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IBM Rebuilt Brand With Consistency

When it comes to brand building and effectively conveying communications, companies should stick to their guns.

That message came across during a Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing Summit general session Tuesday in which Maureen McGuire, vice president of worldwide marketing management and integrated marketing communications for IBM, and Brian Fetherstonhaugh, chairman of global brands at Ogilvy & Mather, discussed how Big Blue used integrated marketing to restore its brand luster.

The pair outlined a lesson plan they said could be adapted by cable operators, programmers and other businesses to lift their respective companies.

First, "simplify and unify." IBM winnowed its roster from 72 agencies with myriad messages in the early 1990s to just O&M.

This more-streamlined approach needed to be twinned with what Fetherstonhaugh called a "big idea": network-centric computing.

Hence, messages touted IBM's e-business and its "Solutions for a small planet" tagline.

They next talked up "sense and response" to market conditions. With so many other companies entering the Web world in the late 1990s, IBM needed to react to a vastly expanding market. It began supplying more analyses and consulting service to clients, trumpeting this advantage with its "deeper" campaign. In 2002, the company began pushing its e-business on demand options, labeling many of the Web solutions spouted by often bygone competitors as "pixie dust."

As a result, Fetherstonhaugh said, IBM's stock had not only rebounded from $14 into its current $80 range, while its brand value had grown to $50 million from a negative $50 million.