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IBM asked software developers to take on the wrath of Mother Nature

IBM was highly commended in the ‘Best Social Good Campaign’ category at The Drum B2B Awards 2019. Here, the team behind reveals the challenges faced and the strategies used to deliver this successful project.

The challenge

IBM had a problem. Research showed we were losing the confidence of developers.

They were consistently ranking us in the bottom 10, if at all, behind our competitors in:

• Innovation

• Open Source Support

• Community Advocacy

• Technical Prowess

Humanity had a bigger problem. Natural disasters of apocalyptic proportion are occurring at a more rapid rate than ever before.

The strategy

We decided to hand over our code patterns (AI, IOT, Blockchain, Cloud) and unleash the creativity of developers from around the world to take on humanity’s greatest challenge: the wrath of Mother Nature.

With key partners, we launched a global challenge that asked developers to use technology to address natural disaster preparedness and recovery and ultimately help save lives. Hosting the biggest hackathon in the world, would put our technology in the hands of new audiences and help IBM’s pioneering capabilities and ethos shine through.

We needed to connect with developers but do so by avoiding traditional marketing efforts which they would ignore. Putting our code into their hands, gave us an opportunity to celebrate their creativity, compassion and inherent need to solve problems. We could bring attention to them with authenticity by putting them front and center rather than ourselves.

In addition, a documentary would turn the spotlight on what ingenuity can achieve and reveal the hard work and unique characters of coders from around the world. It would also be a way to inspire even more engagement and involvement from developers, employees, students, volunteers and partners in 2019.

The campaign

The best way to connect with our audience (18-34 year-old coders) was to give them our code and a problem they cared about to solve. Instead of advertising our story, we told theirs. We used the entries and hackathon events as a source for casting the documentary and along the way we captured footage of disasters as they happened, making sure that we presented the challenge as a global problem that had no regard for who, what or where--Mother Nature does not discriminate.

After hundreds of hours of interviews and thousands of miles traveling to events, we found a diverse and global cast. The movie had to be cinema-worthy. We did not want to shoot a corporate brand video...so we removed the brand. It was a risk but we knew that is was true to our original strategy: this is about developers—not IBM.

We wanted to raise their profiles, so we needed to introduce them to new audiences, which meant filming a movie worthy of that larger audience’s time - inclusive of beautiful photography and superior production design. These were a new set of first responders and we wanted to introduce them to audiences by creating a story that was worthy of theatrical release and eventual distribution.

The results

The film is won awards at several film festivals around the country and is now in negotiations for formal distribution.

We screened it for over 300 IT professionals at our largest annual event called Think and the film was rated 4.9 out of 5.0 (our highest-rated session ever).

In the process of making the film, we established a global platform for developers to drive positive change through the code they create for the greater good of all.

We created enough momentum that the movie’s name Code & Response became the name for the overall initiative IBM launched at CES in 2019: a new $25 million, four-year initiative to fortify, test and launch open source technology to help communities needing critical aid.

From Think event feedback:

“Moved me to tears! So awesome! Thanks all!” “What an inspiring film” “Fantastic story and a great piece of community involvement and support.” “Very inspiring stories and awesome that IBM is supporting the execution of these life-saving solutions.”

The project as a winner at The Drum B2B Awards 2019. To find out which Drum Awards are currently open for entries, click here.

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