IBM breathed new life into its existing WebSphere product line in 2000, teaming with Brodeur Worldwide to educate the media, analysts and the developer community about the power of its re-engineered and rebranded web development tools.  Strategic outreach yielded an enormous number of media impressions, but more importantly, the WebSphere campaign helped the product capture 24 percent of the application server market, up from 17 percent in June 2000.
The Internet’s explosive growth has created fierce competition among software companies hoping to be viewed as the leader in e-business software.  Throughout the late 1990s, IBM successfully repositioned itself as the “e-business” company, so in 2000 it began leveraging that reputation to build awareness around specific e-business software products. 
In May 2000, IBM Software and Brodeur Worldwide teamed to kick off a campaign centered around a story about IBM’s WebSphere software.  Prior to May, WebSphere was a standalone product, and the developer community used it in conjunction with a variety of other software programs.  WebSphere was never positioned as an end-to-end e-business development platform, but IBM saw an opportunity to enhance the product, rebrand the offering and capture greater share of the e-business software market.  So the company unified several of its other web development products under the WebSphere umbrella, creating a “one-stop” web development.  WebSphere had become a truly end-to-end solution, and IBM needed to tell the world.
IBM's WebSphere platform helps companies at each stage of e-business development, from startup to handling high-volume Web transactions, typical of business-to-business e-marketplaces.  Increasing awareness of the WebSphere suite through education and media outreach would allow IBM to surpass competitors BEA, Sun and Oracle in this hotly competitive market.
IBM conducted research into the market opportunities for web development software and knew it literally had a golden opportunity on its hands.  Giga Information Group estimates the web development software market that WebSphere serves will grow to $9 billion by 2003.
To prepare for the campaign, Brodeur and IBM articulated a series of key objectives:

  • Generate at least one positive business press article around the WebSphere brand
  • Gain prominent mention in trade press articles, including significant stories in at least two of the top four IT publications, and be sure that WebSphere is defined a brand/platform versus an application server and as the technology infrastructure for B2B/B2C e-businesses
  • Generate articles in developer publications and web sites that position the WebSphere software platform at least one significant article in a popular “new economy” publication
  • Educate internal IBM audiences – employees and partners – about the expanded breadth of the WebSphere offering
IBM and Brodeur Worldwide centered its campaign around an educational theme, seeking to enlighten the developer community and key media outlets about the “new and improved” WebSphere offering.  This educational theme drove the messaging and the tactical execution.  During the strategy sessions, the IBM-Brodeur team:
  • Developed umbrella messages and materials to educate press on the WebSphere brand, platform and products
  • Determined how to leverage worldwide press events and executive 1:1 press interviews to build a compelling story around the WebSphere brand and highlight new features that have been added to the WebSphere family. In addition, the team reinforced these messages with customer win and partner announcements.
  • Created messaging to support a business value story around the WebSphere brand for major media and NetGen press
  • Identified weaknesses to fuel attacks on the competition (BEA, Oracle and SUN) through key messages and guerilla PR tactics
  • Chose to utilize customers, partners, analysts and product reviews to validate the benefits of the WebSphere platform
  • Brainstormed around the design and distribution of “teasers” in the form of IBM travel mugs to target press to raise awareness of the pending WebSphere announcement
IBM and Brodeur organized a press conference, high-level strategy briefings and news announcements at PC Expo in New York City.   Three IBM executives conducted more than 30 interviews with domestic and international reporters on IBM's WebSphere software platform and enhancements to the WebSphere family of products.  The team also organized press conferences in Paris, Germany, and Bangkok, and a webcast in Latin America.  Further, a radio news release (RNR) entitled "Big Blue Putting Its Focus in the Middle" and featuring John Swainson was distributed on June 28 to coincide with distribution of the launch press release.  IBM also arranged for customers to appear live to sing the praises of WebSphere and talk about their positive experiences with implementation and used to distribute news releases.
The WebSphere software platform launch was delivered to over 400 members of the press at six different launch events around the globe.  Press coverage spanned major media, NetGen and trade publications, and live Internet and radio broadcasts, totaling more than 300 clips worldwide.  The press briefing at PC Expo was a tremendous success, with every seat filled and standing room only.  Among the highlights:
WebSphere brand messages captured the attention of business, trade and NetGen press, including the Wall Street Journal, Investor's Business Daily, CBS Marketwatch, The New York Times, Infoworld, eWeek, The Financial Times, Reuters, Bloomberg and The Industry Standard. Strong news hooks further solidified IBM's leadership in e-business solutions, specifically the "middleware growth" and "developer" angles.  To date, there have been more than 106 articles worldwide, and results are still being collected from the Bangkok, Paris and Germany press briefings.
Key placement within major publications emphasized the significance of the WebSphere news and increased understanding of the business message.  For example, The Wall Street Journal featured the WebSphere news on page one under Business Briefs, as a teaser on the first page of the Business section, with the full article inside.  WebSphere was also featured on the inside cover of Investor's Business Daily.
Broadcast interest in the WebSphere news was strong with multiple airings on CNNfn, CBS Marketwatch, CNET radio and CNBC Power Lunch (featuring Ozzie Osborne).   Coverage for WebSphere-branded products in June also included: “NBC Nightly News” (WebSphere Transcoding Publisher).
The radio news release was picked up by 33 U.S. stations, 3 of which were in the top 20 U.S. markets.  The RNR reached a total listenership of 237,100.  Over 30 media outlets accessed the news via, nearly half of which also downloaded either the audio, text or graphics available on the site.
Of the total U.S. coverage for the WebSphere software platform, 25% highlighted IBM's $1 billion commitment in the headline of the article.  Nearly one-third of the European coverage reflected this business investment in the headline.  Nearly all of the coverage positioned WebSphere as the leading e-business software platform, often favorably differentiating it from competitive offerings by BEA and Oracle -- a message reinforced by positive analyst quotes.
In December 2000, the Giga Group reported that IBM’s WebSphere owned almost 24 percent of the application server market, up from 17 percent in June 2000. ("Updated Comparison of Three EJB Application Servers: IBM, BEA and Sun/iPlanet," Mike Gilpin, December 18, 2000)
Forty-seven percent of the CIOs polled in Morgan Stanley's 2001 Annual CIO Outlook Survey said their companies implemented WebSphere’s application server, making it the most widely used Internet infrastructure software among respondents. (MSDW CIO Survey Series: Release 1.8, Charles Phillips and Ryan Rathman, December 20, 2000)