Innovation. Dedication. Trust. Over the years, the multinational computing firm IBM had invested a great deal of energy in transforming itself from a product-oriented business to a people-oriented business. To support their efforts, they identified three core values which they planned to unveil as part of their corporate culture. To communicate these new values, IBM Greater China Group’s (GCG) internal communications department wanted a compelling approach that would resonate and leave a lasting impression with their employees.
Building corporate culture is no simple task – especially when you have 8,000 employees widely scattered across an expansive region in 16 offices. Ogilvy PR/Beijing conducted a small-scale focus group study to identify what the right medium might be to convey IBM’s new values. What evolved was a strategy that centered on the stories of IBM employees and how they’ve embraced the changes that come with success. Nobody likes to be preached to, so rather than letting the bosses do the talking, the team relied upon the voices of the employees’ peers to illustrate the meaning of these company values.
In Savor the Blue, the IBM stories of innovation, dedication, and trust unfold. Using 40 of 200 the voluntary employee submissions, the IBM publication personifies and humanizes the core values by focusing on the work and daily lives of regular IBM employees. Grouped into three sections - Deep Blue (seniors), New Blue (new comers), and Mixed Blue (those who transferred through mergers) - each tale is an expression of how change impacted a person’s life at different stages of IBM’s history and how it contributed to his/her career. Double-faced and bilingual, each article is accompanied by traditional Chinese artwork and calligraphy. The book was distributed in special ceremonies held at three IBM office sites across China - Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Internally, Savor the Blue was a hit. Less than 10 days after the initial launch of 7,000 copies, the positive feedback was overwhelming. Over 1,000 quotes and comments collected illustrated the appreciation and engagement of IBM employees – in China and beyond. By the end of the year, the book’s total distribution reached 12,000, having been reprinted twice. When proud employees went on to send the book as a gift to their customers and suppliers, interest in the book spilled over to external audiences. In January 2006, the book was released to the Chinese media, resulting in over 20 news articles about the book and IBM values, plus several inquiries as to where the book could be purchased.