The Lotus Knows campaign... reflections on what I heard on today's conference call...
I had the pleasure of being on the Lotus Knows blogger call this morning, where Kristen Lauria and Ed Brill covered the new Lotus Knows campaign that will be kicked off this week with the IdeaJam this Wednesday. This is the campaign that was announced at IamLUG, and now it's got more flesh on it. Credit to Lotus for pulling in the blogging community to help carry the message forward in the social media space.
A number of interesting points came out of this call, ones that helped me to understand exactly what the target market is that Lotus is going after. The target is the "pacesetter" in an organization. This may or may not necessarily be an IT person, but it is a person who is comfortable with new technology and how it can help them get their jobs done easier and faster. These are the people who are looked to for technology recommendations because they seem to have their finger on the pulse of what's going on. They are 25 to 54, tend to travel as part of their jobs or for personal reasons, and they make use of digital media to get their news.
Keeping this target in mind, Lotus is focusing on ad placement that will appear in places that would be seen often by this person, and in the correct context. Lotus Knows what the weather is where you're going on something like The Weather Channel website. Lotus Knows the quickest route to your hotel on cabs. Things like that... The website that will collect further inquiries will also be far different than the normal IBM sites, in that there will be case studies, BP and user-generated videos, and distinct calls to action. The goal is to get those who think they know what Lotus is to rethink their view, and to get those who don't know what Lotus is to start asking the questions.
Some more positives... this isn't a quarter-long initiative that will be dropped after three months. It's a long-term plan to put Lotus back out in the collective mindset of technologists. Lotus is also working closely with the business partners and blogging community to help spread the message beyond just the web site and ad media. Some might say that this is IBM getting cheap/free work from their partners, but I disagree. I see it as recognition that a healthy community supports a strong software offering, and that all the good ideas do not originate inside the walls of IBM.
The "elephant in the room" question was asked, and that was "what about TV ads." In an answer that will probably meet with some dismay, there are not going to be any TV ads to start with. On the other hand, the answer surrounding that was quite positive. They don't want the Lotus Knows ads to collide with the "Smarter Planet" ads, but to partner with them. Since they have different looks, it could be confusing to see both styles running together. They also found that the "pacesetter" target audience doesn't tend to spend that much more time watching TV as they do getting their information from online sources. Given that finding, Lotus can get many more impressions per target than trying a blanket coverage on some TV show. And most encouraging, Kristen explicitly said that TV is not off the table for future direction. It just won't be there to start with.
Another point that may create some dissention is the US-only start of the campaign, perhaps followed by a rollout in Germany. They are planning on an international rollout also, but the US market is the starting point. If they follow through quickly with other countries, this shouldn't be an issue. But if it stalls out anywhere along the way, there are going to be some unhappy groups that will think they didn't get the "air cover" they were promised.
My overall impression is one of guarded optimism. This is much more than we've seen in the last five to seven years of marketing, so I'm very happy on that front. And as a starting point *and* given that they are listening to other sources than their own internal staff and the ad agencies, this could continue to evolve in a positive way. There are plenty of single points that could be quibbled over... Is 25 to 54 too broad an age range? Is 25 too late to get the mindshare of the people heading into startups and businesses? Are we still missing the rank and file that use Lotus Notes every day, but don't see anything on TV about it? Will the Notes client get the same level of attention as other things like LotusLive, Sametime, Quickr?
If we spent all our time debating those individual questions, we'd never get the campaign started and off the ground. Given what I've seen and heard, I think this is the best start one could possibly hope for, and it lays the groundwork for immediate attention and future possibilities. That's a huge jump from where we've been, and I'm happy that we've finally gotten to this point.