Tuesday, September 15

iManifest: One advert is not going to do it

I really need to broaden my horizon and starting blogging on other topics again, but the level of buzz around our iManifest initiative makes it an irresistible topic of conversation. The vast majority of the dialogue I've had about iManifest, both on- and off-line, has been positive and new members are joining every week. But two issues have started to come-up with more frequency so I need to set the record straight.

Firstly, I really do understand that a single entry advertisement in a newspaper is not going to change the public perception of the IBM i platform overnight. Others have suggested that we will get more 'bang for our buck' by using our initial advertising budget (€81,000) to place a series of adverts across a range of media channels and publications. I understand the logic behind this suggestion but I am not convinced by the arguments.

In my mind a manifesto of any kind - political, charitable or commercial - needs to arrive on the scene with a loud bang to get noticed. This means that the founding supporters must be credible and vocal on the topic and the launch must be sufficiently symbolic to encourage long-tail coverage. One of the benefits of making a splash is that the bold act itself is reported on throughout the media world, thus generating the kind of authoritative coverage that modest amounts of money just can't buy. I was impressed by the initial results achieved in Japan and the fact that their action (placing a full-page advertisement in a national newspaper) was so bold that it enjoyed global media coverage is how this initiative first came to everyone's attention outside of Japan.

There is also the challenge of reaching out to IT and business decision-makers at the same time. In my experience, strategies to replace an IBM i server with a more modern platform [sic] are often sponsored by ill-informed managers and it's the knowledgeable IT folks that are usually to be found fighting in the platform's corner. There is no single media outlet that perfectly covers our target set of influencers and decision-makers, but I have to believe that publications like the FT, WSJ and Nikkei are as close as you can get. By raising such a relatively large war-chest we will send a clear message to the market that iManifest - and the IBM i platform - has support from entities with the resources and muscle to make good on their promises. I reluctantly point out that I control one of the largest marcoms budgets in the IBM i community, so I do have some practical experience of the most effective tactics. And, at the risk of repeating myself, let's review again what the objectives of our manifesto are:
  1. To revitalise the IBM i market in EMEA (Europe, Middle East & Africa) and increase the customer base
  2. To assure IBM i customers, resellers and ISVs selling IBM i solutions that the IBM i will not only survive but continue to prosper
  3. To inform the wider IT community of the unique value proposition of the IBM i server
How can anyone who makes their living in this market not want to participate in helping to achieve these objectives? Sure, we can just resign ourselves to a fate worse than death or choose to ponder ad nauseum about why IBM is seen to neglect our beloved platform in this way - or we can let our actions speak louder than our words. With an entry-level pledge starting at only €810, isn't worth a go? I am currently the most visible champion of this cause in EMEA, and the chairman pro-tem, but ultimately the decision regarding tactics will be made by the board of iManifest EMEA. The board will be elected by the 50 founding members as-and-when we reach that milestone. So if you disagree with my proposed first step then join the group, get elected to the board and then propose and rally support for an alternative outcome!

Speaking of IBM, the second issue that crops up is that [apparently] some vendors are waiting in the wings until IBM themselves pass some ruling regarding the legitimacy of this and the other iManifest initiatives. I think that waiting for IBM to act rather defeats the purpose of trying to take matters into our own hands but I do acknowledge people's genuine concerns. No IBM Business Partner (particularly one with Premier status like LANSA) wants to find that iManifest is the third rail of IBM politics, in so much as if you touch it then you die! I cannot go into details today, but I have taken this issue on-board and can assure you that I am talking to IBM and some Tier 1 distributors and other global ISVs to generate a more visible display of support that will reassure the faint-hearted. This is my next step for progressing iManifest in EMEA and I hope to achieve this goal by October. I am encouraged by the fact that a formal interface already exists between IBM Japan and the original iManifest team.

NOTE: In support of my argument that substantial public statements can be made by the kind of full-page newspaper advert that I am proposing, I direct you to this recent example placed by Oracle to assuage the Sun community: "Oracle has much to say to Sun Microsystems customers in a front-page advertisement it placed in Thursday's European edition of The Wall Street Journal."

6 comments:

David O'Driscoll said...

Have you seen the impact of Samsung's viral marketing via YouTube? e.g. Sheep, SSD This is cheap, by advertising standards, and can make a huge impact if your 'seed' group is mostly IT executives.

Martin Fincham said...

I'm sure that Samsung are pleased with the results of that campaign -- it's clever and funny. But effective viral marketing is such an elusive goal for many vendors. I imagine there are more duds than hits. I would also contest whether this kind of marketing is really cheap by advertising standards. I know that, in conversations with our digital design agency and others, that some of the big consumer brands budget several million dollars for each global viral marketing campaign. The design and production costs can be high, even if the end-result is given a 'homey' or even 'accidental' feel to help fuel the spread (nobody likes overt, glossy corporate advertising any more). I've seen this technique used more effectively in B2C than B2B marketing and this Samsung example reinforces that observation. Will it work with our target market?

I'm all in favour of using vital marketing techniques to help to achieve the objectives of iManifest but we shouldn't under-estimate the potential cost and effort required to score a hit. If anyone has a great idea for a low-cost viral campaign then please post it here or feel free to reply to me in private.

Tom Presotto said...

Martin, my five cents.

1- Italy, from some point of view, is still a country close within its own political and cultural borders. An advertisement on anything other than a national newspaper is worthless.
2- As I already wrote, very few local ISVs and SIs are aware of the European iManifest initiative. Social network and blog communications are not so common within the business decision maker and executives.
3- I saw the Samsung viral spots. First of all they are too long. Nowadays the be effective a communication, especially one addresses at executive people, should not exceed the 30 seconds limit. In this limited time you must deliver a clear message about the value I can get for my company business. It’s not necessary spend a lot of money to produce a good viral video. I can send you links to samples that I have created with the multimedia agency, I work with, that are in the range of 1000€ all inclusive. I mean also the creativity.
4- Most of the decisions about abandoning the AS/400 are taken by top executives that doesn’t necessary speaks IT terminology. The message must be delivered using a language understood by these guys.
5- IBM. I remember having commented, I can’t remember whether it was this blog or Linkedin group, that many Italian ISVs are waiting to see what IBM is going to do. I didn’t, and I don’t, mean IBM interest about iManifest, but about the platform itself ! It’s yet not clear whether IBM will continue to actively promote and support the “IBM i“ on the IBM Power Systems.

jmo said...

Martin,

Extremely well put my friend! I am especially glad to hear that someone else shares my thoughts regarding the seed capital. I have made a very good living working on the IBM i for many years. Putting up a few thousand dollars (or Euros) to be a part of ensuring that the IBM i customer base will continue to grow and prosper is certainly the best investment I've made recently. ;-)

In case no one has thanked you for taking up the cause in the EU, let me be the first... Thanks!

Jeff Olen

Tom Presotto said...

Martin, my five cents.

1- Italy, from some point of view, is still a country close within its own political and cultural borders. An advertisement on anything other than a national newspaper is worthless.
2- As I already wrote, very few local ISVs and SIs are aware of the European iManifest initiative. Social network and blog communications are not so common within the business decision maker and executives.
3- I saw the Samsung viral spots. First of all they are too long. Nowadays the be effective a communication, especially one addresses at executive people, should not exceed the 30 seconds limit. During this limited time you must deliver a clear message about the value I can get for my company business. It’s not necessary to spend a lot of money to produce a good viral video. I can send you links to samples that I have created, with the multimedia agency I work with, that are in the range of 1000€ all inclusive. I mean also the creativity.
4- Most of the decisions about abandoning the AS/400 are taken by top executives that don’t necessary speak IT terminology. The message must be delivered using a language understood by these guys.
5- IBM. I remember having commented, I can’t remember whether it was in this blog or Linkedin group, that many Italian ISVs are waiting to see what IBM is going to do. I didn’t, and I don’t, mean IBM interest about iManifest, but about the platform itself ! It’s yet not clear whether IBM will continue to actively promote and support the “IBM i“ on the IBM Power Systems

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with you about the need to make a big impact via the national media rather than spreading any advertising too thinly.