Deon Newman, B2B Marketer of the Year and IBM's vice-president of marketing for System z, spearheaded a global campaign marking the 50th anniversary of the company's iconic mainframe computer. The Mainframe50 campaign generated more than 25,000 news stories and 90,000 mentions of Mainframe50 and IBM in social media conversations.
I invited Deon to Marketing Smarts to talk about the colossal team effort that made the Mainframe50 campaign a success, the content mix and social channels that brought their message to a new generation, and how IBM featured client stories to illustrate how mainframe technology powers the modern world, right down to our mobile phones.
Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:
Explain how your product or service improves people's lives. (03:51): "[The IBM mainframe] is a platform that, apart from being the system behind putting a man on the moon, also was the system upon which modern banking was developed. And today, every time you use an ATM or make a payment with a credit card, you're more than likely working through a mainframe.... Visa does 57,000 transactions per second at peak, and hasn't had a single second of downtime in peak shopping seasons in 20 years."
B2B marketers with a complex product or service need to become storytellers (05:37): "We really felt that we had to...tell the story—something we hadn't done, and we didn't want to talk about technology so much for itself. We wanted to talk about outcomes, so we built a campaign that really focused on the client and the client outcomes, and the building and the development of the industries around it, and the progress they have driven. We wanted to pick clients like Citi (the world's bank), Visa (they do 60% of all the globe's credit card transactions), The First National Bank of South Africa [which is] bringing access to banking for the first time to the 80% of people in Africa who are unbanked...WaL-Mart (the world's largest retailer). We tried to pick these iconic companies [that] use this system to run their business, and everything else sort of followed. Whether it was...social and digital campaigns...live events where we featured these clients, videos that we made telling the story, research projects that were about making the world a better place. Everything that we did was really built around the client, and then we used all tools—every element of the marketing mix—to really bring the story to life."
Recruit an army of advocates from among your clients (07:20): "The...thing we did very early on was...recruit our clients. We have a...twice yearly leadership council, which is the Mainframe Business Leadership Council, and [our] biggest customers in the world...come together and help us plan, not just this generation of system coming out but the next two generations. They help us prioritize where we spend our money as we develop the system, they advise us on what technologies they need to leverage as we move forward with them and help them grow their business. So we recruited them, and we said, 'This is an anniversary about all of us. It's about the progress that you've driven in the world. The impact that you have every day on society, on business, on the people at large.' We really recruited an army of people who could help develop content, and many of those clients really contributed. They reviewed, they starred in, and then they helped promote that content as well. We built a social army of...advocates who helped us tell that story."
Marketing campaigns anchored by special occasions still need to achieve results (10:34): "This campaign started with an objective: It was about generating...awareness and excitement around this technology. So it's about creating a positive brand impact. It was about awakening the next generation to the platform.... We had a whole focus on skills and activation of the next generation of IT leaders, as well, and we saw this as an important step towards our next major generational announcement and launch of our system...which is coming in 2015. For us, this was not a birthday party. It was not just an anniversary to be celebrated. But really, in a business context, we saw it as conditioning of the marketplace towards our next major generational set of announcements."
Deon and I talked about much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!
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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.