Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

Ann Rubin, vice president of Branded Content and Global Creative, IBM

Ann Rubin, vice president of Branded Content and Global Creative, IBM

In this age of the 24-hour news cycle, social media, mobility and instant access, marketers around the globe are scrambling to identify and leverage the latest cultural shifts, as well as their enabling technologies, for that competitive edge. The Smarter Planet blog recently sat down with Ann Rubin, IBM vice president of Branded Content and Global Creative, to talk about how big brands like IBM are creating innovative strategies to tap into these veins of opportunity and changing the way they engage with customers along the way. You can find Ann @annrubin.

How has social media and its inherent transparency changed the dynamic between brand and culture?

Social media has become the dominant venue for brand engagement, but it’s also about the changing expectations of customers. They’ve moved from shopping in stores, to shopping on their computers, to shopping on the go with mobile phones while checking reviews from friends and strangers.

They compare deals and post their opinions wherever they happen to be, judging brands every step of the way. So each interaction with a brand has to be authentic.

As a result, brands need to express themselves, and their value to consumers, in a way that is more relevant and personalized. Traditional advertising is still part of the mix, but brands are engaging directly with consumers, clients and influencers via social media.

Here at IBM , we have a large presence on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook — the largest of any single company – and we’re also experimenting with a Tumblr site called IBMblr where we share innovation stories about everything from the world’s smallest movie, to interviews with IBM Fellows, to quotes and advice from technical women to how IBM patents have impacted the world around us.

You mentioned the movie, A Boy and His Atom, which has been seen by more than four million people on YouTube.  Why did IBM produce it?  

Big Data – all the data generated by social media, online transactions, clickstreams, medical records, you name it – is growing bigger every day. In fact, every day the world creates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data – so much that 90 percent of all the data in the digital universe today has been created in the last two years alone.

And as Big Data gets bigger, data storage has to get smaller, down to the atomic level. So we filmed IBM scientists manipulating atoms and made the world’s smallest stop-action film.  It’s a way to demonstrate Big Data and make it personal and relevant, and maybe we can make people think about how they’ll benefit from Big Data, such as storing millions of songs on a device as small as a fingernail. It’s also a way for IBM to be relevant to a broader audience, beyond companies and cities that buy big infrastructure systems. We’re reaching people who may not even realize they are benefiting from IBM innovation every day.

How else can a B2B company like IBM engage with a broader audience?

We have a project in the works around our Smarter Cities campaign. As background, IBM has worked with hundreds of cities across the world to help them be smarter with things about less congested roadways, safer neighborhoods, and healthier populations. The cities range from Nairobi, Kenya, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Dubuque, Iowa.

To advance the idea of Smarter Cities, we created outdoor advertising that ran in London. The ads themselves have utility. They’re benches, shelters or bike ramps designed not only to be beautiful, but also be useful to city dwellers. Given the positive feedback we’ve received, we’ll take the campaign to other cities and hopefully inspire citizens to think about simple ways they can help make their cities smarter. And like the atomic movie, it’s a way to engage people in a different and more relevant fashion. IBM may not sell consumer products, but we are always uncovering new ways to connect with people and share our innovation and expertise with the world.

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