact, quite
different. Innovation is very different from product invention. The
iPod is cool, but no one goes to Apple to help their company become more
innovative. Another goal is to create differentiation for IBM and make
it harder for competitors to respond to the capabilities that we have.
Now that everyone is talking about On Demand, itâ€™s time for IBM to set
itself apart again.
It is important to understand that the campaign is NOT seeking position
IBM as â€œthe most innovative company.â€ The entirety of the advertising
is about the end result for the customer, and the campaign will feature
IBM clients prominently. The advertising stresses that while every
company does things differently, there is one thing that can make any
company special. It is the one thing that IBM understands better than
any other company in the world: Innovation is the key to getting and
We could not review the print portion of this campaign as IBM’s Adobe application froze two of our computers and we were too fearful to attempt it with a third.
The interactive work for this campaign is compelling. The website integrates the thematic elements from the television spot (blue flowers, color scheme) and provides solid case studies as well as podcasts and reports for the CEO or business leader looking to spark innovation in her company. This site solidly conveys some of the brand benefits of working with IBM and makes the value proposition clear.
The television spot itself is another example of very, very beautiful advertising. The cinematography is exquisite, the Kinks song is electric and the effect of the lipsynching working masses is chilling. As entertainment, this spot grabs our attention and doesn’t let go. We particularly like the puzzling and mesmerizing effect of the floating blue flowers.
It is a strange week indeed when both IBM and Microsoft take a sudden turn into the Twilight Zone from an advertising strategy perspective. While the interactive portion of this campaign looks well-thought and sensible, the television spot completely boggles us.
This advertising blog searched in vain for a selling proposition, or even brand positioning in this spot. We asked ourselves the question – will this spot build new client relations for IBM? And the question – will this spot build the IBM brand? Unfortunately, we had to conclude that the answer to both questions was ‘NO’.
Here is our thinking on this spot by the numbers:
- Unclear Brand Message: Watch this spot carefully about 11 times and you will see that it is a comment on conformity. It attempts to show people who want to be unique but are not. Or perhaps they are, but only on the inside. What is the brand message here? It is clear that IBM wants people to think of themselves as special, but IBM does not show us an escape path here. The brand has not empowered people in this spot to change or transformed them in any way. Just as with the Microsoft spot, this spot seems to show us what already exists (albeit in an interesting, eye-grabbing way).
- Weak Branding: The lack of a clear value proposition for IBM leads us to suspect that this is really image advertising in disguise. That what IBM is really trying to do here is associate themselves with these hip, beautiful, cool images. Unfortunately, the IBM branding here is almost invisible. In fact, the only connection to IBM in this entire spot comes during the last few seconds as the IBM logo flashes up. That is even less than we saw in the Microsoft spot.
- Generic Category Benefit: While Microsoft pegs the most important factor in the success of a business as ‘People’, IBM believes it is ‘innovation.’ Frankly, we do not really understand this from the television spot. Even if we assume that the print work we have not seen effectively makes this connection, we are left with a generic category benefit for any business-process consulting or IT consulting company. Even the IBM press release (above) states that the campaign is not positioning IBM as ‘The Most Innovative Business’. So IBM is essentially telling us that innovation is a good thing and they do a good job of helping companies build innovation – even though they make no claim to being the most innovative consultants. This is an incredibly weak brand positioning.
- Questionable Media Selection: As with Microsoft, we have to question the wisdom of trying to reach a relatively small and very elite group of corporate decisionmakers (many of whom do not even watch television) through expensive prime-time television advertising. Undoubtedly, IBM has been convinced that nothing can make the splash of network television ads and they were looking for press coverage in addition to the direct effect of the media. But there are so many better ways to reach this target that we must question the use of the tens of millions of dollars to shoot and air this gorgeous but pointless commercial.
Branding Bottom Line:
IBM takes a dive into the deep blue and forgets to come up for air.