Content Marketing All-Stars Q&A: Ann Rubin of IBM

By NativeAI / March 28, 2016
IBM logo

IBM has long one been one of our favorite companies here at Content Marketing All-Stars.

The technology and consulting firm consistently pushes boundaries with its content, diving deeply in to big ideas, new formats, and fresh strategies.

When we last checked-in with IBM around 18 months ago, the company was in the midst of its Smarter Planet campaign, which explored the ways in which intelligent systems and technologies could help humanity. Since then, its focus has shifted to an even bigger idea: how things like Big Data, natural language processing, and machine learning can transform business and the world.

Recently we chatted with Ann Rubin, VP, Branded Content and Global Creative at IBM, to learn more about how this Cognitive Business platform translates into to content, and to explore a few of the company’s recent inititives.

Check it out below:

Q: We last spoke with you in 2014, how have IBM’s content marketing efforts changed since then?

A:  It’s always critical for IBM to have a point of view about something important that’s happening in the market. Last time we talked, we were still on our Smarter Planet platform,  which was launched in 2008. So much has happened since 2008, and so this past October we launched a new branded platform called Cognitive Business.

This has been a really big focus area for us in terms of talking about our capabilities and technology, especially in the context of where the technology industry is going. Our content has largely been focused on this idea that cognitive technology can enable companies to succeed in a new era of technology and become a cognitive business. For us it’s been a big turning point.

IBM screenshot on all stars blog for nativeai

How does that translate into the day-to-day content that you are creating and the way you are tackling marketing?

A:  First, cognitive business has become a rallying point for the entire company; it gives us a key message that everything else ladders up to.

From my team’s point of view, we are trying to integrate cognitive technologies into the marketing asset themselves. We are using our own cognitive technology, whether it is within a banner ad or a content platform.

We are using the technology to make our content smarter, to have our platforms learn as they go. This ties into the trend of more personalization and more individualized content based on data. With this kind of technology we can do that more and more.

Q: Can you see the impact in your metrics?

A:  Yes, mainly through higher engagement. That’s something we really look at, because if people are engaging with the content then they are finding it interesting.

One thing we focus on a lot is providing content to progress people on their journey, and give them the ability to go deeper.

So someone might want to just watch a video, but someone else might want to see the behind the scenes of that video, and someone else might want to see the behind the scenes and then go to a website for even more content and then try a demo. We always want for it to be
possible to engage more deeply.

We really like the content you have been creating around Watson –
the YouTube videos,  the partnerships, and the other pieces – what has it been like to market that product, and how has the experience has been so far?

A:  It has been great. The newest way we have been talking about Watson is through the Watson & Me campaign, where we have various people talking to Watson. It enables us to nicely talk about a number of different categories, because if you are talking to Bob Dylan about music you can cover one capability, and if you are talking to Serena Williams about sports you can cover another capability.

It makes it a little bit easier for people to understand what Watson can do. My job is to take the complexity of technology and simplify it; Watson & Me is a really nice way to do that. 
There is also a whole other program, Bot Therapy Sessions, with Carrie Fisher and the robots,  which we showcased during the Oscars. This is another way to describe technology in a very

approachable and simple way. For that, we have these extra therapy videos with all the robots, which are for people who want more. Those have led to people to our marketplace page, then interacting with Watson APIs, and then trying demos. It’s been very effective.

Q: How has IBM’s recent emphasis on design thinking translated to your content marketing efforts?

A: We are using the agile process and being more focused as a team. One of the mantras of design thinking is that you must understand users’ needs and deliver outcomes continuously.

For example, during the Oscars we were live tweeting from the robot handles; that’s something we may not have done a year ago. We are definitely becoming more nimble and more experimental.

There is also this idea of observe, reflect and make. So, observe: get to know the people, uncover their needs; reflect: build an understanding and form your intent; and make: explore ideas with prototypes. This philosophy makes sense across the business, whether for marketing or product design or something else.

IBM creative logo

IBMblr is the best corporate Tumblr we’ve seen; how do you approach programming it?

A: We’ve really thought about what people want on the platform. So, for example, we won’t run a TV spot on there trying to sell a product. We focus on design, innovation, and technology. We are trying to create a unique, customized space that meets people’s expectations.

We work with Ogilvy on the IBMblr, and look for opportunities to cover things that are right for the platform. So, there was a solar powered car race earlier this year, with one of the vehicles using Watson technology. It was perfect for the Tumblr. The race was not something that we would go do advertising around, but it was right for this.

IBMblr blog on the nativeai blog

Q: Finally, any favorite recent pieces of content?

A: We just launched our 2015 annual report, and it is a wonderful way to show the breadth of IBM. It highlights the many different content types that are coming out of IBM; there are over 150 different stories.

Another thing that we do that we really love, and this year will be our third year, is TED@IBM. It’s a TED program in collaboration with the IBM, and it’s been a great content platform too because you get these amazing speakers, IBMer and non IBMers, who are all trained in an amazing way.  We can use that content in unlimited ways.

Written by NativeAI / March 28, 2016