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How IBM Watson is Transforming Digital Marketing

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HubSpot hosted a webinar on April 18, 2017 to discuss how IBM Watson is changing the way online marketers operate. It was a fascinating discussion with Alyssa Simpson, program director for IBM Watson Signal Services, Scott Litman, managing director of Equals 3, and webinar moderator Mimi An, principal research analyst for HubSpot.

What is IBM Watson?

Simpson described Watson as a startup within IBM.

“It’s a series of APIs that each perform a discrete function,” she said. “It’s like building with LEGO blocks. You stack them together to solve a challenge in a particular industry.”

I would say Watson is more than a series of APIs, but that’s a simple way to put. It’s more like a cognitive supercomputer on the Web. One of its main features is artificial intelligence, and the fact that it is an open-source development platform available for anyone to access for creating their own niche AI applications is a huge boon to the worldwide Web development ecosystem.

“A lot of people don’t know how much it is being used in reality,” Simpson said.

In fact, thousands of businesses have already jumped on the bandwagon and started using Watson to develop AI products and services. Focus areas for Watson include education, commerce, financial services, health care, the Internet of Things, supply chain, marketing, talent acquisition, and work/productivity. For each of these industries, Watson has a series of products and APIs ready for developers to put to use at the click of a few buttons.

Simpson went into detail of some of Watson’s technologies including its tone analyzer, which can be used to understand customer tone in marketing conversations. For instance, if a company receives an email from a customer discussing an experience with the company, the Watson tone analyzer can understand whether that customer is happy, frustrated, or somewhere in between. This helps companies escalate customer service issues that need attention fast.

“Simpson is a multi-faceted way of expressing ourselves,” Simpson said. “Communication clues include facial expressions, tone of voice, context of discussion, background of the interaction, and body posture, just to name a few.”

Some companies have created widgets that interact with Watson in an email client allowing a company’s email system to review emails before they are sent to determine if a particular communication is too aggressive or passive. That’s just one example of how tone analyzer can be used for marketing purposes.

Meet Watson’s Companion, Lucy

Litman introduced webinar attendees to Lucy, Watson’s supercomputer companion.

“Marketers have different content and different systems,” he said. “These include analytics, media data, third-party data, and their own internal documents. Lucy is a SaaS with three major components.”

Those are research, audience persona modeling, and media planning.

For research, Lucy is trained around a company’s particular data. She can search for documents based on queries that understand where to look for certain types of information. For instance, if a marketing professional knows there is a particular graph illustrating specific information about her company but can’t remember where to find it, she can query that information. Lucy will search for it in all internal and external documents and turn up that information even if it exists buried inside a file that has long been hidden out of sight.

“Watson is known for its ability to look through huge amounts of text,” Litman said. “It can create structure from a host of unstructured content.”

Lucy is able to combine multiple sources such as news and social into one component and can read a million pages of content per day. Sources include major news sources like Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, Reuters, and thousands of other news sources. She can read the content and determine the sentiment in articles to determine whether or not it is mostly positive or negative. That helps a company know what is being said about them in the news and whether or not there are pivot or profit opportunities for the marketing department. She even breaks down sentiment by news and social source to let marketers know if the social media sphere is harsher or kinder than the news media.

Will Artificial Intelligence Kill Jobs?

An asked both panelists if they believe artificial intelligence will change the jobs landscape for employees. Both panelists agreed that AI will likely create employment opportunities.

“One plus one equals three,” Litman said. “Changes to staff can occur as a result of automation. In general, however, an individual with an AI companion will outperform those who don’t adopt AI at all and those who rely on it too much.”

Litman said he also expects that automation will lead to greater expectations and demands of marketing professionals, but it will also lead to more achievements.

Simpson put it a little differently.

“It’s about a partnership between humans and cognitive technology, man plus machine. I call it augmented intelligence. It’s augmenting what humans are already doing and doing what they could not do before,” she said.

Welcome to Bluemix

Bluemix is IBM’s cloud platform, which allows developers to use IBM Watson in the cloud to create their own AI applications for marketing or any of other other focus areas with tools and APIs.

Developers can create a Bluemix account for free and start using IBM Watson to create their own marketing applications right now.


Allen Taylor

About the author

Allen Taylor

An award-winning journalist and former newspaper editor, I currently work as a freelance writer/editor through Taylored Content. In addition to editing VisionAR, I edit the daily news digest at Lending-Times. I also serve the FinTech and AR/AI industries with authoritative content in the form of white papers, case studies, blog posts, and other content designed to position innovators as experts in their niches. Also, a published poet and fiction writer.

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