Marketing Innovation at IBM & OkCupid

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At a recent Brand Innovators livecast on Marketing Innovation, experts from OkCupid and IBM discussed their approaches to innovation and how it is helping these brands succeed in their goals.

Innovation is a key driver in marketing success. At a recent Brand Innovators livecast on Marketing Innovation, experts from OkCupid and IBM discussed their approaches to innovation and how it is helping these brands succeed in their goals.

For OkCupid, understanding the marketplace and how people respond to content is the core factor that guides how they innovate.

“What I love about OkCupid and what we do that some of my other companies didn’t is that we do a lot of testing and learning,” said Sonia Oblitey, senior director of global marketing at OkCupid. “We don’t just go full throttle in a market, especially with limited brand budgets. We take our time, we test, we do our research, and then when we see it as a success, we start investing more. It takes a little bit longer but we prefer to tread lightly versus putting all our eggs in one basket. That’s a summary of how we determine international markets.” 

OkCupid also uses a survey to understand its consumers in order to target messaging to that specific individual.

“We can’t be everything to everyone. So instead, while we do target this certain age group to a degree, we’re more so going after intentional daters,” said Jane Reynolds, director of product marketing at OkCupid. “If you are willing to answer these 15 questions and fill out this profile, it’s at least showing that you’re someone who wants to do more than just put up a picture. The people who are downloading OkCupid and going through that process are the ones who really are looking to connect with someone.

Brand values and purpose are also a way that OkCupid innovates from a cultural point of view, in order to connect and stay relevant to consumers.

“I think we’re already doing this but if I look back at where we were four years ago as opposed to where we are today, we’re now being told ‘OkCupid is really taking a stand on reproductive rights. You’re one of the only companies who is,’” said Devin Colleran, senior brand marketing manager at OkCupid. “I’m really proud of that and I’m really proud to work for a company that is. I hope five years from now we’re doing that but just on an even bigger scale. We’re small, but we’re mighty.”

For a brand as old and renowned as IBM, some of the challenges in innovation has been around brand identity and understanding how to position the company in today’s world. 

“We’ve got this really rich history but what we found, in research, is that people couldn’t really put their finger on who we are and what we do now,” said Sharon Gallacher, digital brand leader at IBM. “We did a lot of brand identity work and we found that what we felt we could really own and what really was IBM’s identity was that bringing together business and science. We don’t do it all, but we bring it together. Business and science coming together, that’s where new creators are living.”

Data is a core driver for IBM to measure its success in innovation. “A lot of the transformation has helped us to assess where some of the gaps were, specifically around data,” said Jessica Criscione, CTO, marketing & sales intelligence at IBM.  “We’ve connected things on a level that they just were not before. Now, as we’re doing experiments, we can now say “Was this working?” and tell very quickly, pivot, change that test and evolve it.”

For Suzanne Browne, vice president of brand experiences at IBM, the amazing thing about working for IBM is that even though it is a huge company, she imagines it like a startup.

“You’re in this amazing, amazing expertise and skills at a company that’s diverse with different points of view,” said Browne. “All of my roles that I’ve navigated towards at IBM have been a place where I get to start and build or reimagine the business that ultimately has an end goal of this greater mission which is about world-changing progress; being the catalyst for our clients. That’s what’s kept me, and I don't think I’ve been at the same company if you really think about it.” 

As technology continues to grow and change our behaviors, IBM will continue to innovate around the ideas of what is possible.

“Everyone here on the planet is part of this huge technology surge and I think we’re at a pivot point now where the art of the possible isn’t being limited anymore by technology,” said Shawn Hoglund, experience design director at IBM. “What that winds up leaving is that idea of creativity and what is a creator.”

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