BtoB Top Marketer: Diane Brink, IBM Corp.

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Although IBM Corp. is one of the most recognized corporate names in the world, many people don't realize all that the brand stands for, said Diane Brink, the company's VP-marketing, Global Technology Services. “We've been acquiring companies, selling companies and changing the composition of who we are,” she said. “In fact, a very significant piece of the work we do with our clients is in the area of our services capabilities.” Brink spent three years as VP-worldwide integrated marketing communications before assuming her new title in September. She said that creating specific messages regarding those service capabilities for IBM's different target audiences remains an important focus of what she does. Like many other top marketers, she has spent the past year innovating within traditional frameworks while embracing new media formats. “The whole area of digital is our biggest expenditure,” she said. “While print is a factor, it's not a major one.” For example, IBM held Innovation Jam 2008 in early October. The three-and-a-half-day event conducted through a Web 2.0 application was an effort to “create a conversation” between 40,000 IBM global employees and representatives of more than 1,000 companies across 20 different industries. It generated almost 90,000 logins representing people in 80 countries. “The intention there,” Brink said, “was not simply about acquiring new business opportunities but gaining committed parties to engage directly with IBM in order to understand what it is the audience wants and what IBM needs to do to support the themes and marketing strategies that have been initiated.” Such engagement is crucial, considering IBM markets its products and services in 170 countries. “Being meaningful to local audiences is paramount; but also having a voice and a brand proposition is just as important,” Brink said. Innovation Jam 2008 received an overwhelming response, creating opportunities for IBM to work with existing clients and engage in new partnerships. Brink said that to be successful, a marketer's value proposition and message must stay consistent across the globe. “The way you're receiving information from IBM shouldn't really be drastically different,” she said. Aligning IBM's marketing efforts with its sales channels and measuring effectiveness has helped Brink better understand the company's return on its marketing investment and gauge its brand strength. “We've become more sophisticated and more analytical, in terms of what our activities are doing for us, so I think we've got a better handle on key performance indicators now,” she said. “It's a left- and right-brain situation, with math and marketing effectively coming together.” —Daniel McCarthy
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