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Commentary: Marketing advice from iSeries pros

Last week, Search400.com interviewed new IBM System i5 marketing vice president, Elaine Lennox. During the interview, Lennox mentioned plans for IBM to tap the iSeries customer base to help market the platform. Several readers responded to Lennox's challenge, including Search400.com commentator and iSeries author, Brian Kelly.

Last week, Search400.com interviewed new IBM System i5 marketing vice president, Elaine Lennox. During the interview, Lennox mentioned plans for IBM to tap the iSeries customer base to help market the platform. Several readers responded to Lennox's challenge, including Search400.com commentator and iSeries author, Brian Kelly.

Call it the All-Everything Machine

What's wrong with referring to [System i5] as the "All-Everything Machine?" That's lots more "sexy" than System i5 alone and to the best of my knowledge the term has never been used to describe a computer system before. It's as good as the word "Windows" if not better. Nobody who hears it once will forget it. That's a key point in marketing and subtle branding.

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I've heard the System i5 called the "all-in-one" server but that term is well overworked. If you want to immediately signal to the market that the System i5 is a progressive platform, begin to refer to it as IBM's "All-Everything Machine." The college kids would certainly remember that and maybe someone other than the legions of AS/400 fans would even ask what it is all about.

[In the interest of full disclosure, Kelly's latest iSeries book is titled The All-Everything Machine.]

No babysitter required

From the interview with Lennox: The value proposition of the iSeries is that you don't have to baby-sit it. It's just going to run.

Where are the advertising people when you need them? This line is sheer marketing genius. Can you see a TV ad with [iSeries marketing chief] Malcolm Haines in a rocker with a whiney little Brand X server in his lap doing the customary rocking -- as in babysitting? Even my neighbors would like that. Maybe they'd even remember it when somebody calls on them to buy one.

Time to re-brand RPG

I would like to see the new director [of marketing] offer praise for RPG and all its done for i5 and IBM. I would like to see the director herald its capabilities as the world's strongest, most intuitive, and easiest to use business language. Computer Nerds and geeks need not apply. If Microsoft owned RPG it would be successful.

I would like to see the director of marketing thank the cadre of RPG professionals by promising to Webify the language naturally and this is even more important -- to make RPG and perhaps just a subset of CL available on IBM's other platforms.

While she is at it, how about promising a lobbying effort within IBM to change the name of RPG to the International Business Language or the All-Business Language or something that really says something about what the language actually is. IBM would shake up the industry, get a ton of free publicity for the name change and it would signal that IBM is no longer embarrassed about having the world's best business platforms and the world's best business language.

IBM is humiliated to say RPG in public because it is complicit in its legacy status. Yet, there must be some exceptionally sharp marketing type who recognizes that RPG and System i5 are successful together because both are important and both are special and both are unique to IBM and that should spell opportunity. Taking one of those unique products (RPG) and Webifying it and making it available on all other platforms would be a business application killer. Why wouldn't a sharp marketing person make the most of such a unique product and expand its sphere of influence to IBM's other platforms..

Maybe the right person to take on that mission is Elaine Lennox. If Ms. Lennox were to first offer a value story to Mark Shearer on the Business Language idea, and he bought off on the unique multiplatform value of RPG for IBM, and he and Ms. Lennox sold that idea to the rest of the IBM Corporation, especially the Software Division -- maybe, just maybe IBM would get to move that revenue odometer one more elusive digit.

Just because IBM invented it and it is extremely functional and loved by its customers and it is more productive than anything Microsoft has yet to dream about does not automatically mean it is bad. If only IBM could be convinced of that. I have a sneaky feeling that as she settles into her office space, the marketer in this new marketing director may motivate Elaine Lennox to take on the RPG challenge. But, then again, whoever said selling the best products in the industry would be easy?

Brian Kelly retired as a 30-year IBM Midrange Systems Engineer in 1999, having cut his eye teeth in 1969 on the System/3 and later with CCP. While with IBM, he was also a Certified Instructor and a Mid-Atlantic Area Designated Specialist. He has written twenty-three books and numerous magazine articles about current IT topics.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Matt Stansberry, News Editor

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