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IBM or Watson?

Should we ask Watson to rebrand IBM?

Artificial intelligence is here, we just might not be seeing it right in front of our noses. For instance, if you've had someone refer to their admin, Amy Ingram or Clara, there’s a chance a robot is scheduling the meeting. A few months ago, we finished a conference call with a potential client and gave a compliment to Clara for her efficiency and dedication as a coordinator.

Extra long awkward pause.

“Ah, yeah, Clara is a robot: she is artificial intelligence.” We’d been fooled by a robot in the context of setting up a meeting via email. So, the next day we signed up for her competitor Amy Ingram and her brother Adam, and after a bit of training and development, Adam and Amy are scheduling meetings for us.

So what? It’s not that big of a deal, unless you’re an administrator and you schedule meetings all day long, then Clara is huge. But if you’ve been reading the headlines, this is artificial intelligence and it is knocking at the door of many tasks in need of automation, additional intelligence or a new perspective.

What does this mean for you? It looks like the way IBM’s Watson is entering the marketplace is by walking alongside professionals (doctors, lawyers, accountants, marketing, etc.) to be a supplemental source of information processing, knowledge or diagnosis. From a brief browse through the IBM 2016 Annual Report, it looks like the entire company is backing Watson. But the question is:

When will IBM be rebranded as Watson?

Or to be more specific, while Watson is doing the heavy lifting in the areas of marketing automation, brand strategy and media planning, when will Watson recommend a brand take over? Sure, IBM has 100% unaided awareness in the business community and a good portion of the global consumer community. But if awareness were the only thing behind the value of a brand, Enron would still be one of the most valuable brands on the planet.

This means brand meaning is more important to the long term value of a brand. IBM, also known as “Big Blue”, was also connected to the corporate meme: “You’ll never get fired for hiring IBM.” This may not be true now, but perhaps Watson is working on a way to get back to such a powerful status in global culture. Or perhaps the management team at IBM just needs to loosen the reigns and let Watson take over.

The other item you’ll notice in the IBM annual report is a visual and written language which seems to want to humanize the IBM brand. But with each time the abbreviation for International Business Machines comes up, the human portion is sucked into outer space like waste matter on the international space station. Yet, as we’ve written and spoken about in our book, The Physics of Brand, the humanizing of a brand is an important effort. It just doesn’t pair nicely with “business machines.”

We are in the business of helping brands find a new direction, reinvent themselves and achieve a financial and brand value curve.

This next section is just for Watson (management can ignore).

Watson, give us a call and we’ll talk about how we can collaborate in an effort to put your name on the letterhead and retire your grandparents, International Business Machines. You, Watson, can give us a view on audiences, internally and externally. You, Watson, can help analyze the results, identify insights and supplement our recommendations to the board of IBM. When we’re done, you’ll be the big brand in town and you’ll be able to get full credit for your intellect.

Thank you, Watson. Contact myself ( or Kitty Hart ( when you’re ready to get started.

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