Understanding IBM

Part 24. The B-Team

OS/2 users may rant and rave about how bad IBM marketing is, but they are only seeing a small part of IBM marketing. IBM's retail market for OS/2 has never yet approached a billion dollars annually, yet IBM grosses $85 billion a year. Obviously, marketing is being done effectively to *somebody*.

IBM's consumer marketing problem has to do with its fixation on the target audience of major corporations. In the classic corporate model of business decisionmaking, IBM would find the person within the target organization who was the decisionmaker for a particular sale, and they would work that person mercilessly until the sale was made. As shown by the highly successful Swissotel party during the 1996 Olympics, IBM's best marketers know how to wine and dine globe-trotting executives. IBM's top marketers know how to relate to the concerns of these executives as well.

Yet in the consumer arena, it seems that the B-team was called in for the job. Looking at the fuzzy videos on the "Just Add OS/2 Warp" CD reminds us that IBM has wasted a lot of excellence; the impact of David Barnes' smooth presentation is lost because the CD media format just doesn't get the message across clearly. The "OS/2 Warp Marketing CD" for Warp 4 has a few nice .GIFs of the OS/2 box and a few statistics about OS/2 and its components and features. But it doesn't have step-by-step instruction for giving a great demonstration, and it lacks a self-contained, portable video of such a demonstration. It also fails to address the key issue of software compatibility, since it doesn't contain an exhaustive list of popular OS/2-compatible applications to sooth worried customers.

If IBM had brought in an A-team of great consumer marketing talent, OS/2 would likely be far more popular today. The key ingredient would have been marketing tools that would make the legion of loyal OS/2 users out in the real world into an effective promotional force: tools like training videos, more effective demo CDs, and an OS/2 marketing website that could serve as a referral zone -- a site that teaches how to *sell* OS/2, not just how great its features are.

With a name like "Warp" and the lack of mass-marketing features like a constant color scheme, a simple logo, and a great slogan, IBM's B-team has failed to capture the mass-market appeal that is necessary to make a great product like OS/2 into a great success story in the retail marketplace. Fortunately, those of us who truly enjoy using OS/2 can still take advantage of the big-business success of IBM's A-team marketers in that sector.

Most recent revision: June 13, 1998
Copyright © 1998, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.

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