John Kennedy, who has been in his position for four years, leads corporate marketing for the global technology company. In the following interview, he discusses his plans for this year, as well as the expanding role of data in marketing.
BtoB: What are your top marketing priorities this year?
Kennedy: All of our marketing priorities are grounded in the point of view that the world is becoming more interconnected and intelligent. We have more and more data and analytics to help us get to know our customers as people, so we can market to them in a way that is much more personalized. In the b2b world, we are able to understand our customers as people when they are at work, understand how they make decisions, and provide information and services to help them become more competitive and run smarter enterprises.
The second big shift—and we are seeing this with a lot of marketers—is engaging in a way that feels more service-like, done on a scale with millions of customers. In addition to us marketing what we have to sell, as we get to know our audiences and customers more as people, we are doing different types of work—creating content to help them be more successful in their jobs, serving up the right expert within IBM or introducing them to other people they might want to know.
The third big push relates to the idea of transparency. We are living in a world where our customers have more visibility into us—the company behind the services and offerings. So we are driving a big change inside IBM, partnering with HR to look hard at the IBM brand as a reflection of our culture, the way we operate and our IBMers. So much of a brand is a reflection of its employees, and we are stepping in with our colleagues in the C-suite to understand how our culture should reflect that.
BtoB: Where will you be investing your marketing dollars?
Kennedy: Our marketing resources have continued to reflect what we're looking to achieve at the overall business level. We are constantly looking for new ways of working so we get a greater return on what we spend. It's always a function of what you have and what you're able to do with it. As a result of digital and new ways of organizing things, marketers are finding really creative ways of doing more with what spend they have. The key things we are going to invest in this year will be in analytics, in owned media and owned assets, and the third piece is the “Smarter Planet” platform. It continues to work really well for us.
BtoB: How will you evolve the “Smarter Planet” platform?
Kennedy: “Smarter Planet” is now approaching its fifth anniversary. It is IBM's point of view on how data, systems and technology are changing the world. We are now demonstrating that this is real and is happening now. We have thousands of customers all over the world who have not only embraced it but are making a real difference in the performance of their companies. We are taking learning from those experiences to reach more companies around the world who want to take advantage of the power of data and analytics and make it tangible. We want to help clients, with our IBMers, have productive conversations to identify solutions that will help them.
BtoB: Which media platforms will you use in your marketing efforts?
Kennedy: We will use them all. We continue to make a shift toward more owned assets—typically more digital. We are evolving our marketing to the ways in which our customers are consuming information and in a way that continues to build our brand.
As a reflection of our emphasis on digital and personalization, last year we opened a digital design lab in Manhattan. This has expanded rapidly and is becoming a nucleus for collaboration with IBMers and with our agency partners. We are building out a variety of platforms and applications that allow us to really deliver on the kinds of experiences I've talked about, and (the design lab) will continue to be a space for a lot of our work and a new way of working. Our teams are using agile methodology to very rapidly prototype new digital experiences. This will increasingly become a larger part of our marketing experience.
BtoB: Last year you made a big push with the CMO audience. Have you identified any new audiences you will target?
Kennedy: We have several we're considering now. The marketing function is not the only function being transformed by digitization, data and analytics. If you look around the C-suite, it's hard to find a role that is not changing as a result of that. We are working with other C-suite leaders to find the next space we go to to take that message out.