System i Awareness Campaign Depends on Print Advertising Effectiveness
October 23, 2006 Dan Burger
Are you feeling out of control? Within the confines of the data center, IBM says it can fix that. And to the extent that reducing IT complexity can simplify the goal of reaching business objectives, Big Blue is saying it has the silver bullet. It’s called the System i and its current advertising message is “i want control.” The idea is to attack server sprawl, attack IT complexity, and reduce the pain and suffering of those whose lives are devoted to babysitting a 24-hour IT care center.
Can such a message strike a nerve with companies and IT staffs? I don’t doubt that reducing IT complexity is high on the list of any and every organization. The offer presented in System i advertising is a good one. However, a better question is whether IBM has devoted enough money to get the message out and get the job done. Let’s face it. The business world at large is pretty much unaware of what the System i is in 2006. Those that have been around long enough may know what it was back in 1992, when the system had the name AS/400 and when it was an undeniably competitive system for enterprise applications. The IT world barely resembles what it was 15 years ago. For a lot of business executives, it feels out of control. Therefore, an advertising campaign is born.
During the general session at the fall COMMON Conference and Expo in September, Elaine Lennox, the System i division’s vice president of marketing, told the audience there was a $10 million print advertising campaign under way for the System i5 and that particular portion of her marketing budget would be exhausted before the end of the year. She also told the audience that wishing for more money to spend on TV advertising (a favorite idea of those vocal critics at the Town Hall meeting) was not going to magically add millions more to the budget. And, as Lennox explained, she and others believe that within the given overall marketing budget (a figure not divulged) putting $10 million into print ads during 2006 makes the most sense. By the way, this is for worldwide print advertising efforts, and Lennox claims it is more than the System p division has in its print ad budget.
Maybe you’ve seen some of these System i print ads already. Maybe not. You could be getting all or most of your news and information electronically these days. For those who haven’t seen the ads, you can scrutinize two of them by going to this page and then to this one on IBM’s site.
The message in these two ads is primarily about regaining control of a data center that is a Windows server disaster. Simplification is the benefit that IBM believes will work best against the swarm of Windows servers that is invading its space–you might say like ants at an IBM picnic. That ad message is backed up with a reminder that System i provides added reliability and security, too. Lennox says these ads are a big part of the System i awareness program that is aimed mostly at organizations that have never considered an alternative to Windows servers and never heard of System i, iSeries, or AS/400s.
I say mostly at these organizations because the message is also intended to reach the OS/400 and i5/OS installed base, where plenty of Windows servers sprawl as well. Putting the System i in charge of wiping out Windows server sprawl starts at home, you know.
So to get the word out to a targeted IT market (forget TV ads during NFL football games, OK?), Lennox and her marketing team have approved a print advertising campaign that includes the broad IT market magazines such as ComputerWorld, eWeek, Information Week, InfoWorld, Optimize, and Network Computing, as well as System i trade publications such as i5 Magazine, iSeries News, and COMMON Connect.
This effort is backed up with a co-marketing campaign that is under way with the System i independent software vendors (ISVs). Individual ISVs have their own print advertising campaigns in motion that are tied in with Big Blue’s “i want an i” promotional efforts, and a portion of the $10 million print ad budget is committed to IBM’s portion of this co-marketing deal. Among the 14 participating ISVs and business partners are familiar companies such as Vision Solutions, Quadrant Software, and Linoma Software. The print publications selected for ISV ads are more specific to smaller niches compared to the industry-wide, mega-circulation periodicals noted above.
David Bruce, worldwide marketing manager for the System i division, explains that the print marketing campaign is primarily designed to give the System i recognition among the clueless. “The IBM ads are focused on the system and specifically targeted outside of our traditional boundaries. It’s not just targeted at System i customers. It’s strongly targeted at people who need to know about System i, but perhaps don’t. The ISV ads are awareness, but awareness of a solution on the System i. Some ISVs and business partners have spun it a little differently to focus less on awareness of solution and more about driving demand for their solutions.”
Bruce agrees the message is focused on the complexity and the runaway server sprawl, but notes that creative approach to this campaign takes things to a personal level by really identifying the target audience. “It includes a consolidation message as well as the message that System i is the place to run new applications because it makes running them simple,” he says. “It also speaks to the human element–run on System i and you can have a life. We have enough complexity and stress. We don’t need to add it where we can avoid it. The automated aspects of System i remove worry and give users back their nights and weekends. If your life is a chaotic mess because you are trying to synchronize driver levels across 25 systems every day and you are putting on your third patch of the day and looking forward to Patch Tuesday, every level of simplification becomes significant.”
Look for the print advertising campaign to expand beyond what is under way. Expect ads to show up in Windows-specific periodicals. Additional ads are being created to grab the attention of those not conversant in the System i world. Bruce says the marketing group has made adjustments to the creative that was used in the ads that are running in InfoWeek and the other publications and that will lead to ads running in Windows-specific magazines. “The next important step is to build some specific creative that reaches these people–something that is targeted just for them,” he says.
It would be difficult to find someone who disagrees with the notion that a higher level of System i awareness is necessary or that its image needs updating, but a $10 million dollar print advertising campaign cannot by itself lead to discovery and change. Lennox and Bruce and the other System i marketing folks don’t see the magazine advertising campaign, as identified so far, as the whole story either. The marketing efforts are focusing a lot of attention on the online aspects as well. Print ads are being designed to generate traffic on Web sites. An example of this is the “Pajamas” ad that features a guy in a Dignation T-shirt. The ad got a lot of notice on the Dignation Web site, Bruce says, and that’s the type of impact and recognition the marketing team is hoping to create.
“There is a lot of activity happening on the Web,” Bruce says. “All the popular places–newsmine, Dig, Slashdot, ZDNet–have a strong following of people in the demographic that we would like to reach out to.”
For an expanded view of the System i marketing plans, look for an interview with Elaine Lennox in next week’s edition of The Four Hundred. And for more advertising and marketing tools–including videos, posters, logo merchandise, and the iSociety user community–can be found on the “i want an i” Web site.