IBM at 100: Insights into Propelling a Brand into the 21st Century

Kevin Bishop Vice President, IBM ExperienceOne, Customer Engagement Solutions and lead for IBM’s Centennial.

The following is an abstract of the IBM presentation at The Corporate Anniversary Forum.

Three years prior to IBM’s Centennial, senior management spent a 6 months in a THINK phase.  The anniversary allowed them to take a step back from the day to day and probe deeply to find the essence of IBM’s true character.

IBM invited 3 journalists to discuss and debate the substance of what IBM is about beyond their products and they spoke with clients that had been with them for 100 years to understand why. One of the insights that emerged was that the Centennial was about their people and their culture, which supported Lou Gerstner’s belief that ”culture trumps strategy every time.”

The Centennial was not a past agenda but a platform for accelerating IBM’ future while maintaining fidelity with what IBM aspires to be.

The Centennial committee engaged in professionally lead workshops to begin to crafting their story, shaping strategy and building their plan and out of these conversations emerged the core organizing idea and campaign, which became, Smarter Planet.

Three themes drove their Centennial:

  1. Reinventing the Modern Corporation
  2. Pioneering the Science of Information
  3. Making the World Work Better.

IBM chose to do 7 major Centennial elements really well, each having deep strategic intent.

  1. Icons of Progress. 100 beautifully themed icons were deigned each depicting an IBM innovation that helped shape a Century.  These icons were used as a rich online engagement tool.
  2. THINK Exhibit. Interactive public exhibit at Lincoln Center which explored how the world works and how to make it work better.
  3. Making the World Work Better was a book distributed worldwide to stakeholders and available for purchase.
  4. Films. Three films were created, including: 100×100, IBM Centennial Film, by documentary filmmaker Errol Morris. Over 1M YouTube views.
  5. Celebration of Service. Giving back was a major focus and was tied to the Smarter Planet theme. An unprecedented 80% of their workforce volunteered over 3 million hours in 120 countries to help people in need.
  6. Thought Leadership. IBM brought together established and upcoming leaders to conduct 50 global lectures and discussions under the theme of Ideas that Shaped a Century. They explored critical topics that impact our planet now and into the future.
  7. THINK: A Forum on Leadership, a 2-day event which took place at Lincoln Center and culminated with their Centennial Celebration event.

In Summary, Kevin Bishop reminded the attendees to:

  • Define the strategic intent
  • Focus on reality not perception
  • Build constituency across audiences
  • Create deep content
  • Fully leverage each media genre
  • Humanize the story
  • Drive lasting engagement on a global scale
  • The anniversary will be the biggest tool from which to engage customers, employees and the world.

Interview with Kevin Bishop at The Corporate Anniversary Forum