e-Series Strolls Madison Ave.

Now that IBM has invested a good deal of money – not to mention a good deal of its future – in AS/400 e-Series hardware, software and services, the company has finally developed an equally ambitious marketing and advertising campaign.

IBM is hoping slogans like "AS/400e = Hot Apps," "AS/400e = Web security" and "AS/400e = Affordable Growth" become as recognizable around the workplace as the coffee machine, or your favorite parking space. These catch phrases, packaged with seemingly candid pictures and hand-written messages, indicate IBM has adopted more accessible approach to marketing.

This is IBM’s attempt to move away from its more traditional, text-heavy advertisements, according to Tom Jarosh, general manager of the AS/400 Brand. "We’re not using ads to deliver detailed information as much as to attract interest," he says. The campaign depends more upon the end user being more proactive.

IBM has substantially increased its spending for the AS/400 in a number of areas, including services, marketing and education, according to Jarosh. "IBM had taken a lot of hits about its AS/400 marketing," he says.

"One new aspect of our marketing plan is integrated marketing," Jarosh says. This integrated marketing campaign has produced a new advertising plan – launched in June – which Jarosh calls "a versatile approach with a simple message that hits on serious concerns of our customers."

IBM wants the AS/400e to appeal to three different audiences: the existing customer base, those who hold purchase-approval positions within AS/400 shops and new prospects.

"Fifteen percent of our customers use our Web page during the purchasing process," Jarosh says. "We want to increase this number to 90 percent over the next year."

One of IBM’s problems in the past, according to one analyst, has been the company’s server civil war. "Up until six months ago, we think IBM was one of IBM’s toughest competitors," says Thomas Kraemer, an analyst with Morgan Stanley Dean Witter (New York). "When an IBM customer needed to deploy an application, that customer heard from the Netfinity, AS/400, RS/6000 and, potentially, the S/390 sales team as well."

Kraemer feels that, in the midst of this "confusion," Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard were given an "unnecessary opening."

This situation has been rectified of late, according to Kraemer, as IBM has made an "important first step to eliminating" server civil war by "unifying server marketing and sales under Bill Zeitler [general manager of IBM server marketing]."

IBM is working to balance its internal architecture to ensure each server division has the right investments in place, confirms Debra Thompson, VP of Enterprise Systems for the AS/400 Brand. The AS/400 ad campaign in particular employs an "end-to-end strategy" that promotes "awareness, education and active participation," she says.