Chris Reed
Dec 16, 2014

Why can't brands like IBM do a better job at marketing themselves?

I recently chaired a B2B Marketing conference in KL and we had the marketing director of IBM do a very interesting presentation. Before he did this he asked everyone in the room whether they thought IBM was cool or not. Out of 100 people only one said yes.

Why can't brands like IBM do a better job at marketing themselves?

Then he did a presentation where he explained all the different companies and brands that IBM were either responsible for or were a catalyst for or were the power behind.

These are what IBM claim to have invented, been responsible for either directly or indirectly or are the power behind:

  • WhatsApp
  • Xbox
  • The PC
  • Credit cards
  • ATMs
  • Microsoft
  • The barcode
  • Siri voice
  • Rio (as in the city)
  • Minions (as in the film)
  • And many more…..

After hearing all about these sexy brands inventions and how much IBM were behind them all I, as chair, asked the audience whether they now thought that IBM was cool. Everyone put their hands up!

This made me make the comment that IBM had therefore not done a very good job at marketing themselves. It’s often the case with marketing people that they are not very good at marketing their own organization but excellent at doing it for someone else.

The saying goes that the cobbler’s kids have the worst shoes. Marketing organisations (and I would include IBM in this) are excellent at working with other companies and making them appear shiny and sexy but terrible at doing their own marketing.  

I know this from my own experience at my LinkedIn focused agency Black Marketing. Half our clients are marketing agencies of some kind who’s LinkedIn marketing is either non-existent or last done many months ago. This also applies to MNC’s as much as SME’s.

Check out the LinkedIn company pages of Google, Twitter, facebook, Apple and many more and you will see the worst LinkedIn pages in the world. These brands have no excuse they are all tech giants with limitless resources.

However many companies are caught between 1) who markets their own organization and their own brand rather than spending all their time and resource working with other companies to market them and 2) who controls the LinkedIn company page. HR? Corporate Communications? Marketing? An intern? The chairman’s son?

You can usually tell. Apple and Facebook only have jobs listed on their company page so HR is clearly in charge.

Twitter and Google have sporadic content many months apart (unlike tweeting and searching which takes seconds or milliseconds respectively) so it is clearly someone’s job in Corporate Communications or Marketing but not their only job and they don’t see it as a priority.

If it was there would be content posted several times a day on the benefits of companies who are on LinkedIn (everyone) using platforms like Twitter and Google to achieve their business objectives. Common sense and targeting doesn’t seem to have been applied here. Your customers are here, they are following but you don’t wish to communicate with them?

You would think the same would apply to Apple and Facebook too, both wish to influence business leaders, marketing directors, investors, the media – basically everyone you can find on LinkedIn but neither use it that way. Irony.


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