Abby Kohnstamm: Marketing for a Small Planet
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Wall Street Journal that Abby Kohnstamm, IBM's senior vice president of marketing -- in essence, if not title, IBM's "chief marketing officer" -- is leaving Big Blue after a 12-year reign.
If you've worked in the marketing discipline at IBM anytime over the past decade, or even in marketing in the technology industry at large, you know that Abby's name has become virtually synonymous with the dramatic impact in marketing that occurred at IBM under her watch.
It's no secret that, historically, IBM has been a very sales-focused culture, with marketing often an afterthought. But as the Big Blue ship teetered on the abyss in 1991-93, and after Lou Gerstner took the helm, Abby and her collective team -- along with our friends at Ogilvy and Mather Worldwide -- worked virtually around the clock to breath new life into the IBM brand as they helped redefine what we stood for as a company, one committed to helping our customers bring new value to their businesses around the globe, to articulate the key role the Internet would play in that transformation, and even to leverage that new medium as a key channel for delivering our e-business message where our audience lived and breathed.
From those early "Solutions to a Small Planet" commercials (the ones with the nuns and contemplative Frenchmen walking along the Seine?) to the recent "Help Desk" campaign, the ground-breaking advertising that Abby's global marketing team produced was an external reflection of the vast, hard fought organizational work going on behind the scenes to build and refine a professional marketing discipline inside IBM.
For those of us who have practiced in that discipline -- from market intelligence to interactive marketing (my own specialty) -- the instruction and experience that this transformation produced helped formulate not only a career path, but also a great deal of pride among its practitioners. We watched the emergence and evolution of both discipline and message -- ones which would reshape the consciousness of the company inside and out, something any effective marketing effort should aspire to accomplish.
So, Abby, we thank you for all your hard work, persistence, and leadership, and we wish you the very best in your new endeavors. You leave behind a legacy of marketing excellence that any successor would be hard pressed to follow.
More importantly, you leave behind the tools and expertise future marketers at IBM will need for marketing to a much smaller planet than the one you found when you first arrived.