Turning Cognitive Marketing from Idea to Reality

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I had the privilege of attending IBM Amplify 2016 as a member of the IBM Futurist community. Each time I attend an IBM conference I make it a point to focus my energy on what’s possible. This requires me to let go of today’s limitations and to think a little less about my day-to-day activities, which can easily consume a Type A entrepreneur like me. Rather, I choose to soak in the insights from keynotes, sessions, attendees and fellow Futurists.

Investing in cognitive

This was the key theme from IBM throughout the Amplify event. Ever since IBM Watson won a world-famous Jeopardy contest in 2011, IBM has been very public about its investment in cognitive technology to empower brands around the globe to design and implement systems that are more cognitive.

IBM CEO, Ginny Rometry says it this way:

“This era will redefine the relationship between man and machine.”

Simply stated, cognitive marketing systems enable marketers to make better decisions by identifying opportunities to create personalized experiences for the customer. Instead of using static data to launch campaigns days or weeks in the future, where the buyer’s situation may not align with the marketer’s offer, cognitive marketing delivers capability to create real-time experiences based on the customer’s current situation.


Cognitive systems are those that listen, understand, reason and learn as users interact. These systems can deliver real-time personalization, as well as “intelligent sequencing” for commerce systems to learn and make relevant offers to the consumer based on behavior and interests, not just static data previously collected that has potential to be outdated.

Admittedly, some cognitive capabilities are here today and some are not but are only a few quarters away. For example, today an online retailer can learn from a customer’s behavior and offer complimentary products for cross-sell opportunities. Add The Weather Company (an IBM company) data into the mix and the retailer can quickly alter campaign details according to current and projected weather conditions across different regions.

In the near future, the online retailer will be able to (literally) have a real-time conversation with Watson, asking for an analysis of situations pertaining to customer segmentation queries to determine a list of customers to target for a campaign.

3 pillars to generating customer loyalty

In marketing, customer loyalty is second only in importance to customer acquisition. Once you have a new customer, the marketer’s holy grail is to keep that customer and, in the best case, create a loyal and raving brand advocate. The three pillars to this marketing panacea are:

  • Know your best customers
  • Data analytics
  • Create a compelling digital experience

Each of these pillars is empowered through a cognitive approach to marketing. When the marketer is empowered to know which 20% of the customer base is the most profitable, achieving desired goals is very possible. Here’s what it looks like in a Watson-powered world.

  • Hypothesis generation
  • Cognitive thinking
  • Evidence-based
  • Analytics
  • Learning
  • Natural language

Here’s an example. A marketer in the events industry is considering bringing its event to a new location. The hypothesis is that the event will be well attended based on static data that already exists in the marketer’s database. Through a deeper analytical approach that involves customer segmentation through natural language queries, the marketer can determine a reasonable probability of success of the event’s attendance before committing valuable resources to it.

Real-time is the only time

We operate in a hyper fast world. The consumer’s attention continues to shrink, and it’s suggested that it’s down to four seconds. In such a short time span, the only thing that matters is relevance.

Marketers across all industries are challenged with this paradigm, necessitating intelligent marketing. Conventional analytics isn’t good enough any more. As the marketing technology stack evolves, it is clear that cognitive marketing is where we’re headed. Some marketers are already leveraging it while others are just learning about it.

Is the cognitive marketing technology opportunity available to all marketers of all size and budget? I don’t know the answer to that question. I think I’ll ask Watson.

See how Watson helps launch a marketing campaign by identifying the ideal audience segment, targeting strategy and optimized ad content. Here’s the full Watson demo at Amplify.

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