Serena Software wanted to introduce its information technology management solutions to an executive-level audience, helping enterprise buyers quickly understand the capabilities and deployment of a complex product. So the marketing department created a character: a star CIO who works at a company about to be trounced by a technologically superior competitor. They built that character a Twitter account and gave him a starring role in a Web miniseries: “Doug Serena, CIO.”
“We conceived it as a drama series,” said David Hurwitz, senior VP-worldwide marketing at Serena. “We had 24 [episodes] in mind. People thought we would do comedy; but when you try to do a comedy, there is a lot of pressure, and you end up burying your message.”
The five-episode series centered around the exploits of Doug and his direct reports, chronicling their use of Serena's technology to overhaul their IT system and help their fictional company regain a competitive edge. “Those are the ... main roles that we sell to,” Hurwitz said. “The idea was to have not only the CIO but to have the directs so people we might be selling to or users could see an idealized, realistic portrayal in a soft-sell way. This was a dressed-up case study.”
Professional actors portrayed the characters in weekly, five-minute segments that were posted on YouTube as well as on a campaign microsite. The company promoted the segments through traditional media releases as well as a social media campaign.
“We gave a lot of thought to how to give [the character] an online identity,” Hurwitz said. Facebook was not appropriate for a b-to-b audience, and the audience on LinkedIn expects real people. But Twitter had a reputation for hosting spoof and character accounts. “Some of my favorite Twitter accounts to follow are not real,” Hurwitz said.
Doug Serena, CIO, tweeted about the series as well as interesting news in the IT field. He gained more than 150 followers, a small but influential cohort that includes technology editors, industry analysts and CIOs. Doug's social network spread the message, and the campaign to date has netted about 5,200 views. The video segments, introduced last March, continue to attract about 50 new viewers a week, Hurwitz said.
Doug had a life after the series ended as well. The actor who portrayed Doug appeared before about 500 customers and partners at the company's live conference, Serena xChange, taking part in banter during presentations and also handing out awards.
“I've gotten a lot of favorable feedback,” Hurwitz said. “Compared to what you normally get off a two-to-five-minute video demo, this is so much more engaging.”