IBM Unveils iSeries.mySeries Marketing Campaign
March 8, 2004 Alex Woodie
It was both an unusual word to be heard and an unusual emotion to be felt at a gathering of IBM and its business partners. At the PartnerWorld 2004 conference in Las Vegas last week, IBM introduced its new “iSeries.mySeries” marketing campaign to remake the server’s image and to lure new users to the box. IBM says the new campaign–which is entirely based in images to be delivered on posters, videos, and even tattoos–will convey the feeling that all users hold for the box: love.
“Anybody who has it, loves it. Anybody who doesn’t have it, doesn’t understand it,” says Malcolm Haines, the iSeries’ chief propagandist. Haines could have been describing any number of things in life in which a description will always fall short of direct experience. But given his title and role at IBM, you know he’s talking about “the Rochester product”–the eServer iSeries, AKA the AS/400.
Haines and his iSeries marketing colleagues in Somers, New York, worked with IBM’s advertising agency, Ogilvy & Mather, to come up with the new iSeries.mySeries campaign, which, Haines stressed, will not include any advertisements. Instead, the campaign will feature images delivered on pictures, tattoos, bumper stickers, lapel pins, t-shirts, posters, banners, screen scrapers, and various other mediums, including more “Legends of iSeries” videos.
The “Legends” videos are among the most successful marketing items Haines’ team has produced, attracting more than 60,000 page views during the first two months they were up, he says. “This kind of approach–using seductive material in an unexpected place and delivered in a memorable way–will, I hope, be the hallmark of the iSeries.mySeries campaign,” he says.
In some cases, the iSeries transcends love–or at least a human manifestation of it. In one campaign video, an iSeries manager says that his AS/400 has lasted 14 years–and outlasted two marriages. “People spontaneously say they love the iSeries,” Haines says. “They love it so much that they look at it as the thing they’ve been looking for all their lives.”
Four new “Legends” videos are in production for the campaign, and will be added to the three current videos in release. The videos and other deliverables will be delivered through the iSeries Nation Web site and at COMMON conferences and other industry gatherings.
The iSeries.mySeries campaign is still in its infancy, and there are components of the campaign that Haines could not discuss in detail. In particular, Haines alluded to undetermined viral marketing initiatives and special campaign events that will take place in two U.S. cities, which he would not identify, except to confirm they would not be the cities where COMMON conferences will be held this year: San Antonio and Toronto (which, obviously, isn’t located in the U.S. at all, but in Canada).
The marketing campaigns that IBM will launch in these unspecified cities will be based on new techniques IBM is using to market the iSeries in Italy. “Italians, being very independent, love being Italian, and love being iSeries,” Haines says. “We’re working very closely with them, to try some new things, just to see how it goes. . . . The theme the Italians are trying is going to strike a chord.”
Haines says the events may be patterned along the lines of the “Sushi Bus,” which toured the Western United States last year, distributing iSeries marketing, raw fish, and rice. But the Sushi Bus won’t fly everywhere. In Germany, for example, the “Beer Bus” might be a more effective marketing medium, he says.
Haines would like to model an iSeries.mySeries event after Deep Blue, which pitted chess grandmaster Gary Kasparov against an RS/6000 parallel supercomputer. Haines maintains Deep Blue as the standard-bearer of the cost-effective image marketing campaign, although he admits it’s a tough act to follow. Several years ago, when Tom Jarosh was AS/400 general manager, he helped put together a “hacker’s challenge” that would have pitted white hats against the box, but it was cancelled before production over concerns about customer security.
There are other forms that an iSeries.mySeries viral marketing initiative could take. For example, there is Deloitte Consulting’s Bullfighter application, which runs within Microsoft Word and PowerPoint and identifies and suggests replacements to overused marketing terms, such as “seamless” and “synergy,” and also delivers a Bull Composite Index for the entire document. Bullfighter is useful and fun to use, Haines says, while carrying the Deloitte Consulting name to thousands of unsuspecting users.
IBM has committed an unspecified amount of money (somewhere between $1 million and $100 million, according to Haines) for the campaign. While some iSeries enthusiasts will not like that there will be no television commercials, Haines says that if iSeries.mySeries succeeds in becoming ubiquitous in the marketing materials of IBM and its business partner, it will have achieved its objective.
“With marketing ideas, you put something together that you hope is 80 percent right. Then you watch it like a hawk and adjust it all the time,” Haines says. “I think we’ve got it more or less right: ‘iSeries. mySeries.’ The great thing about it is, the iSeries is lit large; you don’t need a tunneling microscope to see it.”