To the average millennial, IBM is likely the largest company they’ve never heard of. Sporting just north of 434k employees, IBM is a massive company with a rich history. However, if you ask the under-30 population, would the vast majority know IBM? And if f they did, what would they have to say about them?
You may hear expressions like “Your father’s company” or “Big Blue,” as the company has long been known for its mass of executives strolling around in well-pressed navy suits, ”solving business problems.”
By 2020, the Millennial generation will make up 50% of the workforce and just ten years later that number will increase to 75%. So if my above inclination is true, IBM needs to get in touch with the “Next Generation” and with their recent announcement of their rebrand “Made With IBM” they’re doing just that.
A Giant Shift from The Norm
Last week’s New York Times article, they discuss touches on the shift in approach from this year’s Masters Golf Tournament sponsorship as compared to last year’s. Without saying it explicitly, they subtly point out that the IBM ads of the past may not have resonated with the audience as much as they could have; and certainly not with the millennial generation.
One thing is for certain: While there is no doubt that many millennials take to the golf course each year, the same-old style advertising of IBM wasn’t going to cut it. In case you beg to differ, ask a few millennial golf fans to tell you what the IBM Spot was about at last years Masters. I’d be willing to bet they wouldn’t remember.
The good news for IBM is they are in the majority. This uprising demographic wasn’t relating to any of the content that IBM or their cohorts were distributing at the Masters or on many other channels across the traditional media space. So like most smart companies should do, IBM pivoted and they may just have the answer for connecting with the business leaders and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
Why “Made With IBM” Could Work
In an age where attention spans are short and advertisements are skipped at breakneck speed, IBM had to think of a way to connect. No more of the same; it had to be something different.
People today – and especially millennials – respond to human stories where they can see themselves. So taking the “using technology to solve human problems” approach is wise.. They seek to be a part of something. While people say we may not want to move out of our basement, we would do everything in our power to help others move out of theirs.
For 2014 as IBM (still a Master’s sponsor) heads back to the tournament, they will be featuring as many as 50 different spots during the tournament. Yes, you heard that correct, 50 different commercial spots a total of 1x each. These 50 spots were developed as part of the “Made with IBM” launch and were filmed by 3 filmmakers who visited IBM partners and employees in 17 countries to capture the essence of what “Made with IBM” means.
Marketers in the room they may cringe at the missed opportunities to bombard a viewer with a message so many times that it sticks. But those assessing real viewer may feel it’s smart because they don’t intend to watch a commercial more than one time.
Obviously the ads will be promoted and shared across social and online media platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, which will not only give them an evergreen appeal but will put them where Millennials are; online and mobile.
Like any campaign, time will tell. Sometimes you think you have a winner and it is a giant loser. Ask the Radio Shack ad execs if you have any doubt there. Other times you may think you have ordinary and it turns out extraordinary.
My prediction beyond my relationship with the brand is that IBM is on the right track here. They are embracing real brand journalism and the type of storytelling that may help make them memorable to those that didn’t grow up with IBM like the generations before them.
With solutions, technologies and ideas that closely align with the hopes, likes and dreams of the next generation, IBM may just have what it takes to become a household name with Millennials like Facebook, Google, Apple and more…
One thing we do know for sure is Millennials are the future leaders, founders and entrepreneurs that will build the small, medium and large enterprises of the future. With their vision, creativity and desire to connect to this emerging demographic IBM may be well positioned to re-emerge as a household name not just with the generation exiting the workforce, but the group most influential in shaping what the future of work may look like.
Here is one example of the “Made With IBM” campaign that I thought really connected with tomorrow’s business leaders.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.