BtoB's Best Marketers: John Kennedy, IBM Corp.

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John Kennedy, a 15-year IBM veteran, this year led the company's centennial celebration with marketing efforts that have included a computer showdown on the game show “Jeopardy!”; the continuation of the “Smarter Planet” initiative; and new social media programs. IBM partnered with “Jeopardy!” in February to showcase a competition between Watson, a supercomputer it developed that processes natural language, and two former “Jeopardy!” champions. Watson won the challenge, but Kennedy said that's only the beginning of how IBM can leverage the effort. “First and foremost, Watson was a research accomplishment,” he said. “It was a very exciting and compelling breakthrough technologically—the ability to understand natural language.” Second, he said, “From a communications and branding standpoint, it was a way to engage our customers to talk about the power of analytics and our ability to build out systems based on vast amounts of data.” IBM is using videos and other information about Watson on its website, in social media programs and in other marketing channels to communicate with customers, as well as reach new audiences. Also this year, Kennedy oversaw the continuation of “Smarter Planet,” IBM's business platform and marketing campaign that shows how it is helping to make the world work better through intelligent, connected systems. As part of the campaign, IBM introduced a new concept it called “smarter computing,” which showcases IBM's solutions for computer systems based on handling massive amounts of data and managed in the cloud. “We used virtually every media platform, from traditional media to the latest techniques,” Kennedy said. “We are pushing ourselves more and more in the owned and earned media space.” —K.M.
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