IBM, DuPont aim for cool crowd with video ads

The two companies turn to the Web to reach a hipper audience. Also: Yahoo seeks the most dedicated evangelist among its employees.
Written by Elinor Mills, Contributor
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--IBM wants you to know that it didn't make your computer. However, it did customize a database for the New York Police Department to quickly track down criminals, create a DNA database for a genographic study, and help bring National Football League touchdowns to your computer screen.

Big Blue is using Hollywood techniques to help reposition its brand from a hardware company to a services and software provider, Richard Toranzo, global program manager for digital media and branded entertainment at IBM, said here at Google's BtoB Emerging Media and Integrated Marketing Summit on Tuesday.

As part of a pilot program, IBM created a dozen videos for television and the Web that tell stories about how the company's technology and people are impacting the world.

"We want to redefine our brand as a company that actually affects you and me," Toranzo said in an interview after his talk. "We want to be younger, cooler, funkier."

DuPont is another company turning to online video to promote its brand among a younger audience who may never think about the chemical company that developed the nylon and Lycra used in much of their sports clothes and gear.

As part of a three-week pilot marketing program in March, DuPont ran two-minute video ads, hosted by online videocaster Amanda Congdon, on sites like Boing Boing, Digg and Google Video and on science blogs. The company wanted to see if it could create a word-of-mouth message about its contributions to science, said Gary Spangler, e-business leader for electronic and communication technologies at DuPont.

The ads explained the benefits of, and science behind, such DuPont products as Nomex fire protection clothing, Kevlar protection glass and Hot Hues automotive paint. The DuPont Web site got 6,000 visits from the ads; more than 100 Web sites linked back to the site; "multiple sites" embedded the video ads on their own pages; and several won "best site of the day" awards, according to Spangler. "We learned we can communicate transparently through blogs," he said.

"We have to get our message to where the public is, and that younger public is online," he said after his talk. "It's good news for B2B (business to business) marketers, particularly ingredient companies (whose products are used to create end products) because our brands don't get that well-known."

IBM's Toranzo said his company has jumped even further into the brand entertainment video waters. In addition to the company's mini-documentaries on the NFL, the PGA Tour, and the genographic project with National Geographic, CNBC ran a three-minute program on the concept of innovation in business based on a survey of 800 CEOs that had been commissioned by IBM. CNBC created the content, and IBM ended up buying advertising spots in the show, which was hosted by news anchor Maria Bartiromo and featured interviews with Def Jam Records founder Russell Simmons, skateboard legend Tony Hawk, and someone from MTV.

The spot enabled "the IBM brand to be associated with some innovative companies it normally wouldn't be around," Toranzo said. "We are taking a topic and creating the conversation around it--becoming a thought leader."

Yahoo banks on "Be a Better" campaign
While the Google brand marketing event was happening at its headquarters here, Yahoo's top marketing official was revealing some of that company's branding techniques, which include blanketing its campus in its trademark color purple and encouraging employees to wear Yahoo-branded gear to work.

Yahoo offers contests for the most dedicated evangelist among its 13,000 global employees, Yahoo Chief Marketing Officer Cammie Dunaway said during the keynote speech at the Liquid Agency Brand Summit 2007 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Palo Alto, Calif., a few exits north on U.S. 101 from Google. Employees who do things like ask people who don't work for Yahoo "Do you Yahoo?", memorize the company's mission statement, and wear Yahoo gear to the office for a day can win trips paid for by the company, Dunaway said.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo encourages its employees to blog about the company too, but urges them not to write anything they wouldn't want reported in The Wall Street Journal, or which they would be embarrassed if their mother read, she said.

On the traditional marketing front, Yahoo began a "Be a Better" ad campaign last month that will roll out to television, radio and other outlets soon, she said. It encourages consumers to improve their lives by using Yahoo products and brand advertisers to improve their business by using Yahoo search and brand marketing services.

Yahoo's broad user base and its brand marketing savvy make it a popular online partner for big companies that want to get their message out and conduct promotions, according to Dunaway. She admitted that she was initially hesitant to have Yahoo help promote Howard Stern's programming on Sirius Satellite Radio because she was not a big fan of the shock jock and wasn't sure Yahoo should associate its brand with him. She said she changed her mind when she realized how many Stern fans there were among Yahoo users.

Meanwhile, Yahoo's marketing team has come up with a list of things they don't like called "The Sucks List," which includes bureaucracy, broken links, pop-ups and vaporware. Also on the list: decaf, fads, bad apples, missing the boat and being behind the curve.

Yahoo has been criticized for being slow to respond to Google's innovation in search and search marketing and reorganized the company late last year in an effort to turn things around. However, Yahoo has a bigger brand marketing business than Google, one of the largest on the Web.

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