IBM Bluemix

Case Study: IBM puts The Register’s readers in the mix using an exclusive competition to generate record numbers of trial downloads for Bluemix


IBM is an American multinational technology company with 375,000 employees operating in 170 countries. The company can trace its roots back to 1911 and is renowned for the quality of its research. In recent years IBM has evolved from a “hardware, software, services” company and is now emerging as a cognitive solutions and cloud platform company.

IBM Bluemix is an implementation of IBM’s Open Cloud Architecture, based on Cloud Foundry, that enables rapid creation, deployment, and management of cloud applications. The cloud platform supports a number of programming languages including Java, Node.js, Go, PHP, Swift, Python, Ruby Sinatra, Ruby on Rails and can be extended to support other languages.



The challenge for IBM was how do you raise awareness of a cloud platform as a service? PaaS alone is not inherently exciting but it is what you can do with it that is interesting.

The key challenge was how to get target customers, the software developers on the ground, to try out the Bluemix cloud platform and its free month-long trial of the service.

Figure 1: IBM’s Bluemix Catalogue.


The initial enquiry came via an advertising agency working on IBM’s behalf. IBM’s focus was on display advertising, consisting primarily of roadblocks and banner adverts, with a secondary push in the form of promotional content in the form of articles detailing the advantages of Bluemix.

Situation Publishing’s counter proposal suggested the creation of a competition, in which developers testing out the free trial of the Bluemix platform would have challenges to solve, with the winner getting a ‘rather smart smart TV’. This was proposed to appeal to the developers’ competitive nature, a feature which could be tapped into to generate engagement and encourage them to see for themselves the strengths of the new platform.

This unorthodox approach to encouraging downloads of the free trial was accepted by IBM with the understanding that the programing languages used for the competition were restricted to those compatible with the new Bluemix platform.

By hosting the competition on The Register’s website instead of IBM’s, it was much more visible and accessible to the developers that IBM wanted to attract. By using native content, the style and tone of the competition promotion leveraged The Register’s independent voice and further appealed to the target audience.

Figure 2: First Bluemix promo.


The promotional articles for the competition also exceeded expectations, generating over 40,000 unique page views worldwide and the display advertising resulted in almost half a million page impressions, with a click through rate of 0.33%.

The competition hosted on The Register ultimately generated over two hundred Bluemix trial downloads among target software developers worldwide.

Given all the results exceeded expectations, IBM was delighted with the campaign’s success and agreed to renew the competition for 2016, with expanded parameters.