Title: Senior VP-Marketing
Years at company: 6
Years in b-to-b marketing: 6
With a budget approaching $1 billion, IBM Corp.'s marketing chief, Abby Kohnstamm, may be the most powerful b-to-b marketer in the world. And by all accounts, she is also one of the shrewdest.
"I've characterized her as having an almost crystalline intelligence," says Steve Hayden, president of worldwide brand services on IBM Corp. at Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York.
Of course, agencies tend to say such things about their clients, but Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM's performance under Ms. Kohnstamm backs up Mr. Hayden's statement. Since Ms. Kohnstamm joined IBM in 1993, most of the news for the company has been upbeat.
Since then, for instance, IBM's market valuation has grown by $73 billion. Chairman-CEO Louis Gerstner Jr.'s reorganization of the sprawling company six years ago receives much of the credit for the share price increase. Most likely, however, the pace of that growth would have been impossible without the marketing strategy implemented by Ms. Kohnstamm.
One of her first moves was to consolidate IBM's marketing communications, which had been handled by dozens of agencies, at a single shop. In 1994, she handed all of IBM's business to Ogilvy & Mather. It was a critical step in unifying IBM's brand identity, which may be Ms. Kohnstamm's most important achievement. Today, the company's brand revolves around its nearly ubiquitous e-business campaign.
"That's a huge accomplishment, creating e-business as a phenomenon, creating that umbrella to serve as the rallying point and as a strategy that fits all the constituent parts of IBM," Mr. Hayden says.
From the "blue letterbox" campaign on television, which trumpets IBM's online expertise, to the print Global Services campaign, which points out the often-overlooked fact that IBM is the world's largest information technology services company, the execution is top notch and the message is seamless.
The services campaign, which centers around IBM's people, also supports the e-business message. "The services campaign, it's really e-businesspeople, the new personality of IBM," Mr. Hayden says.
As a company marketing e-business solutions, IBM advertises extensively on the Web, to the tune of $60 million worldwide.