What I Learned from Watson

It’s elementary, my dear Watson.

Well, to be fair, everything is pretty elementary for Watson.  After all, he’s a computer system that analyzes and processes information.  Watson understands natural language, and generates hypotheses based on the evidence.  Watson is more intelligent than  Siri, and thinks more like a human than a computer. In fact, Watson is so smart that he dominated in a live game of Jeopardy.

Factoids may come easy to Watson, but marketing and branding IBM’s new technology took some out-of-the-box thinking and real creativity.

Cue  Cindi Ellis from IBM and Kimberly Duffy from Ogilvy who worked together with their respective teams to show the world Watson’s amazing capabilities.  These two articulate and smart women visited Boston University’s College of Communication for the Doers, Makers and Innovators series to discuss how they made Watson a household name.

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Watson’s journey didn’t stop at Jeopardy, though.  Recently, at SXSW, Watson made headlines by using Cognitive Cooking.  IBM food trucks used Watson’s computing powers to reinvent traditional foods, adding ingredients and combinations that even some of the world’s best chefs would have never imagined. People at SXSW were very impressed with the food, and food trucks were a huge success.

So, how did IBM and Ogilvy think up these creative ways of promoting Watson?  Well, these ladies gave the audience four takeaways that they said contributed to the campaign’s success.

1. Every Campaign Needs The Big Idea

Kimberly quoted Ogilvy’s fearless founder David Ogilvy:

“Unless your campaign contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night.”

She says that is the motto of Ogilvy, and something they continuously use as inspiration. Clever puns or interesting pictures aren’t effective unless their is a concrete, creative idea at the core.

2. Reach the customer by using insights. 

A brand’s customers are important.  They have stories and passions, so brands shouldn’t treat them like numbers or cash cows.  Instead, they should spend time getting to understand the customer and use data to connect with their consumers in engaging and effective ways.

3. Think outside the billboard and commercial. 

Advertising isn’t just print and TV spots anymore.  Brands can promote and advertise their products through different ways. What new outlets could a brand use? If a campaign has a strong message and key insights into the consumer, this will help the team find innovative ways to promote the product.

4. Show, don’t tell. 

There’s an old-fashioned saying: actions speak louder than words, and that is completely relevant with advertising.  IBM and Ogilvy could have shared Watson’s intelligence test results, or explained how smart Watson is, but they wanted to prove his intelligence!  So how can they show Watson’s brains??  By putting him to the test through Jeopardy competitions and cooking challenges.

This session was not only inspiring because these two women are taking the integrated marketing world by storm, but also because the audience received an inside look at the innovative ways that IBM is promoting their newest technologies and products.

Special thanks to Mullen & Edward Boches from bringing this presentation to BU COM.

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