Mind the (trust) gap

29. June 2020

30-second summary:

  • Not only do brands have to ensure they are solving for trust and safety among their own workforces and supply chains, but they also must assure their consumers can trust them to uphold these standards while driving enough revenue to withstand the unpredictable months ahead.
  • IBM are simultaneously leveraging their own technology for good; two applications of their commitment to tech for the greater good have really stood out: Watson Assistant for Citizens and the COVID-19 Incidents Map.
  • Seeing how powerful these tools have been, IBM opened up similar data sets to brands so that they can have more insight into what consumers are experiencing at a hyperlocal level.
  • Brands can factor these upwards or downward fluctuation trends into their targeting strategy to ensure messaging is delivered sensitively and with maximum relevance. Now more than ever, reaching the right consumers with tone-appropriate messaging as brands reemerge is paramount. 
  • IBM’s hope is that brands will use the convergence of creative and technology to double down on their commitment to purpose and to help drive change — to use the technology to build campaigns that make it clear to consumers where they stand and what they believe in.

There’s no denying that our world is going through tremendous change this year. Centuries-long trust gaps are finally being confronted and reform efforts have more traction today than ever before; the global pandemic made it almost impossible for people to know what the truth is and trust that they are safe; and then of course, there is the economic impact of these forces, causing upheaval and uncertainty across financial markets.

In our own industry, brands feel a double hit from each of these headwinds.

Not only do brands have to ensure they are solving for trust and safety among their own workforces and supply chains, but they also must assure their consumers can trust them to uphold these standards while driving enough revenue to withstand the unpredictable months ahead.

This is all before they even get to mounting industry-specific pain points like increasing regulation, data use changes, cost transparency, and fraud.

Signs of hope

I don’t profess to have the answers to all of these challenges, but what I do think might help is to share the signs of hope I’m seeing and the reasons I’m actually more optimistic about our industry now than I’ve ever been.

Three years ago, we launched Call for Code, the largest developer challenge of its kind. So much more than a hackathon, the challenge calls on the developer community to create practical and effective solutions leveraging IBM Cloud services that can have an immediate and lasting impact on humanitarian issues.

This year’s issue was Climate Change, and then in March, we added COVID-19 to the program.

Within IBM, we’re simultaneously leveraging our own technology for good as well; two applications of our commitment to tech for the greater good have really stood out to me: Watson Assistant for Citizens and the COVID-19 Incidents Map.

  • Watson Assistant for Citizens is an AI-powered virtual agent to help governments and organizations deliver lifesaving, accurate COVID-19 information quickly to customers, employees and citizens. Over 2.3M questions about COVID-19 – more than 80% of the questions asked – were answered automatically and successfully via AI-powered virtual agents. Using technology to arm consumers with vital pandemic information they can trust during increased periods of uncertainty and misinformation is an immeasurable breakthrough.
  • The COVID-19 incidents map ingests pandemic incidence data from agencies like the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and more. We use Watson to extract and aggregate this information in an interactive hub that is available to anyone who visits The Weather Channel properties—so far, more than 300 million users have engaged with the incidents map, and it’s being expanded across additional countries and languages.

So – what does all of this have to do with marketing and brands?

Well, the reason these two solutions, as well as those that come to life through Call for Code, are so powerful is actually quite simple: They do two things incredibly well:

1) They take massive amounts of data and make sense of it at lightning speed; and 2) They deliver only relevant information to consumers – while you may care what is happening with COVID-19 across the country, you REALLY CARE what’s happening in your zip code, surrounding city and state.

Seeing how powerful these tools have been, we opened up similar data sets to brands so that they can have more insight into what consumers are experiencing at a hyperlocal level.

Watson Advertising’s new COVID-19 Triggers are targeting mechanisms that serve relevant ads based on COVID incidence data.

The triggers leverage AI to aggregate, index and analyze COVID-19 data which is then passed through a targeting tool to determine the geographic locations that are seeing fluctuations in COVID-19 cases.

Brands can factor these upwards or downward fluctuation trends into their targeting strategy to ensure messaging is delivered sensitively and with maximum relevance. Now more than ever, reaching the right consumers with tone-appropriate messaging as brands reemerge is paramount. 

Knowing what and when to engage with consumers is one thing. Knowing how, however, is an especially formidable hurdle in these unsettled times.

We launched a product at CES this year – Advertising Accelerator with Watson – to infuse AI into the world of creative optimization.  And this month, we decided to take a page from Call for Code and opened up this technology through a program named Call-for-Creative.

Call for Creative lets brands use our AI technology for free to adapt purpose-driven messaging in authentic and creative ways and allow for more variety and personalization.

Our hope is that brands will use the convergence of creative and technology to double down on their commitment to purpose and to help drive change — to use the technology to build campaigns that make it clear to consumers where they stand and what they believe in.

Back to hope

We know there are ways to use technology to have an impact – and what we are seeing thus far is that AI is about as good as it gets. Using AI to deepen trust across all constituents – from consumers to brands to government agencies – has proven to be more productive than we ever envisioned.

And while not the answer to every challenge, AI has certainly proven its capacity to solve big problems, including COVID-19. You’ll hear much more from me in short order on how we’ll be using AI to solve some other industry-specific challenges, and I invite you to join us on the journey.

Dave Neway is the head of product marketing at IBM Watson Advertising. In this role, Neway is responsible for ideating the go-to-market strategy for all Watson Advertising offerings. He works closely with the offering management team and key stakeholders to position, price, and present Watson Advertising’s products across media, data and technology categories to the marketplace. Reach him here.

Dave was recently a key note speaker at our AI in Marketing Summit and you can catch his talk on-demand soon, stay tuned!

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