It's not just the size of the budgets they control that put IBM's Abby Kohnstamm, Microsoft's Bob Herbold, Intel's Dennis Carter, Compaq's Jim Garrity and Kodak's Carl Gustin atop the high-tech category. Instead, it's the power of their ideas.
The quintet offer uncannily similar views on the importance of executing simple, basic marketing principles. While technology is complex, "the best advertising is simple," Mr. Herbold says.
Ms. Kohnstamm, IBM Corp. VP-corporate marketing, last year fired IBM's bloated roster of more than 80 ad agencies and handed the entire $500 million business to Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, in the biggest account move in history. The payoff: IBM, helped mightily by its "Solutions for a small planet" campaign, is a hot brand once again.
Ms. Kohnstamm, 42, also has worked to unify IBM's brand message in packaging, trade shows and areas like sports marketing.
"We should be proud of what we stand for in people's minds: We are one of the great brands," says Ms. Kohnstamm, who joined IBM from American Express in 1993.
A global branding effort also is the epicenter of Eastman Kodak Co.'s big idea. The agency review Mr. Gustin put in place to do so, aimed at imprinting Kodak in consumers' minds as a well-rounded technology company rather than a film purveyor, was won in September by Ogilvy & Mather. The image campaign adds $50 million in incremental ad spending to the $80 million Mr. Gustin already controls.
But advertising "is a very small part of this job," says Mr. Gustin, 44. "I'm looking at emerging markets, as well as the integration of digital imaging."
The marketing emphasis is evident in his recently awarded title at Kodak, chief marketing officer, where he's charged with giving the company that unified image worldwide.
At Microsoft, the world-dominating PC software company, Mr. Herbold, 53, came aboard as exec VP-chief operating officer last November on the day the giant marketer unleashed its first global branding campaign.
Microsoft, whose estimated $200 million media budget has grown sixfold this decade, has written the rules for software marketing. Mr. Herbold, a 25-year veteran of Procter & Gamble Co., gives Microsoft the operations and advertising discipline it needs to keep on winning.
"There are two tasks," Mr. Herbold says. "One is to make sure that people recognize the name Microsoft and that it causes them to think positive things. The second task is marketing the individual products and making sure people understand their features and how they stack up vs. their competition."
Intel dominates computer chips to the same degree Microsoft reigns in software, and Mr. Carter, Intel's VP-corporate marketing, presides over a nearly $400 million global ad and co-op budget. No other chip marketer even tries to play in that league.
Mr. Carter, 44, deserves more attention for developing the idea of branding chips in the first place.
Intel historically pitched chips only to engineers, and Mr. Carter himself has a background in electrical engineering. When Intel's 386 chip failed to take off in the late '80s, Mr. Carter directed the company's first stab at consumer advertising to drive demand-the "Intel inside" logo. Today he controls a budget-including company advertising and co-op ad funds-second in the computer industry only to IBM.
"The personal computer really is the fundamental, revolutionary change in the world," Mr. Carter says. "Those of us who have participated in the industry really believe that we are involved in something that is changing everything, much like the automobile did early in this century."
Mr. Carter sold Intel on a big idea just as the PC mass market was primed to explode. Today, people often will identify their PC more by the chip inside-an Intel Pentium-than by the PC brand outside.
But PC brands do matter, if given proper care. As VP-communications, Mr. Garrity, 49, last year stood up to Intel, making Compaq the first major PC marketer to protect its brand name by telling Intel to keep its co-op cash.
"When it says Compaq on the outside, you don't need to worry about what's on the inside," proclaimed the front page of Compaq's 1994 annual report.
Last year, Compaq shot into the No. 1 position in global PC sales, a remarkable turnabout for a company that looked on the ropes three years ago with its overengineered, overpriced business PCs.
Mr. Garrity, who left IBM to join Compaq in 1992, communicated the comeback story, defining a new image for Compaq as marketer of value-priced business computers while also charting Compaq's move into the consumer field. Two years ago, Compaq wasn't in the home market; today it's one of the hottest consumer PCs.
"Our ultimate brand position is we deliver `useful innovation,' as opposed to innovation for innovation's sake," he says.
Mr. Garrity envisions Compaq as the brand buyers seek out, the benchmark for rival products.
"We want to build a demand brand," he says. "That's a lofty objective, but we're making progress.'
Michael Wilke contributed to this story.
Ad budget: $300 million
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy
Career: A 26-year Procter & Gamble executive, Mr. Herbold stunned both Cincinnati and Silicon Valley by bolting for Microsoft last fall. But it was a good match: While Bill Gates was still in high school, Mr. Herbold was taking home a doctorate in computer science. At P&G, he was computer chief, market research head, Spic & Span brand manager and finally, senior VP-information services and advertising.
Ad budget: $100 million-plus
Agency: Ammirati & Puris/Lintas
Career: Spent 20 years in sales, marketing and ad posts at IBM, leaving the then-"sinking ship" to join the Compaq turnaround team in 1992.
Ad budget: $500 million
Agency: Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide
Career: A veteran American Express marketing executive, she was recruited
to IBM in 1993 by IBM Chairman Louis V. Gerstner Jr. She promptly engineered the largest account switch in agency history.
Ad budget: $400 million globally, including co-op
Agency: Dahlin Smith White
Career: Although a Harvard MBA, his background is in electrical
engineering, useful for getting ahead in an engineering-driven Intel. Mr. Carter was working as technical assistant to President Andrew Grove when he hit on the idea of pitching chips to consumers and Intel responded by giving him the VP-marketing post.
Eastman Kodak Co.
Ad budget: $130 million
Agency roster: J. Walter Thompson USA, Ogilvy & Mather, Young & Rubicam.
Career: Recruited a year ago from Digital Equipment Corp., where he was VP-worldwide product and marketing strategy and communications. Prior to joining DEC, he worked at Apple Computer from 1988-1993, leaving as VP-worldwide communications and marketing support and responsible for the Apple Powerbook campaign. From 1974 until joining Apple, he worked for several ad agencies.