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Tech Marketing Vet Michael Mendenhall Named CMO Of IBM Watson

With his background at Walt Disney Company and Hewlett-Packard, Mendenhall is charged with making IBM Watson and its artificial intelligence even more marketing-friendly.

Michael Mendenhall’s career has involved managing the marketing and messaging around tech services for companies such as Walt Disney Company and Hewlett-Packard — and now, he’ll be bringing that past expertise to bear on the products at IBM Watson & Cloud Platform.

The Watson portfolio includes the Watson cognitive platform, the Weather Company, Watson Marketing Analytics, and Watson Data platform. Mendenhall will also be CMO/CCO for IBM’s cloud platform and developer ecosystem.

“Within a few years, every major decision—personal or business—will be made with the help of AI and cognitive technologies,” said Ginni Rometty, chairman, president and chief executive officer, IBM, back in March, when the company had initiated an alliance with Salesforce on its AI programs. “This year we expect Watson will touch one billion people—through everything from oncology and retail to tax preparation and cars. Now, with today’s announcement, the power of Watson will serve the millions of Salesforce and Einstein customers and developers to provide an unprecedented understanding of customers.”

Mendenhall will report to David Kenny, SVP of IBM Watson & Cloud Platform, along with “a dotted line to Michelle Peluso, CMO, IBM,” a rep said.

Complex marketing challenges are also part of Mendenhall’s history.

He arrives at IBM Watson most recent work as CMO for Flex. During his two-plus years at Flex, the company had shifted its position as an electronics manufacturer to an end-to-end supply-chain solutions company with 200,000 employees operating in twelve different industries.

He led the re-branding of Flex with the idea of “sketch to scale,” launched the “Live Smarter” campaign, and influenced products that went to market, such as Google Chromecast.

Before Flex,Mendenhall was EVP and CMO of Fusion.io, where he helped “transform the company’s brand positioning and product alignment.”

That work was key to a successful acquisition by SanDisk, IBM said in announcing Mendenhall’s hiring. His background also includes roles as SVP and CMO for Hewlett-Packard, and 17 years at the Walt Disney Company, where he rose to president of marketing and synergy for Walt Disney Studios and EVP of Global Marketing for Disney Parks and Resorts.