Dear Colleagues:

I had the privilege of moderating an event for the Procter & Gamble Alumni Association, New York Chapter, “A Global Branding Showcase” at which IBM's Ann Rubin spoke. Ann discussed IBM's Smarter Planet strategy, which the company launched earlier this year. It is a fascinating integration of market positioning and product definition with huge implications for those companies, governments and other large institutions, along with their customers, that select IBM as their business partner.

The brand positioning was so compelling, that I devote this entire issue of Marketing Coach to an introduction of IBM's Smarter Planet strategy. I've included several case studies to give you a taste of what big brand thinking can do to transform a company, and position one's services as able to address business and public policies and practices that can change the world.



IBM Brands Smarter


Ann Rubin, Director of Advertising at IBM, credits their CEO, Sam Palmisano, with shaping the Smarter Planet strategy that has reshaped everything that the company does. This is the company's brand and the essence of the services that it provides to its customers. According to Rubin, the strategy states the difficulties that exist around the world and in individual organizations, captures the business opportunity, brings the creative together and mobilizes employees to deliver.

Smarter Planet expresses three "I"s. The world is and needs to best leverage the ways it is instrumented, interconnected and intelligent -- all to create progress: operational changes and improvements to the way business, government and all institutions operate.

When rolling out this strategy, IBM's global branding team had to enable 50 countries. They built a strategy and training and went on the road to guide colleagues on how sales personnel will speak with their customers in their country in a way that is relevant to customers of that country. They held 3 day workshops to teach employees how to talk about and implement the brand.

All IBM local market organizations worldwide have the ability to create their own sales and public relations communications if they choose, provided they meet three criteria: They 1) look like, 2) sound like, 3) perform like...IBM.

IBM published a series of "OpAds" to launch the strategy in the Wall Street Journal. Each spoke to thought leaders (at major companies and organizations) to get them thinking about ways that their systems could be better. Examples used in these ads and throughout IBM's marketing have ranged from traffic and healthcare to food and water. In every advertising country, IBM regional offices were asked to translate and change some of the examples to local references, while keeping global examples and perceptive.

Since the word "smart" did not have the same implication every language, especially in some emerging markets, appropriate words, concepts and messages were selected to introduce the company in an appropriate approach.


Smarter Chocolate


In the past several years, the cocoa industry has been hit with a series of destructive fungal diseases that have cost the world's growers an estimated US$700 million in losses every year.

IBM Research, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Mars, Incorporated are teaming up to safeguard the world's chocolate supply and help the agricultural community worldwide. Through their collaboration, they hope to sequence the genome that makes cocoa, the key ingredient of chocolate. Researchers plan to use IBM's computational biology technology and expertise to develop a detailed genetic map, identifying the specific genetic traits that produce higher cocoa plant yields and resist drought or pests.

But like any sweet treat, the results of this research will be better when shared. Mars will make the genome information available for free through the Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture (PIPRA), which supports agricultural innovation for both humanitarian and small-scale commercial purposes.

Cocoa hasn't enjoyed the same research focus as other major crops such as corn, wheat and rice. But it's a powerful driver in the world's agricultural marketplace. 70% of the world's cocoa is produced in Africa, making the product a cornerstone of life on the continent. And while cocoa is not a major crop in the United States, for every dollar of cocoa imported, between one and two dollars of domestic agricultural products are used in the manufacture of chocolate products.


Smarter Traffic


Traffic congestion is a vexing problem felt by residents of most urban areas. Stockholm, Sweden is a city 14 small town-sized islands, where citizens can stroll across short car and pedestrian bridges, and boats slowly navigate through the archipelago. But traffic congestion has been a growing aggravation here for years, with over half a million cars traveling into the city every weekday.

Road building cannot keep pace with the increased demand, and the environment wouldn't be able to sustain the impact. Authorities in cities across the world have encouraged people to make greater use of public transport, but still the bottlenecks get worse. So a few years ago, the Swedish National Road Administration and the Stockholm City Council set out to find another way to reduce both the number of traffic jams in Stockholm and its air pollution levels.

With help from IBM, the solution they came up with was an innovative, high-tech traffic charging system that directly charges drivers who use city center roads during peak business hours. The hope was that this pilot project, which launched in January 2006, would encourage more people to leave their cars behind and use public transportation instead, thereby improving the urban environment in Stockholm, particularly in air quality.

As part of the project, 18 roadside control points located at Stockholm city entrances and exits were set up to identify and charge vehicles depending on the time of day-higher during peak times, lower during off peak hours. Drivers can install simple transponder (RFID) tags that communicate with receivers at the control points and trigger automatic payment of road use fees. Once a vehicle passes a roadside control point during designated congestion hours, it is recognized by the transponder that is read by sensors and the owner is charged a fee.

For vehicles without transponders IBM Research developed a sophisticated recognition system -- optical character recognition software -- that uses algorithms to make a second attempt at identifying unclear license plate images.

The road charging system had an immediate impact on congestion and overall quality of life for the citizens of Stockholm. By the end of the trial, traffic was down nearly 25 percent and train and transit passengers increased by 40,000 a day. What's more, the reduction in traffic led to a drop in emissions from road traffic by eight to 14 percent in the inner city; and greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide fell by 40 percent in the city.


Smarter Grains


Rice is the main food staple of more than half the world's population. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 20% of the total food energy intake for every man, woman, and child in the world comes from rice. So what if food technology could make rice-a dietary staple for most of the world-a stronger crop that is more nutritious?
The Computational Biology Research Group at the University of Washington has developed state of the art software that studies the protein structures of rice. But with 30,000 to 60,000 different structures, a couple or even a dozen computers couldn't take on this task.

The researchers plugged into IBM's World Community Grid. With the processing power of 167 teraflops, the World Community Grid can harness the donated and otherwise unused power from nearly one million individual PCs. Using the Grid, the project can be completed in less than two years-as opposed to over 200 years using more conventional computer systems.

©2009 Ivy Cohen Corporate Communications, Inc.