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How IBM Watson Learns and Acts Like a Marketer

November 9, 2016 | Marketing Technology | Technology


Nish Parekh
Program Director, Watson Client Services
IBM

Artificial intelligence isn’t just for science fiction films anymore—it’s a real tool for marketers and advertisers across industries. From natural language processing to social data parsing, cognitive solutions can solve some challenges that brands could not previously tackle. Nish Parekh, program director of IBM Watson client services, spoke to eMarketer’s Maria Minsker about how the company’s Watson technology is strengthening marketers’ decision-making capabilities.

eMarketer: What makes Watson’s artificial intelligence appealing to marketers and advertisers?

Nish Parekh: Watson is a cognitive computing platform that understands the world the way that humans do—through senses, learning and experience. IBM Watson has partnered with large consumer brands to reinvent the way they interact with consumers, creating tools and platforms that engage customers as individuals, enhancing their experience and attracting greater loyalty.

eMarketer: What are some use cases for Watson in marketing and advertising?

Parekh: Digital experience company Fluid’s Expert Personal Shopper (XPS) uses IBM Watson’s natural language processing capabilities to allow consumers to ask highly specific questions and receive personalized advice. For example, The North Face worked with Fluid to create The North Face XPS personal shopper.

Using the app, a shopper could type: “I need a jacket for a Vermont ski trip.” They are then asked refining questions on factors such as gender, location, activity and time of year, and receive a recommendation that meets their specific usage and climate needs.

“Watson solutions are being built, used and deployed in more than 45 countries and across 20 different industries.”

eMarketer: In what ways does Watson democratize AI for different types of organizations?

Parekh: Watson is an open cloud platform, meaning organizations can use our cognitive technologies in new and inventive ways, and many have done so without extensive experience as a coder or data scientist. Today, Watson solutions are being built, used and deployed in more than 45 countries and across 20 different industries.

eMarketer: What are some misconceptions that people have about AI and its use in marketing and advertising tech?

Parekh: At IBM, we are creating augmented intelligence, not artificial intelligence. It’s the important difference between systems that enhance and scale human expertise—augmented intelligence—and those that attempt to replicate human intelligence—artificial intelligence. Watson isn’t just trying to improve productivity; we are trying to augment human decision-making.

eMarketer: Which industries seem to be the most progressive in AI use for marketing and advertising?

Parekh: A broad range of industries have used the Watson platform to amplify their marketing and advertising efforts, including automotive, media, retail, sports and travel. Automaker Kia, for example, used a platform from IBM Watson’s developer partner, Influential, to identify social media influencers that would boost the automaker’s messaging before and during their Super Bowl ad. Influential’s platform parsed language used on social media to determine which influencers exhibit Kia’s desired personality traits, such as openness to change, artistic interest and achievement-striving.

eMarketer: What are your short-term and longer-term expectations for how AI’s role will evolve as part of marketing and advertising practices?

Parekh: We’re at the very beginning of the possibilities with augmented intelligence and cognitive computing for marketing and advertising. We believe that in the future, every critical decision will be informed by cognitive systems like Watson.

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