One of the most effective ways to understand successful branding principles is to observe them in action. That’s why we regularly feature branding case studies. It’s one of the best ways to understand branding; to see branding strategy and theory in practical-real-life applications. Today, we’ll be looking at Fortune 500 company, IBM (International Business Machines Corporation).
IBM is not a new player in the tech marketplace. Founded over 100 years ago, it has long been a leader in its niche. But being a leader doesn’t mean you sit comfortably, without adapting. One of the best examples of a brand transformation is that of IBM in 2014 & 2015.
2014 marked a milestone year for IBM. With new technology coming out along with the 50th anniversary of their mainframe launch, IBM had an opportunity to reposition itself and change its perception to adapt to changing technology. IBM’s branding evolution is a powerful story with several lessons that can help your brand building.
Today, we’ll home in on their authority-focused brand strategy, especially as relates to their goal of changing public and corporate perception about the company.
You see, over the years of being in business, IBM had become synonymous with the concept of mainframes. But in the 2010s the cloud was quickly replacing the mainframe-dominated industry.
IBM had cloud solutions but wanted to make sure people knew that. They wanted to change how they were viewed from solely focused on mainframes to a host of solutions for corporations.
What did IBM do for the rebrand?
1. Corporate client-focused campaign
They created a client-led communication program ‘Engines of Progress’. This campaign encouraged some of their biggest corporate clients to tell their stories about how IBM products had impacted their business.
2. Client-focused student campaign
With the goal of spreading exposure amidst college and university students, IBM, a massive academic initiative including almost 200,000 students, across 60+ countries. The campaign included a gaming contest promoted on higher education campuses to engage Generation Z, building their trust and loyalty.
When we analyze this branding campaign, two things stand out:
1. They focused on telling stories of specific types of their corporate customers: brands that were perceived in the marketplace as leaders and movers in the market (for example Walmart and Visa).
2. They also focused don telling the student stories to speak to Generation Z.
What were the rebrand results?
Besides the feel-good result of making customers feel they were a part of something to be proud of, let’s look at some numbers:
• There were over 150 articles written about the campaign
• Worldwide, there were more than 75 events centered around the campaign
• IBM saw a 20% revenue increase year over year
How can you apply the principles of a successful rebrand strategy to your branding
• A well-done rebrand is a perfect opportunity to transform your positioning and perception.
Marketplace perception is fundamental to success. This is how you speak directly with your ideal customer. You’re not in business to serve everyone. There’s a specific customer that is the perfect match for what you have to offer. When you create branding campaigns that reach out and speak to that customer, you get their attention. Eventually, this also bolsters your trustworthiness and loyalty with those customers.
• Consider aligning your rebrand with product launch/company milestone, or some other significant event.
IBM’s rebranding strategy was far from random. The entire process alined with a major company milestone, but it also lined up with the current changes in the tech market. When you consider all these aspects, it makes your business relevant.
Is your business at a pivotal point? Do you have an opportunity to change the positioning of your business in the marketplace? Maybe there are major changes in your marketplace, and you need to demonstrate relevance? A structured rebrand can help you boost business, maximize customer engagement, and solidify your business as an authority in the market.