Yesterday I asked a question on Twitter: “Can anyone offer a reason why a brand like IBM couldn’t be fashionable to consumers?” – This followed my post yesterday (here new list of top 100 brands) where I showed that IBM has seen a decline in consumer data in Google and site visits etc even though IBM’s has seen amazing business success and great share price performance as a predominantly B2B company. Lots of data and graphs below.
There were some interesting responses to my question as you can see from Twitter.
The most interesting replies on Twitter came from IBM staff.
Great to see them entering the debate and great indicator that they are listening.
Now I hope no-one from IBM has taken any of this personally because I do know many people at IBM, I have worked with IBM on several projects and I have nothing but respect for them as a company… BUT in a hyper connected digital world, the definition of brand power has shifted in my opinion and Millward Brown’s placement on at #4 on the list of Global Power Brands does not assign enough emphasis on consumer data available through visible data sources and of course social media measurement. IBM – amazing niche B2B powerhouse and current success story, but a brand in decline in a world where conversations in a digital world count more than ever.
Yes, IBM have embraced social tools well, blogging actively etc but the conversation is still niche and focused on core product/services (take a look here and below). Whilst a general consumer may not be important to IBM’s bottom line and clearly they see this as less important (read tweet above) I feel there is a missed opportunity and other brands (including B2B) are performing way better in the digital space. In a hyper-connected world whether your brand engages consumers or not, brand sentiment still occurs and shifts. Consumers WILL express their feelings about brands in one way or another – and in a digital world where ‘whom you influence’ is critical for visibility consumers “not talking” about you is not necessarily a good thing. Consumers can drive your SEO, they produce your Wikipedia entry (normally in the top 3 links for most companies and brands) and often produce the home made video “starring-your-brand” on YouTube (AKA the worlds second largest search engine).
Social media is certainly an opportunity for companies to extend their brand and develop meaningful connections / trust with people outside normal reach, but IBM from data shown has not ignited the social landscape in the same way for example that Intel has did with projects like the Digital Drag Race last year .
IBM and Social Media – let’s have a quick squiz…
Here are the brand tags for IBM produced by consumers. (This is just a portion, click the image to see the full list).
Blogs featuring “Technology” Vs Blogs featuring “IBM” as a % of all blogs
Twitter Stream graphs for IBM (associated words in conversations).
There are 13,600 results in YouTube for IBM.
(…but what does the content say about the brand? The #1 result is from 2003!!!)
INTO THE DATA:
IBM’s share price (%yrs): Tick! Well done IBM.
IBM’s search volume in Google Trends (shows decline)
IBM’s estimated Traffic (Quantcast) – in decline (3yrs)
Demographics – Who visits IBM (Quantcast data)
See any surprises in above?
Oh I could go on forever dragging out stats, but nothing changes my mind. IBM whilst an amazing company are a great niche and successful corporate brand enjoying success throughout, but I find no data that tells me they belong 4th on a list of global power brands. I’m not saying they aren’t doing great things BUT they’re not talked about by consumers, they’re not innovating in the public eye, they’re not igniting conversations between influencers who could change some of the data I’m showing you above. Compared to the reach and influence of the big digital brands, they themselves as a brand became lost 3-4 years ago and the content reflects that clearly in environments like YouTube.
So back to the questions in the article.
Could IBM be fashionable, do they need to be?
My answer is Yes and Yes. (I don’t have to say how do I?)
In summary (and not just to IBM – this is for all brands):
Tomorrows brands will also be defined by what consumers are actually saying about you. Digital channels will ensure it. Don’t rely on your marketing depts, agencies and PR companies to change brand perception. Ignoring the mark being left in the digital space by consumers right now will affect your brand health tomorrow.
Footnote: Remember Google does not spend a single dollar on advertising – go figure why it’s the most trusted brand on the planet (and in this case I 100% agree with that ranking).
– eunmac (chief trouble maker, creative and also likes IBM, but not top 100 lists)