So SmarterPlanet advertising is working, huh?

IBM logoOne of the arguments that gets pushed out from IBM to explain the “We don’t do product advertising“/”We don’t market to consumers“/”We focus on building the overall IBM brand” is the strength of the IBM company as an all-encompassing technology brand.

I’ve always had my doubts about this, particularly as consumers rarely hear about IBM, do not ‘get’ the SmarterFluff (trademark Stuart McIntyre!) advertising, and IBM has almost zero presence in smaller organisations here in the UK.

Well, the latest Superbrands results have just been announced here, and the results are interesting to say the least…

Mercedes-Benz cars and Rolex watches, one might think, have no place in ‘austerity Britain’. Yet it was these two premium brands that took first and second place in this year’s Consumer Super-brands survey, the annual ranking of brands according to their reputation among consumers and opinion-formers. In the Business rankings, meanwhile, Rolls-Royce took top spot. These results buck the trend of the past two years, when technology titans Microsoft and Google topped the Business and Consumer charts respectively.

Focusing on the Business superbrands:

On the whole, though, strong British brands also scored highly in the Business Superbrands survey (see table, right). The research, which was carried out prior to the failure of a Rolls-Royce engine on a Qantas jet last November, placed the marque at the top of the chart. Cheliotis describes the company as ‘a great British success story’ noting that its strong performance reflects the public’s desire to rebalance the economy away from invest-ment banks toward engineering, innova-tion and manufacturing businesses.

Hot on the heels of Rolls-Royce is a quartet of technology powerhouses: BlackBerry, Microsoft, Google and Apple, respectively.

IBM does not make the top 100 brands in either table (business, consumer).

In the top 100 business brands we see the following technology companies represented:

Top 100 business superbrands

Rank

Brand

Category

Official index

2

Blackberry  

Electronic & Electrical Equipment

94.94

3

Microsoft  

Software & Computer Services

94.09

4

Google  

Media – Marketing Services – Advertising Solutions

92.58

5

Apple  

Technology – Hardware & Equipment

91.30

13

Nokia  

Electronic & Electrical Equipment

86.23

29

Siemens  

Industrial Engineering – General

78.54

41

Dell  

Technology – Hardware & Equipment

75.15

42

Adobe  

Software & Computer Services

74.62

47

Cisco  

Software & Computer Services

72.93

49

Sage  

Software & Computer Services

72.61

51

Intel  

Technology – Hardware & Equipment

72.49

57

Canon  

Technology – Hardware & Equipment

70.29

74

Panasonic  

Technology – Hardware & Equipment

66.64

81

Xerox  

Technology – Hardware & Equipment

65.99

92

Motorola  

Electronic & Electrical Equipment

64.20

So, four of the top five are vendors that are strong in the business space, but also market to consumers.  Also notable is Sage at number 49 – this is an accounting software organisation that is almost exclusively targetting single-man and small organisations.  As far as direct competitors to IBM in the collaboration space go, we have Microsoft, Google and Cisco all in this list.

I recognise this is just one survey, and I know that IBM sometimes does well in US-based brand research.  

However, I would personally argue that there is no doubt, at least here in the UK, that nether the SmarterPlanet campaign, nor the “we don’t market to consumers” are working.  

If you ask either the ‘average man in the street’ or the small-to-medium business owner, they simply don’t know, understand or respect IBM.  I wish I knew how to change this, but its hard to see how a 350,000 person company that turned over $29bn can be in this position.

All I can say is that for IBM to turn this around in markets like the UK, it has to become accessible to those that need to know about the company – that is not the CEOs and CIOs at existing enterprise-level corporations, but the owners and managers of startups, small and medium organisations.  The ‘whitespace’ in other words.   And that will simply never happen with SmarterPlanet advertising, unfortunately.

Stuart McIntyre is a Senior Strategist at Fostering Community Limited. He curates a number of product-focused news sites, is a lapsed podcaster, founded the Social Connections user group and regularly speaks at conferences and events. This blog represents his own slightly-eccentric and usually-controversial opinions!