Building the DB2 Brand for IBM
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Building the DB2 Brand for IBM

Late in 1996 IBM and Brodeur Worldwide launched an aggressive media relations and marketing campaign to introduce the world's first Web-based database, DB2 Universal Database (DB2). In 2000, IBM was poised to launch another powerful version of DB2 on Inte

Paul Holmes

Late in 1996 IBM and Brodeur Worldwide launched an aggressive media relations and marketing campaign to introduce the world's first Web-based database, DB2 Universal Database (DB2). This critical e-business software stores, manages and analyzes information of every kind, including multimedia data such as images, video and audio. The campaign was so effective that when the product began shipping in September 1997, it was already a huge success. Over the next few years, through several product enhancements, the PR team did not let up their relentless pursuit of media coverage.  Today DB2 is an industry leader with superior brand recognition.  

In 2000, IBM was poised to launch another powerful version of DB2 on Intel and UNIX platforms, this one geared towards Application Service Providers (ASPs), companies born-on-the-Web and the NetGen market. With a budget of around $2 million, the IBM Software Group and Brodeur PR team was tasked with promoting this new version and generating media coverage for a well-established brand. Facing fierce competition and exaggerated claims by competitors, the team had to create an aggressive, global campaign that would pique reporters’ interest and entice them to write. Brodeur had to develop compelling news stories and elevate product discussions to industry issues and trends, with heavy focus on competitors.

In a nutshell: The success of this outstanding, award-worthy integrated communications and marketing program is reflected best in IBM’s revenue growth. In Q2 2000 (April-June) IBM's database management business grew 62% on Intel and UNIX platforms, 3x faster than the industry growth rate, and 5x faster than their top competitor Oracle, which reported a 12% increase in the same time period, 20% below analyst expectations. 


1. Enhance mindshare & generate worldwide coverage for DB2 V7 2. Demonstrate how NetGens/dot.coms and traditional companies will benefit from DB2 V7 3. Demonstrate IBM’s position vs. Oracle


Research and analysis were critical to the success of this global program. Through research, the Brodeur team was plugged into the marketplace currents, monitoring industry news and spotting key trends. By doing this, the team was able to execute strategic and proactive media outreach on a daily basis.  The team infiltrated competitor stories, and increased coverage for DB2 to boost total impressions. Research also enabled the team to counteract competitors by anticipating  their announcements and activities and planning smarter media moves in response. Information garnered from daily research also helped the PR team design an effective communications program to keep IBM employees, sales force, executives, customers and partners informed.  


 (1) DB2 was already recognized as a very powerful product. This announcement was about an upgrade, not a brand new database. Generating media coverage on a technology upgrade is extremely difficult.  

(2) The team had to develop compelling, unique stories to interest both business and trade press journalists worldwide, with local angles for different countries. 

(3) Leading up to the launch, DB2 V7 was in limited beta with just a handful of customers.  Identifying appropriate customers and business partners to act as references in support of IBM’s worldwide announcement was trying. 

(4) The team had to break through the clutter and hype created by Oracle to reveal IBM’s edge in the industry.  

(5) The launch date was pushed up which significantly narrowed the lead-time available to generate “First Looks” product reviews.  The Brodeur Labs team was forced to compress their schedule for delivering the software to the publications’ labs. 

(6) Every product group within IBM Software wanted to jump on the bandwagon to leverage the DB2 announcement, which threatened to dilute IBM’s overall messages and cause confusion in the market.


The Brodeur team quickly dug in the trenches.  After strategizing for several days with IBM’s senior executives, analyst relations, marketing, internal communications, customers and others, the team devised a powerful communications plan that was integrated across all of these disciplines.  To build excitement and generate pre-launch coverage, the team outlined a series of strategic media activities culminating with a major kick-off event in April, 2000.  Vienna, Austria, was selected as the venue where IBM would host an event centered on its corporate theme, “The Soul of e-business.”  Here, IBM would announce the beta of DB2 V7, promising to ship the product in June.   The team planned to reach additional key audiences worldwide with a series of supporting activities following the kickoff in Vienna.


Developing an integrated program with a global view was Brodeur’s core strategy to build excitement around the launch of DB2 V7 and demonstrate IBM’s technology leadership. Also crucial was an extremely aggressive stance against competitors. The key to this approach was to be consistent and forthright.  While Oracle made exaggerated claims, IBM sought to build trust by providing an accurate picture of the data management landscape. Through a steady rollout of lab visits, press tours, and related activities, reporters worldwide were exposed to DB2’s leadership and IBM’s commitment to deliver superior technology for ASPs and NetGen companies, while meeting their budgetary requirements.  

Selecting the right speakers for the kickoff event in Vienna was another strategic decision.  John Thompson, then IBM Software Group’s senior vice president and group executive, and computing pioneer Nicholas Negroponte,  injected the event with high-impact energy.  These luminaries, along with several IBM general managers and senior executives served as a major attraction for the European community.


Highlights from IBM SWG’s first, truly integrated communications program:

Public Relations: Via lab tours, international and North American  journalists were briefed on IBM's strategy and edge in the industry. They also got a sneak preview of DB2 V7 and new technology that were to be integrated into the product. Reporters also met with the brains behind IBM’s innovative technology including IBM Fellows (the highest honor given to technologists at IBM) and visionaries.  

Brodeur worked diligently to secure product reviews in key trade publication labs prior to the announcement.  The reviews resulted in favorable "First Look" articles, generating interest from customers and partners. In addition, the team earned widespread recognition for aggressively publicizing DB2’s superior architecture and  record-shattering performance in industry-standard benchmarks.  

Stories on IBM’s database portfolio and customer wins were placed on a regular basis.  In addition, well-executed media strategies helped the team penetrate competitive coverage.  All of these activities were orchestrated to generate a steady drumbeat and worldwide momentum.  Customers and Partners: Several hundred IBM customers and Business Partners were briefed on DB2 V7 via Webcasts and teleconferences. Many also served as references for press and analysts, adding credibility to DB2’s power.  

Analyst Relations:  Overall, more than 100 US and European analysts were briefed on the announcement.  Approximately 30 analysts attended the various events in Vienna. Several of these analysts served as references for the press and also wrote favorable articles about the product and IBM’s strategy.  

Marketing and Advertising: White papers and brochures were designed and distributed to internal and external audiences, showcasing DB2's strength. For the first time, IBM SWG placed DB2 product ads in major newspapers and magazines. Worldwide marketing and sales teams were briefed on the news and related PR activities – resulting in message consistency. 

Internal Communications: Via several communications vehicles, the SWG Internal Communications team kept IBM employees worldwide apprised of all activities leading up to the launch and beyond. On launch day the team created a festive atmosphere at various IBM sites, so employees could share the excitement. For example, the IBM Somers, NY, lobby was decorated with balloons, etc. and employees were invited to eat Vienna cookies and toast DB2 V7 with 7-Ups. Several IBM labs including Silicon Valley, Toronto, and Boeblingen, Germany, displayed colorful posters to celebrate the official, public unveiling of their hard work.


Due to the launch and ongoing activities, IBM’s data management business saw double digit growth in every quarter of last year. Despite market fluctuations, in 2000, DB2 revenue on UNIX grew 72% and Windows NT grew at 74%, 3x faster than the industry growth rate, and nearly 3x faster than Oracle. 

Media: The competitive angle was a huge success and became the headline for most stories. The announcement generated positive coverage in key business publications including The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today -- a major feat given the scope of the original announcement. Eighteen countries worldwide hosted press activities for the local media. Within days of the announcement, more than 150 stories appeared in US and European business, trade and online media. Total number of impressions from just 8* outlets were 16,200,709. Additional 100+ stories appeared within the next 3 months, adding to the list of stories that resulted from pre-launch activities. A media analysis showed that IBM's 2Q 2000 database coverage increased for a second consecutive quarter, climbing to 21 percent of IBM's coverage. A capacity audience of nearly 1000 people from across the technology spectrum attended the two-day Vienna event, almost twice the expected number. 
*Includes The Wall Street Journal, Financial World, USA Today, The New York Times, San Jose Mercury News, InformationWeek, TechWeb & Computerworld.

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