It’s the second biggest brand in the world – only Coca-Cola is bigger. It’s one of the most advertised brands in the world – spending $1.25 billion in 2009, more than Apple and Microsoft combined. Yep, it’s IBM.
So when IBM swings its marketing might behind a campaign called Smarter Planet, I guess we really should pay attention. The campaign is an extended hymn to human ingenuity: the problems of the world can be solved by innovation… and guess what, IBM can claim a bit of innovation – with more Nobel Prize winners and more patents than any other company.
Yes, it’s true that “human ingenuity” got us into this mess in the first place. But I really want this campaign to work. At the end of the day, I believe in human ingenuity too. So, how is it doing? My sense is that it isn’t gaining real traction:
- The blog A Smarter Planet has very low levels of comment.
- Google search results for “smarter planet” are largely about the campaign, not about the content, suggesting a lack of broader engagement.
- Twitter following is very moderate for a campaign of this scale: @smarterplanet=5,500 (for comparison: @BBHLabs=18,000, @Google=2.4 million, @Ogilvy=30,000).
What’s the problem? It isn’t the content. The content is fascinating, in a tech-policy-wonk kinda way – everything from energy security to healthcare to traffic control. Lot’s of good content. Enough for a year’s worth of Wired. So if it isn’t the content, then what?
I think it’s the campaign. The trouble is, it looks like a campaign. It feels like a marketing exercise. This inhibits people from properly engaging with the content. Look at this recent ad on food security (yes, an ad on food security – kind of bold, no?). It looks like a classic IBM ad with an injection of Knorr pasta sauce:
It’s a big corporation telling you how great it is. The whole campaign feels a bit like this. Talking at, not talking with. This is a real shame. The ambition of Smarter Planet is a bold one, and the substance is there – but so far, it’s not quite connecting.