“With Watson”: 5 Questions With IBM VP of Corporate Marketing Ann Rubin


IBM Watson and Alex da Kid

Ann Rubin, Vice President of Corporate Marketing for IBM, was honored as a “Brainwave Game Changer” at a recent She Runs It luncheon in New York, where we caught up with her to chat about about Watson, AI, employee engagement, content strategy and connecting the dots between IBM’s service offerings and brand storytelling.

Ann and her team support the business and all of IBM’s hero brands: IBM Watson, IBM Cloud, IBM Services, IBM Research, IBM Security, IBM Blockchain. In an effort to involve the world in their mission to transform healthcare, retail, education, energy and other sectors, IBM recently launched “Let’s Put Smart to Work.” The initiative invites people to change how we fight disease, delight shoppers, decrease high school drop-outs, improve the efficiency of energy grids, and more, all by applying Watson, cloud, blockchain and security.

Case in point: the partnership between IBM, Spotify and multi-platinum music producer Alex Da Kid to create a custom Watson application for Alex to find the next artist for his upcoming single “Go,” dropping May 18. The song features powerhouse female musicians H.E.R. and Rapsody, an artist discovered with the help of AI, and was celebrated this week at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

For IBM the mission is clear—through constant and strategic creation and curation of innovative content, IBM is able to connect with target audiences and help them better understand how smart technology can be used to solve business problems and change the world in thoughtful ways that benefit us all.

Ann, how are you are engaging and elevating content by IBMers? IBM pioneered blogging by employees, and more recently you’ve had IBMblr on Tumblr as a platform for employee thought leadership. Is that still your primary platform for internal contributors?

Ann Rubin - IBM VP of Corporate MarketingIBMers contribute in all kinds of ways. In addition to blogs, we have a program where IBMers can submit photos for our Instagram. And IBMers can take over our Snapchat account to share stories at events or other activations. And of course we use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, sharing content that may not be created by IBMers but often features IBMers.

IBM IBMblr on Tumblr

Another important social channel is IBMblr, which we create with our partner, Ogilvy; we take inspiration from projects that our Researchers are working on to create the IBMblr content. So, behind everything we do stands an amazing IBMer!

You’ve used data to create content, as you did with data-driven music from the 2014 U.S. Open with James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, and at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, where you aligned Watson with digital storytelling. What else have you done that’s pushing the envelope?

Yes, all kinds of things. Many of our recent projects highlight using AI to augment human creativity. We just launched a project at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival that involves using AI to find the perfect music collaboration. IBM partnered with multi-platinum music producer Alex Da Kid [a partnership that began in 2016] and music powerhouse Spotify to leverage IBM Watson to help form the perfect music collaboration.

Alex was working on a song with the artist H.E.R. and wanted a collaborator. He found exactly the right person among millions of undiscovered artists on Spotify by using an IBM Watson tool for Talent Discovery. It was built based on all the attributes Alex was looking for. We believe creators of all types, across all industries, can draw inspiration from AI—programs like this show how it can work in relevant ways that anyone can understand.

Daneel Company, an Estonian cryptocurrency company, recently announced its daily smart assistant will be backed with IBM Watson technology. How does IBM keep the consistency of the Watson brand, while still managing to evolve the technology for markets like crypto, healthcare and other technology sectors?

We have a team of experienced designers who help us create a brand identify including messaging and look and feel and partner guidelines. We also have a program called “with Watson” to ensure that branding across our hero brands is consistent. The guidelines ensure everything we do across the ecosystem is helping to build the brand and ensures clarity for our audience.

How will IBM Blockchain prepare to combat Amazon and others moving into the space?

A more relevant question for me is really about our overall IBM narrative that we recently launched called “Let’s Put Smart to Work.” With this new narrative and brand platform, IBM is inviting the world to collaborate to “put smart to work” to transform healthcare, retail, education, energy, etc.

We’re inviting the world to apply Watson, cloud, blockchain and security to change how we fight disease, delight shoppers, decrease high school drop outs, improve the efficiency of energy grids—we are inviting the world to apply smart in industries that previously seemed impenetrable. We don’t only invent these technologies—we apply them, along side our clients, to change industry, society, business and the world.

After IBM’s first-quarter earnings saw a dip, CEO Ginni Rometty said “strategic imperatives” are coming. In your role as VP of Corporate Marketing, what do you and your team plan to do to improve the business?

Everything we do supports the business. We focus on our hero brands—IBM Watson, IBM Cloud, IBM Services, IBM Research, IBM Security, IBM Blockchain—which are all strategic priorities. We believe all forward thinkers need to embrace these technologies to become smarter businesses—and change their industry and the world. My team needs to ensure our target audience understands how these technologies can help them, how the technology can be used to solve business problems—in a relevant, contextual, surprising and delightful way.

What types of branded content does IBM produce, and any new/emerging areas you’re getting into?

My organization includes a number of teams including global advertising for the company), media, global events, the social discipline/IBM social handles, the ibm.com homepage, Brand Strategy & Experience design and all kinds of branded content.

All my teams create content, and they are all pursuing all kinds of interesting trends, including AR, VR, 360. We just created a film that is a 360-degree view of plankton based on research our scientists are working on regarding the plankton population and how that is impacting our planet. We are creating more social content in-house and by a content creation team, including a studio and editing suite so we can move quickly and stay on top of new ideas.

We work closely with all the social platforms to ensure we are the first one they call if there’s a new creative unit to try or something new to pilot. We believe in testing every new thing and the data helps us determine where and when to scale. Our creative includes everything from :03 gifs to a two-hour documentary we are working on with a cable channel on AI—and everything in between!

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