Marketer and machine: making cognitive work

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Yes, cognitive computing is disruptive, in marketing as well as in other areas of business. To be successful, we need a different approach. Yet cognitive is not just about technology, it’s about people. Marketer AND machine: that’s the winning combination.

There’s no sense denying it. Cognitive computers are able to process enormous amounts of data way faster than we can, and from far more sources. They understand all this data much quicker, and learn continuously, offering more valuable insights all the time. But marketers should not lose any sleep  over cognitive systems ‒ quite the contrary. They are there to make them better at what they do, not  to replace them.

Marketers need different skills

According to a recent study, many CMOs fear their marketers don’t have the right skills to put cognitive to use [1]. They presume advanced analytical skills are required and see this as a barrier for adopting cognitive computing. In fact, cognitive solutions will do the analytical heavy lifting for marketers ‒ allowing them to focus on the really important matters. And decision-making is on top of that list.

This brings me back to the CMOs, because they’re spot on about one thing: cognitive computing does call for other skills, though not analytical. Marketing professionals have to be able to interpret cognitive insights to take actionable decisions. And for that they need a few things. Firstly, a broad perspective of the company strategy and of the ins and outs of the business. Secondly, decision-making skills. And thirdly an emphatic understanding of their customers, and what is required to consistently deliver their companies’ brand promise.

Bring out the best in people

Yet, working on the individual skill sets of marketers is not enough to get the most out of cognitive computing. Cognitive should be part of a company’s strategy, as well as its culture. People must be willing to co-operate and share their data and thoughts, instead of working in silos. Innovation goes hand-in-hand with collaboration: sharing information and expertise often sparks new ideas that can make the difference.

Of course, such a cultural change takes time and effort. It needs change management, executive support and a safe environment, encouraging a certain degree of risk testing new practices, tools and processes. That way cognitive solutions will deliver on their promise and do what they do best: bring out the best in people – in this case marketers.

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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