For years, IBM was the one technology brand that regularly captured my attention. And then the Smarter Planet campaign took my soul. I'm hooked by the campaign's vision of a world that works like a Swiss watch thanks to IBMer intelligence and über-computing. If I had a CIO title and a few million bucks extra, I'd totally hire them to turn my data into business smarts and planet salvation.
However, IBM isn't all about fisherman-saving cloud solutions, analytics for perfectly synchronized supply chains, or even beating Ken Jennings to a Jeopardy! pulp. In a recent BusinessWeek article, Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, estimated that 40 percent of IBM's profits are related to mainframes. Mainframes are visionary only if you live in a cabin without indoor plumbing.
I'm not knocking that IBM's messaging doesn't include its moneymaking legacy stuff. It's okay to focus on the part of the business that's leading the way, that has the potential for broad positive impact, that's less meat-and-potatoes profit makers and more gee-whiz innovative. In fact, it's more than okay. It's the only way to stay relevant in technology.
It's all about framing. Not just because it's marketing's job, although it is, but because it's the only way to create story and meaning from the massive, disparate, complex thing that is a technology enterprise like IBM. Or like my primary client, for that matter.