IBM's New Road to CMOs Goes Through Developers

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Bob Lord was named IBM's first chief digital officer earlier this year.
Bob Lord was named IBM's first chief digital officer earlier this year.

In an effort to capture the attention of the CMO, IBM is going after the CJD -- "common Joe developer."

The marketing push comes not long after Big Blue found its first chief digital officer in Bob Lord, an ad vet who was previously president at AOL and CEO at Razorfish. He said most developers have the ear of CMOs and chief information officers, an audience that IBM wants to capture for its business services.

Those same developers are mostly unaware of IBM's offerings, instead using products from competitors such as Amazon or Salesforce, according to Mr. Lord.

"Developers don't view IBM as something they would use," he said. "My job is to really go after and unleash IBM's products and services to the startups, entrepreneurs and 'common Joe' developers. That is where our competition is really showing up."

"It's a pivot for us, a big pivot, and we're putting a lot of energy around that," he added. "The CMO and CIO are looking toward their developers to influence the buy right now, and they're choosing different cloud servers than IBM because they don't know IBM has a very prominent and successful cloud service."

Mr. Lord said IBM's draw in appealing to the developers is Watson, its "internet of things" offerings and data services.

"I have a whole developer ecosystem that's reporting to me," he said. "We are tripling the amount of money we are putting there, and the amount of people we are putting there on a worldwide basis."

The move has also prompted IBM to launch Think Marketing, a content news site of sorts that took some cues from the Huffington Post, Mr. Lord says.

On the back end, Think Marketing will be powered by Watson, matching news with education pieces focused on software-as-a-service products. Watson will make recommendations based on what a person is reading; someone who reads an article on Pokemon Go, for example, may later read stories about how IBM is helping the video game industry in fields like big data or analytics.

"I think the perception of the marketplace is we're not as accessible but we should be and we are accessible," Mr. Lord said. "We have the tools, and they are very accessible, but the challenge I have right now is educating the developer community on how Watson can help them achieve that."

Mr. Lord says a cultural shift is also happening within his team, which is now testing more than a dozen different ideas to see which ones can attract new clients. Those that make the cut will eventually be scaled globally. "We want to be agile, move more quickly," he said.

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