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How cognitive gives CMOs a head-start

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Marketing and sales leaders recognize cognitive as a path that leads to a new era for their businesses. Yet, despite this understanding, and a strong dose of optimism, many feel their organizations lack a number of the foundational capabilities needed to successfully implement a cognitive solution.

According to a recent study by the IBM Institute for Business Value  [1], a small subset of marketing and sales executives reported their companies significantly outperformed their competition for the past three years in revenue growth, profitability, or efficiency and effectiveness in achieving objectives. We refer to this group as the Outperformers.

Outperformers are eager cognitive proponents, and they come from companies that are far more likely to be early cognitive adopters. What can we learn from them?


Full cognitive potential

Most CMOs agree that improving customer satisfaction and financial results  are the most important drivers of cognitive computing for marketing. So, how do you accomplish this and where do our outperformers stand? If you want to realize the full potential of cognitive for marketing, then three fundamental areas need to be addressed: technology, people and culture.

If we look at technology, then first up is cloud. Cognitive computing is cloud-based technology, which means sufficient cloud capabilities are needed for a cognitive implementation. The Outperformers are already heavily investing in cloud-based storage, as things now stand they will continue to outpace their competition for the coming three years.

Data is the glue

A cognitive solution is only as good as the data that feeds it. To reinvent the customer experience, marketers need cognitive systems that provide access to both structured and unstructured data sources. Not just internal, but also external ‒ like on social media for instance. It is here that the true value is very often found. Once again, Outperformers lead the way, capturing and analyzing a wide variety of external data types.

Data is the glue of an organization, it ties everything together ‒ from the front to the back-office. Outperformers understand that data must be managed consistently across the enterprise, and not in silos. As the study shows, 72% has an enterprise-wide data management system in place today, compared to only 52% of the other companies. It enables them to unlock relevant insights from data sources in different parts of their business.

Deepening employee expertise

Whether driving cognitive technology strategy or using new cognitive solutions, the impact on people is not to be taken lightly ‒ as Outperformers know. Almost all of them (93%) expect its implementation to affect their employees’ roles and skillsets.

A key opportunity of cognitive computing lies in expanding and deepening the expertise of employees. Business decision-making is the CMO’s first priority. Other capabilities in the top five types of marketing expertise they hope to scale are content creation, market research, customer insights and marketing automation.

Leaders in innovation

Cognitive solutions will do the heavy analytical lifting for marketers.  Most CMOs from outperforming companies (93%!) believe they will make their lives easier. That’s why they will encourage cognitive initiatives across their organization. However, the Outperformers seem more aware of the importance of a C-level focus on data and digital innovation: 53% has a Chief Data Officer compared to 43% for the other companies.

Outperforming in cognitive is also a matter of culture: a collaborative and innovative work environment is required. This is where Outperformers clearly distinguish themselves: as many as 80% say they are market leaders in innovation. It might be even one of the key contributors to their success!


Bella Krisifoe

Chief Marketing Officer – IBM Benelux


[1] From data deluge to intelligent insights, IBM Institute for Business Value, August 2017



CMO | IBM Benelux

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