IBM i Marketing Plans Get The iManifest Touch
July 9, 2012 Dan Burger
Boosting the public image of the IBM i operating system is a pretty steep mountain to climb. It is widely misunderstood, often mischaracterized, and repeatedly underestimated by those who are less familiar with it than they are with nuclear fusion. Any faithful follower of the IT Jungle publications knows about iManifest and how the Japanese have used it for brand-specific promotions while it has remained bed-ridden in the United States and the European, Middle East, and Africa markets.
Well, look who just got out of bed. It’s iManifest EMEA.
What have they done? They’ve come up with a focused plan to promote the platform to the non-IBM i speaking world. And best of all, it has nothing to do with buying one full-page ad in the Financial Times and waiting for the phones to ring. That, unfortunately, was one of the early iManifest marketing ideas that was considered for EMEA and a similar short-sighted idea was presented within the U.S. group with the instant gratification media being the Wall Street Journal. Up until now one of the biggest obstacles to iManifest progress has been the lack of marketing focus combined with a twitchy and uncertain identification of the intended audience and message that would relate to that target.
“We developed a marketing campaign that should not only hit the right people, but deliver the right message,” says Andrew Nicholson, iManifest EMEA’s marketing coordinator. Nicholson describes the marketing plan as a campaign that champions the benefits of IBM i without trying to sound like IBM. (It seems to me that whatever they do to promote the IBM i platform will not be confused with the silent treatment that Big Blue gives it.) The target demographic for the program is the CIO.
“We took care to develop a message that was pertinent to the needs of the CIO,” explained Richard Field, who along with Nicholson and Ray Titcombe are coordinating the iManifest EMEA efforts. Field says the marketing is being focused on the “pragmatic needs of the modern CIO.”
The campaign is scheduled to go live during September 2012, with a three-part, three-week advertising campaign using digital media. Although the advertisements have not been finalized, they are close to completion after being honed during a 12-month consultancy period that included outreach programs such as webcasts that invited participation and the solicitation of ideas.
“Realistically, we don’t believe that all will agree with the new direction, but that’s partly why we wrote the executive summary,” Nicholson says. “We not only wanted to share with people what we’re planning but why we’re planning it this way. It is our hope that when people read the summary, and/or after they’ve joined the official launch webinar, they’ll appreciate this direction and agree the action is right.”
The team putting together the advertising campaign remains open to community involvement and input. To this end, a webcast has been scheduled to introduce the IBM i community to the campaign, answer questions about the direction, and take ideas. The webcast will take place Wednesday, July 18, at 3 p.m. (U.K. time), which is 10 a.m. in the eastern time zone of the U.S. Registration for that webcast can be completed here.
The current iteration of advertising concepts and ideas can be seen at this link, where you’ll find a 30-page executive summary of the marketing plan (including the advertising creative materials).
Funding for the campaign is still being worked out. Dating back to 2009, there has been a group of IBM i independent software vendors (ISVs) that pledged monetary support for marketing the benefits of the platform in the EMEA market.
From the beginning, the pledging system has had a tiered approach. The top business class pledge is €8,100 ($12,600 U.S.). Pledge rates of €4,050 ($6,300 U.S.) and €810 ($1,260 U.S.) are also available. ISVs that pledge more will receive more prominent branding on the advertising landing page.
In the early going, a goal of raising €85,000 ($132,100 U.S.) was set in order to purchase a single ad in the European edition of the Financial Times. Fortunately, a more thoroughly developed plan has come to light. However, the next step is collecting the funds to make something happen.
According to Nicholson, the group intends to reconfirm the original pledges, solicit additional pledges, and then adjust the plan depending upon response from vendors. It is investigating the possibility of using co-marketing funding from IBM, which has contributed financially to the iManifest Japan efforts.
“We accept that some pledges will not be confirmed, but that there is great scope for new ones,” Nicholson said last week in an email to IT Jungle. “We’ve built time into our project (July to September) to raise sufficient capital, but due to the nature of the revised plans, the scope of the campaign is flexible,” says Nicholson, referring to the frequency and duration of the advertising buy.
The initial effort from iManifest EMEA leaves out the Middle East and Africa and focuses on Europe. However, Nicholson emphasizes this is the first of multiple phases that are part of the plan. Phase one targets the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, and Germany.
The executive summary, which is available for all to see and comment upon, specifically notes the divisions caused by languages and cultures.
“In all honesty, this has been the biggest area of contention,” Nicholson says. “Ideally, we’d like equal representation throughout the regions, but the reality is something different. At present, we’re aiming to balance the campaign delivery and budget depending upon viable and known publications and we will judge and react in proportion to pledge logistics. We know this is not the perfect answer, but we expect this to evolve when the campaign is launched and we garner more interest.”