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Prove your love for your iSeries -- get a tattoo

IBM is hoping a new marketing campaign showing iSeries users hugging their systems will have Windows users thinking about the platform the way middle-aged men think about Harleys.

Within the next several months, IBM will begin rolling out a new marketing campaign that plays off the affection iSeries users have for the platform.

The campaign will include videos of iSeries users hugging their systems, tattoos and the catchy slogan "iSeries. my Series."

It's all about the love, baby.

"Anyone who buys this platform falls in love with it," said Malcolm Haines, an IBM iSeries marketing veteran. "There are massive levels of affection for this system. We're hoping that when people see the love these users have for their platform they'll say, 'Why?' Why do they feel this affection? It must be really unusual."

There are massive levels of affection for this system.
Malcolm Haines

Haines said he believes this untraditional marketing approach will produce amazing results. Although Haines didn't say how or where, this campaign will target Windows users and other potential customers currently using other platforms.

"A lot of people don't think that it can be like this because they've been used to a another computing environment," he said. "This campaign can dramatically and quickly communicate this. We're going to illustrate the platform's extreme strength."

Haines is noted for having produced colorful and off-beat advertising campaigns during his 25-year career with IBM. He has a devoted following among iSeries users, and his return to IBM in November 2002 after a short hiatus sparked hope among iSeries loyalists that Haines would bring life back to the platform.

His approach has been unconventional, to say the least. He was responsible for the giant blimps flashing AS/400 messages to attendees of two Lotusphere trade shows in 1999 and 2000. It was Haines' idea to create the iSeries Nation.

Haines will be heading up this latest campaign with IBM's New York advertising company, Ogilvy and Mather, which IBM has worked with since the early 1990s, when then-CEO Lou Gerstner consolidated its agencies.

It was Ogilvy and Mather that promoted the now infamous "Love, Peace and Linux" campaign that defaced San Francisco sidewalks with graffiti and ended up costing Big Blue millions in clean-up costs.

But there have also been some truly brilliant marketing stunts to come out of IBM marketing in the past decade, including pitting chess champion Garry Kasparov against IBM supercomputer Deep Blue.

Haines said the Deep Blue campaign is one that every marketing person aspires to. Although he couldn't say this campaign would have that kind of success, he said he believes strongly that this one will bring the iSeries over the top.

"In marketing you can never say, 'This will do it,'" he said. "The best you can hope for is that something is 70% to 80% right, and I feel this is."

No one will argue that the iSeries doesn't need a shot in the arm. If the shot in the arm is a love potion, so be it. But the basis of this campaign, really, is part of an overall strategy developed by Al Zollar, general manager of the iSeries, to add to the platform's customer base by improving its image.

This campaign, which Zollar discussed with business partners during its PartnerWorld conference being held this week in Las Vegas, will be rolled out during Common conference in May in San Antonio.

Haines, who is extremely enthusiastic about this campaign, said he has a number of stunts that will be part of this campaign but that he couldn't mention them because he has "yet to work out the costs." Television ads will not be part of the campaign.

But getting a tattoo at the Common conference will be part of it. Where you put it is your choice, but he said they are considering a competition in which spotters will tap attendees who are brandishing tattoos, probably for prizes. So the tattoos will have to be clearly visible.

Haines said that iSeries users are always writing IBM and telling it that it needs to do a better job of marketing the iSeries. But iSeries users also write to tell them what an incredible machine it has. There isn't any other platform user that writes to tell IBM that, he said.

"It's an extremely unusual thing, and a tribute to Rochester, that they've built a system that evokes this kind of response," he said. "These users love their systems so much, they'd bring it home to their mothers if they could. We think the affection they feel for the iSeries is as strong as what a Harley-Davidson owner feels for his bike. That's where we got the idea for the tattoos -- although these tattoos won't be permanent."


Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Kate Evans-Correia, senior news editor.

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