May 06, 2014

IBM: Building a Lasting Brand

IBM: Building a Lasting Brand

Guest Blogger: Ashley Wiederhold

IBM_fm Mashable

It’s easy to take today’s big brands for granted; while we can see the process of small businesses developing their brand identities, it’s often assumed that large companies are large companies because they’ve nailed down successful brand strategies (among other things). But these big businesses certainly have journeys all their own—and IBM is a wonderful example of how the right brand strategy can keep a company from crumbling.

An article published by Forbes features an interview between Allen Adamson, a contributor to the publication, and Randy Golden, a former senior corporate staff member at IBM. Golden spent more than two decades working with the company, and his role within the brand architecture and design group allowed him to support the forging of a lasting brand for the IBM Corporation.

To set the scene: IBM was, in 1993, facing collapse. With an $8.1 billion loss, the company had to let go more than 100,000 employees. Ultimately, the problem stemmed from the disorganized brand that IBM had become. While it was built according to a celebrated business strategy (“the promise of a globally integrated enterprise with integrated solutions”), the organization suffered from redundant processes, different internal marketing and advertising approaches, information systems that were disconnected, and more. The brand was, to put it simply, fractured.

To put the company back together, IBM hired Lou Gerstner, who was the former president of American Express and CEO of RJR Nabisco. Instead of facilitating the simple and timely dismantling of the business, which was assumed, Gerstner decided to unite all of the brand’s identities under one brand strategy. To do so, Adamson explains, “He understood that IBM’s inherent strength was in its ability to provide total business solutions for its customers. This was what the brand stood for.”

Bridging the gaps between different corporate entities is not always easy as a business grows. Each group within a brand family offers unique strengths, which is why they were acquired or built in the first place. But when trying to establish a solid, global brand, it’s essential that these entities are brought under the same umbrella.

As IBM’s leadership well knew, simply changing a logo wasn’t enough. Golden explains: “It was the responsibility of the brand team to identify, prioritize, and build integrated systems for presenting the IBM brand across all of the global business units and the numbers departments, products, and programs […] We did the foundational work to develop and articulate the core brand attributes and values, things that help truly differentiate the brand.”

Yes, a logo is important (critical, even). But there’s more to having a logo that matters, and today’s big brands understand this. Arguably, that’s why these brands have succeeded in growing to the extent to which they have. Internal communications, visual identity guidelines, brand architecture—these are just some of the many facets of branding at which IBM has excelled, and, ultimately, these are a few of the reasons why IBM is recognized around the globe.

Image from Mashable
“A Former IBMer Reflects on Building a Smarter Brand,”

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