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IBM has evolved into a client-centric company that puts storytelling at the heart of what it does


By Dani Gibson, Senior Writer

June 23, 2017 | 7 min read

Carving out something new and innovative in a sea of content and ever-expanding social media platforms can be tricky, which is why IBM has spent the last few years shifting itself from being a product-centric company to a client-centric one that puts storytelling at the heart of what it does.

Lisa Gilbert

Lisa Gilbert, chief marketing officer of IBM UK and Ireland, believes storytelling isn’t limited to pen and paper

Lisa Gilbert, chief marketing officer of IBM UK and Ireland, believes storytelling isn’t limited to pen and paper; that technology has opened up new ways to craft a story by pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

She explained: “Everyday IBM's technology changes the lives of people and business in one way or another. We've historically told that story from a rational standpoint vs one that's emotive. We are trying to change that with creating content that brings the technology to life via emotive stories. Like Simon for example, a blind long-distance runner.

“Through the power of IBM Cloud and Analytics, Simon is able to use Runkeeper's mobile application to overcome his challenge to do what he loves, run. The Runkeeper app, using IBM Cloud, tells Simon the distance and pace of his run and using that information he creates a mental map that allows him to run independently, avoiding obstacles in his path. The piece of video content we made resonated with our audience in a way no other piece of product content has.

“Keeping on the theme of passion, we tapped into the passion of the Star Wars story. Joshua Carr, our technical liaison for IBM BlueMix was always enamoured with how characters in the Star Wars movies moved objects with their mind. He set out to try and do this himself using the IBM BlueMix platform where he was able to move the BB8 droid with his mind. Again, we created video content to capture Joshua's passion for those who love Star Wars and people who love tech.”

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one such technological advancement that has opened up new ways for companies to create a distinct competitive advantage. But the rise of AI has brought with it fears of human job losses, after a Japanese insurance firm replaced 34 workers with IBM Watson in January.

Despite this, Gilbert moves to assure The Drum that at IBM the team believes in bringing technology and man together as a team.

Gilbert explained: "With the onset of AI, IBM call this augmented intelligence, we have the idea of man and machine versus machine over man. Right now, with respect to using AI, IBM is really focusing on using it to help people do the greatest work of their lives. Starting off with fun stuff like the Star Wars droid and bringing people into it slowly. For example, we have used our AI platform, Watson, to make very interesting food combinations with chefs (of the work we did with the Institute of Culinary Education)."

One of the many creative ways IBM is using AI is with Alex the Kid, who created the first cognitive song. He input 10 years’ worth of headline data from magazines, newspapers and the Billboard Top 100 songs which came together to create the song ‘It's not easy’, which peaked the Billboard Top 100.

"Those are the creative ways we see using AI's to influence a profession, but then we get serious with respect to using Watson to achieve what we call our moon-shot, help oncologists cure cancer, that's the big one. We also work with radiologists to find the hidden things in images that the human eye can't see themselves.”

Gilbert will be one of the judges for The Drum’s Content Awards 2017 and her advice to those submitting work is to use the entry itself to tell your story in a creative and engaging way.

She said: "I love any work that takes me into the story. I love the Christmas work from Heathrow and John Lewis. Those are two that for me, brings me in, tells the story and makes me fall in love with a brand even more, then John Lewis delivers on the promise of having an amazing in-store experience.”

“I've judged a lot of awards and from my perspective, it becomes an arduous task to go through hundreds of pages of content to get to the core or art of the idea. As it is a content judging category I would expect fantastic storytelling, not just in the content they are proposing itself but in the entry, one that really engages me as I read it.”

As well as pulling her into the story, she wants to see entries moving from what she says are “rational conversations” to more of an emotive conversation.

“I want to see entries that pay off on what they are trying to say, sell and want people to feel and do, a story that engages me, entices me to want to find out more. I've seen too many entries that just give me the facts, how many clicks that they had, their engagement rates and how many downloads they have, but I want to know the actual outcome. What game changer did they make? Did they address a cohort that they would have never addressed before? Did they make a market?” she adds.

When asked why she became involved in The Drum Content Awards Gilbert explained, "In my experience, inspiration can come from anywhere. In my role, I work to keep at the forefront of content innovation and one great way to do that is to see what others our doing either in my industry or even more interesting outside of my industry, and then figure out how to apply it to what we do every day at IBM."

Gilbert will be a judge for The Drum’s Content Awards 2017 which are now in their third year and continuing to seek out and reward the top talent in content marketing.

Entries for the awards close on Friday 28 July. Enter now and showcase your content creation skills to your own company, clients and peers as well as industry experts.

Sponsors for the awards include: BCMA, The Drum Network, The Drum RAR and TINT.

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