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John Kennedy,VP-corporate marketing, IBM Corp.

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Title: VP-corporate marketing
Company: IBM Corp.
Years in current job: less than 1
Quote: IBM's Smarter Planet initiative is “really a platform for the company overall, and the marketing is one component of it.”

Amid last fall's financial crisis, IBM Corp. couldn't think of a better time to launch its Smarter Planet global initiative, an optimistic campaign that shows how the company's technology and services can help the world become a more efficient, greener and better place.

“It was a hopeful message for the world at large,” said John Kennedy, VP-corporate marketing, who oversees all of IBM's global branding and marketing programs. “The world is getting smaller and flatter,” he added, giving a nod to Thomas Friedman's 2005 book “The World Is Flat,” and saying it's a perfect time for governments and businesses to prepare for the future by building more-efficient systems.

IBM Chairman-CEO Sam Palmisano kicked off the campaign last November with a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations. The company then followed up with a series of 28 “Op-Ads,” editorial-like weekly ads that ran in major national newspapers. Topics included how technology can improve the electricity grid and how it can also help the health care, retail, oil and gas, and transportation industries.

In January, IBM launched a campaign created by Ogilvy & Mather that included TV, print, out of home and online. “We were clarifying who IBM was and the role it can play” in global issues, Kennedy said.

“We saw this trend of greater instrumentation through the world's systems,” he said, noting the widespread use of transistors and sensors across industries. “We are being connected in new ways.” For instance, there are about 30 billion radio-frequency identification tags currently being used that allow hospitals, for instance, to easily collect information on patients—just one way that health care is being revolutionized, he said.

In the first stage of the Smarter Planet campaign, IBM set the overall agenda; in the second stage, it focused on how specific industries (such as banking and retail) can become smarter. In the third phase, now under way, it's focusing on how cities can better manage everything from water and sewer systems to health care and traffic.

"This year more than half of the world's population lives in cities,” Kennedy said, noting that percentage is expected to mushroom to 70% by 2050. To help bring its messages to life, IBM is holding SmarterCities summits around the globe. The first took place in Berlin in June; the second, this month in New York.

Also as part of the Smarter Planet program, IBM is addressing the challenges companies face in managing massive amounts of data being generated in this new, information era. The company has launched a Business Analytics and Optimization division, among other initiatives, to help businesses be smarter and more predictive with the data they collect.

“The [Smarter Planet] campaign has exceeded our expectations with the level of activity and engagement, particularly in the blogging community,” Kennedy said. It has also helped change people's perceptions of IBM from that of just a hardware company, he said.

—P.R.

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