A Week With Watson

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Last week I joined the tens of thousands of customers, partners, and employees who descended on the MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas for the IBM Amplify and InterConnect conferences. It was a valuable opportunity to get the latest from one of the most respected companies on the planet and proved to be time very well spent.

It’s no secret that IBM has had challenges growing revenue in recent years as the tectonic shift towards cloud computing disrupted many of their core businesses, but times are changing, and the tech behemoth presented a compelling case this week that they are well positioned to help today’s enterprises capitalize on tomorrow’s opportunities.

Enterprise Strength + Security

When Ginny Rometti took the stage on Tuesday to interview business leaders and IBM partners [including Marc Benioff, Chairman and CEO, Salesforce, Randall Stephenson, CEO, AT&T, William Cobb, CEO, H&R Block, and others], she made it quite clear that the IBM cloud was built to support the enterprise at scale. With the volume of mobile data on AT&T’s network growing at a pace of 40% month over month, Ginny illustrated that tomorrow’s challenges present big opportunities for businesses that can manage this growth with agile and scalable solutions. With the vast majority or the world’s credit card transactions, airline tickets, and stock trades running through IBM systems, the crew in Armonk certainly knows scale and has proven that they’re serious about security.

Cognitive is Here

Watson is at the core of virtually everything IBM does, and this week in Vegas we saw a lot of exciting ways in which artificial intelligence and cognitive processing have been implemented to drive value across business verticals.

Most of us are aware that Watson is a great chess player and has beaten some of the best in the world. Many of us have read about how Watson has helped doctors more easily identify anomalies in huge data sets and aid in the diagnosis of diseases of all sorts. Few of us, however, realize that Watson has learned the US tax code, line by line, and marries those data with those of virtually every tax return ever prepared by H&R Block [nearly 700 million] to find incremental deductions and help H&R Block customers proactively plan for their upcoming tax year to minimize tax exposure.

Watson has also begun to learn marketing. Watson Content Hub uses cognitive intelligence to automatically tag content in ways that make it easier for marketers to ID and leverage it, driving efficiency and efficacy. Watson Marketing Insights [which just went live in GA on Friday, Mar. 24], leverages a cognitive engine to help marketers more easily identify and activate specific customer segments. It can, for instance, comb through cross-behavioral customer data, select those most likely to churn, and then build segments to be passed along to Watson Marketing or to any number of partners for omnichannel activation. While in its infancy, I believe it could very well grow into an indispensable tool for marketers who are increasingly forced to deal with more data than they can effectively manage.

Smart Technology + Smart People

It was easy to get swept away this week by the almost science fiction like possibilities of cognitive computing and artificial intelligence, but everyone from Ginny on down reiterated that it takes smart people to leverage smart technology. Watson is an excellent pupil, but only learns when he is taught by good teachers who leverage a solid curriculum. Marketers looking for a silver bullet may be disappointed, but those in search of tools to better manage their business in the age of ‘big data’ may very well find a perfect partner in Watson.

Kudos + Thanks

Kudos to the team at IBM for producing an epic event, and thanks to all the team members who made the time to meet with me and give me the latest. Special thanks to Stacy Kirk and Silvia Galgano on the AR team for the hospitality and access; this Einstein had a great week with Watson.

For those who wish to dig deeper into the event, check out the recordings and resources online.

What is Marketing Utopia and how do we get there?

boboSince the dawn of the web, digital marketers have dreamed of a place where data flowed freely and the needs of our customers and prospects were easily anticipated and met [or exceeded] by our extraordinary omnichannel campaigns.

Last week, the team at Experian Marketing Services announced two exciting enhancements to the Experian Marketing Suite at their annual Client Summit, and made a case that marketing Utopia could actually be found in the desert of Las Vegas.

EMS customers like Jason John from Publishers Clearing House [also a Relevancy Group client] presented several compelling case studies that highlighted the customer centric, cross channel approach that they have been implementing, and the impacts on their businesses. One common theme: user expectation is evolving rapidly, and marketers who aren’t in lockstep, are in trouble. As Jill Ellis, coach of the 2015 world champion US Women’s National Soccer Team [and speaker at the event] tells her players: “you can be on the right track, but if you don’t move fast enough, you’ll get run over.”

The two enhancements announced at the event are designed to add velocity to customer programs.

Real-time, predictive intelligence and automated analytics –

In Vegas, I met with Emad Georgy, SVP Global Product Development, and Justin Orgel, Director Strategic Services, who were both excited about the release of this enhancement that helps marketers predict the performance of cross-channel campaigns through real-time identity and intelligence data.

Predictive modeling isn’t new for many sophisticated marketers, but the real-time nature, and depth of the EMS solution makes it a significant addition to the toolset; recent TRG research highlights the fact that brands are increasingly leveraging real-time data and generating significant return on the investment, so the timing is good too.

Cross-channel audience activation – 

EMS also announced new addressable advertising functionality that enables brands to leverage their first party data [in combination with Experian data, or not] to target audiences online, in mobile, TV, and direct mail.

Differentiators include the support of single campaigns, insights on cross channel attribution, and Experian’s identity and consumer data.

This is certainly a meaningful enhancement to the Marketing Suite, one which I am looking forward to exploring in more detail.

The 1000+ seasoned marketers at #Utopia were treated to entertainment from Salt-N-Pepa, and engaging talks with Stephanie McMahon, Chief Brand Officer, WWE, Inc., Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, and coach Jill Ellis from the US Women’s National Team, actor Joe Manganiello, and Yael Cohen, Founder, President & CEO, Fuck Cancer, as well as a Keynote from Erik Wahl Graffiti artist, entrepreneur, philanthropist & author, “Unthink.”

Experian Marketing Services produces a first rate event, and throws a tremendous party, but they were a leader in both our 2014 and 2015 Relevancy Ring ESP Buyer’s Guide because their technology and people enable customers to develop and evolve programs in their efforts to achieve marketing Utopia. (Download The Relevancy Group’s Relevancy Ring – 2015 ESP Buyers Guide with registration.)

Thank you to Matt Seeley, Ashley Johnson and Meghan Attreed for the invitation and hospitality, it was great to see old friends, make new ones, and spend a few days enjoying the #suitelife.

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3 Hot Email Companies You Should Follow – by Chris Marriott

38075It’s a brand new year. And it’s a new opportunity for you to take your email marketing to another level of sophistication and effectiveness. With that in mind, it’s important to remember that great email marketing doesn’t begin and end with your email service provider (ESP). No doubt about it, having the wrong ESP is like that hangover you woke up with on New Year’s day — it’s hard to get rid of, and it makes everything else hurt. But even if you’ve got the right partner, you still need to pay attention to other companies in the email marketing ecosystem. This is where a lot of the innovation is happening today — innovation in testing, in content, and in measurement.

You owe it to your email marketing program to pay attention to what’s happening in the competitive space, if only because many of these innovations will eventually work their way into the platforms of the major ESPs. So to start your email year off on the right foot, here are three companies that I am paying close attention to in 2015.

Wylei

The first company on my list is Wylei. “Adaptive content” is a phrase email marketers have been hearing more and more frequently, and Wylie is an emerging leader in this category. Its platform provides real-time adaptive content solutions to agencies and brands to increase digital messaging relevance and engagement by automatically adapting emails based on how, where, and when they are viewed, all in real time.

There is more than one player in this area, but what I really like about Wylei is how easy it is to use. Wylei provides marketers with a code snippet that is easily included in the HTML, and it incorporates adaptive content logic, automated real-time and continuous A/B testing to identify and learn patterns in order to provide best fit content. Wylei’s continuous identification of behavior patterns and real-time application of its machine learning algorithm is a key distinction of its solution. Wylei brings real-time multivariate testing and behavior recognition to email to optimize content decisions at message open time. And they have established partnerships with all the major ESPs, landed some big brands (most recently Dell, Marriott, and Vistaprint, to name a few) and expanded its solution into the personalized video space.

In the words of Mike Monteiro, Wylei’s CEO, “The core of what we do is help marketers connect with their customers individually, and at scale. We all know that genuinely compelling content is what drives engagement, and that personalized, context-specific messaging is compelling. The challenge is how to listen, respond intelligently, and then listen again, across millions of customers all at once. The exciting thing is that technology has now evolved to the point where that’s not only a possibility, but an imperative.”

eDatasource

Full disclosure: I’m on the Board of Directors at eDatasource. However, that shouldn’t disqualify it from making this list — particularly since I wouldn’t be on the Board if I didn’t think it were an interesting company! eDatasource isn’t a new company. It’s been around since 2003. It provides its services both directly to marketers, as well as to most of the leading ESPs. What does it do? Based in New York City, eDataSource collects, analyzes, organizes, and archives millions of marketing messages, providing competitive intelligence and analytics to the email marketing community. G.B. Heidarsson, the CEO, just celebrated his one-year anniversary at the helm, and the first 12 months of his tenure have been a beehive of activity, including the introduction of completely new tool sets and innovative approaches that manage to get actionable competitive true-real-time information into the hands of marketers, thus enabling them to react and outsmart the competition in a way never before experienced. Yesmail was impressed enough to incorporate this data into its own Competitive Intelligence Tool.

read the rest at iMedia Connection