IBM PCIn a short video about the IBM brand, Jon Iwata, Senior Vice President (Marketing and Communications), states, “We don’t try to manage the IBM brand. We try to manage our character as a business. And we’ve never defined IBM by what we’re selling.”

And, really, isn’t this how all of the branding giants operate?

Walt Disney World® doesn’t sell Mickey Mouse shirts. Disney sells childhood bliss (for all ages).

Apple® doesn’t sell cell phones and computers. Apple sells acceptance.

Mercedes-Benz® doesn’t sell personal transportation. Mercedes sells status.

And Pampers®? They sell the American adult dream of being pampered (to borrow from a David Foster Wallace theory)

Branding Without Products

The secret behind all of these brand giants – here focusing on IBM – is that, as leaders, they can’t wrap up their definitions of self in consumer goods – especially when those consumer goods are technology.

What if we had come to known IBM as “the typewriter,”