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IBM - Reputation/Brand Management Campaign

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Company: IBM, Armonk, NY
Company Description: Founded in 1911, International Business Machines Corporation is a multinational technology and consulting organization. IBM offers a mix of products including hardware, software, cloud-based services and cognitive computing. IBM is known for its Watson supercomputer, which represents a partnership between humanity and technology, as well as its 24 consecutive years of patent leadership.
Nomination Category: Corporate Communications, Investor Relations, & Public Relations Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Communications or PR Campaign of the Year - Reputation/Brand Management

Nomination Title: Cognitive Creativity with IBM Watson

Tell the story about this nominated campaign since January 1, 2016 (up to 650 words). Focus on specific accomplishments, and relate these accomplishments to past performance or industry norms.

As an established leader in artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive computing, IBM has taken Watson from game show champion to business transformer. But as more benefits are realized from the application of cognitive technologies, portrayals of sentient robots and other negative hyperbole have fueled ongoing misconceptions and concerns. Since its victory on Jeopardy!, IBM Watson had fallen somewhat out of the public eye as it was put to use in industries such as healthcare to transform the way work is done and solve some of society’s biggest challenges.

IBM aimed to connect IBM Watson with consumers again, and to set the record straight on the misconceptions about AI. The goal was to demonstrate IBM’s leadership in applying this technology in a new, third era of computing: The Cognitive Era, fueled by a commitment to using technologies such as AI, deep learning, machine learning and natural language processing to augment human capabilities, not replace them.

By highlighting the use of IBM Watson to augment human creativity, the Cognitive Creativity campaign was designed to underscore the positive impact the technology will continue to have on consumers, and the ways people can tap into Watson to boost their own creativity.

The key was uncovering the right “signature moments” – demonstrations of IBM cognitive technology that would reinforce the guiding principle that AI must be used to augment human capabilities and creativity. With the number of developers and partners in the vast IBM cognitive ecosystem, this was no easy task.

Dozens of collaborations and applications employing Watson were evaluated. Ultimately, a few were deemed to best represent the positioning. While Watson is being used across a wide range of areas, it was decided that applications in areas such as fashion, music, movies and cooking would best tell the story to the consumer audience.

Cognitive Creativity in the kitchen: Working with top chefs and the Institute of Culinary Education, Chef Watson provided consumers an opportunity to tap into Watson to experiment with thousands of unconventional ingredients and flavor pairings to help create innovative new recipes. In addition, media were invited to exclusive dinners worldwide where top chefs prepared Watson-inspired meals.

Cognitive Creativity on the runway: IBM and designer Marchesa applied Watson tools to create a first-of-its kind cognitive dress that used Watson tone analyzer to change colors in real time to reflect the emotions conveyed on social media during the dress’ unveiling at the Met Gala event.

Cognitive Creativity at the movies: IBM collaborated with 20th Century Fox to create the world’s first cognitive movie trailer, released in advance of the science fiction horror film “Morgan,” showcasing the visual and audio sentiment analysis capabilities of Watson.

Cognitive Creativity in the studio: Watson Beat demonstrated the ability for cognitive technology to take a few seconds of musical inputs from a composer to produce an entirely new song.

While each of these signature moments were rolled out in their own unique manner, a consistent narrative was carried through each to demonstrate Watson’s ability to enhance and extend human imagination. Each was supported with messaging that underscored IBM’s unique approach as a collaborative innovator, differentiating it from competitors whose AI initiatives have primarily focused on reinforcing their own business objectives.

The overall strategy was to surprise and delight media and influencers with the unexpected new directions users were taking with Watson, while inspiring business partners and developers to see new opportunities to use Watson in creative ways. With each breakthrough, outreach not only tapped into IBM beat reporters across business and technology media, but introduced Watson to industry media in each domain – music, movies, cooking and fashion – not IBM’s traditional media audience.

In bullet-list form, briefly summarize up to ten (10) of the chief features and results of this nominated PR program since the beginning of 2016 (up to 150 words).

-The Cognitive Creativity campaign generated coverage in 500+ media outlets.
-The Marchesa dress generated 1.04 billion impressions across business, tech, fashion and lifestyle publications such as AP, Fast Company, WIRED,, Fox Science, Quartz, Forbes, WIRED, CNET, USA Today, AdWeek, AdAge, Women’s Wear Daily, AOL News Fashion, Vogue, Refinery29 as well as segments on CNN, E!, The Colbert Report, CBS This Morning.
-IBM’s tweet highlighting the dress was the company’s most popular Twitter post ever, based on engagement, likes and retweets.
-The Morgan movie trailer received 2.4 million views and the supporting social campaign garnered 1.6 million views.
-Stories appeared in 100+ outlets: Fortune, Entertainment Weekly, Popular Science, TechCrunch, Mashable, Engadget, Refinery 29, Buzzfeed, Fast Company, Business Insider, NY Daily News, AdWeek.
-Chef Watson garnered coverage in specialty media: The Daily Meal, Food Dive and Candy Industry.
-Watson Beat was featured in a segment on CBS This Morning.