Novell boosts its position in IT field

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When enterprise infrastructure software and services provider Novell debuted its "Your Linux Is Ready" campaign last August, the objective was twofold: to introduce the company's SUSE Linux platform and to establish Novell as a serious player in the Linux market.

The launch of the product and integrated campaign—which was created by PJA Advertising, Cambridge, Mass., and included print and online ads, direct marketing, a viral Web initiative, social media strategies and a channel partner-sponsored campaign with a co-branded microsite—coincided with the Linux World Conference & Expo in San Francisco, one of the biggest events addressing the Linux and open source community, said Phil Juliano, VP-corporate branding and communications at Novell.

The campaign's target audience consisted of developers who use the operating system and senior-level IT executives who sign off on purchasing decisions.

The messaging needed to stress that the SUSE release would offer users the best of the Linux community's creativity and innovation along with the support, service and confidence of a global software company, said Mike O'Toole, exec VP-partner at PJA Advertising.

This case had to be made carefully, he said, because Linux developers tend to be suspicious of commercial software companies. "They're all about free software and open source," O'Toole said, referring to the fact that the source code underlying Linux can be used and modified by anyone. "So we needed to have a creative campaign that spoke to them and gave them credit for their work and their contribution."

To do so, the campaign features Linux developers, O'Toole said. For instance, a microsite used a social media approach and viral marketing to involve the audience, featuring an application built on top of the Google Earth interface that allowed developers to identify themselves on the map and add details about their contribution to the code base. Many also added their photos.

Knowing where to reach this audience was critical, Juliano said. Two or three years ago, Novell was running 80% of its advertising in offline media and 20% in online properties, he said. Today, that breakdown is closer to 50/50, he said.

"We've learned to put our messages out where our audience is most prepared to read them," he said.

The campaign's online component includes videos placed on the Web sites of properties such as CIO, Computerworld, Information Week and Infoworld, he said. "Not that static advertising doesn't have its place, but the more engaging technique of reaching people that involves sight, sound and motion, if done well, can be much more powerful," Juliano said.

Other online efforts include blogs written by senior-level Novell executives and podcasts created by company engineers. "It's not just window dressing; it really gets into details of how to leverage open source and what it can do for your business," Juliano said.

Traditional channels such as print advertising and events are still important to the success of an integrated campaign, he said. "We haven't ignored the face-to-face events. At Linux World, we still make key people available to talk to users and people that are still learning about Linux," he said. "We don't leave any stone unturned in terms of the different levers we want to use to drive the business."

Since the campaign started, there have been more than 1 million downloads of SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 and 687,000 downloads of SUSE Linux Desktop, O'Toole said. The microsite has had more than 6 million home page views, and more than 3,000 developers have registered on the viral Web page. Plus brand tracking surveys have shown a significant increase in the percentage of people who see Novell as a serious Linux player, he said.

Juliano said consistency was key to the success of the campaign, which will continue throughout the next year. "Sometimes companies announce a new technology or product with a lot of fanfare, and then they get bored with their own messaging and keep switching every quarter or six months," he said. "We've stayed the course. We refresh [the campaign] and improve on it; we don't rest on our laurels, and we've been consistent. That's a best practice that's often overlooked in b-to-b marketing."

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