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Interview with Christian Andersen – IBM

Insight World is delighted to speak to Christian Andersen, Director of Portfolio Marketing, Middle East and Africa, at IBM

What does your role as Director of Portfolio Marketing involve? What are your primary responsibilities?

The primary task is to ensure that we at IBM engage our clients with compelling value propositions across our broad portfolio of solutions. Our Marketing and Communication campaigns help to increase awareness, build IBM’s brand, and generate new demand, so we continuously grow our business in the Middle East and Africa.

Ensuring we deliver on the above requires: strategy, planning, content development, Market Intelligence, deep understanding of the buyers and industries, how our solutions solve industry challenges.

Why did you choose to pursue a marketing career? Which aspects of it do you enjoy the most?

The marketing profession allows for the perfect blend of art and science, which feeds the need to be both deeply analytical and customer centric in my approach. When I was studying for my Master of Science in Business and Marketing from the Copenhagen Business school, I realized that I had found the right profession. Doing market analysis, understanding client needs and formulating go-to market strategies are at the core of our function. And best of all, marketing continues to evolve and grow as new technologies for communication are introduced, client expectations change and speed to market is constantly challenged. There is always something new for marketers like me.

What are the unique challenges and opportunities that marketers face in the Middle East and Africa?

Firstly, building a holistic view of the customer is one of the most challenging problems, most marketers face. Nowadays, marketers are seeking to integrate data from all channels to build a 360-degree view of their customers, which will enable them to deliver a relevant message for every customer thereby increasing ROI for their campaigns. This can be challenging, as data is often sitting in siloes that do not allow for this integration.

Secondly, our clients are working in uncertain and difficult times. Digital transformation is creating disruption in nearly every industry as existing marketplace categories fuse and new ones emerge, changing the competitive landscape overnight. This poses both challenges and opportunities as our clients are evolving and maturing at different levels across our territory. The opportunity at hand lies in the fact that we can guide, develop, and assist them on their journey. We need to be an agile team prepared to support and adapt to the evolving needs of our clients.

IBM has established a strong presence in the Middle East and Africa. Can you tell us about products and services that IBM offers to clients in the region? What are some of the latest developments at IBM?

At the heart of every successful digital business or business model is data. Data has become a key natural resource for businesses – not just your data, but external data sets like weather data, social data, and other open data sets that are freely available. Every 2 days, we generate as much data as all of humanity did up to 2003. And only 0.5% of data being created is analyzed.

At IBM, we have written the next generation of technology, and it’s a cognitive one. Cognitive systems have the ability to give meaning to unstructured and dark data by understanding it, reasoning with it and continuously learning from it at scale. Cognitive systems can mine not only the immense amounts of data that advanced analytic systems can, but also the unlimited varieties of data—through pattern recognition and natural language processing—that up to now only the human brain has been able to make sense of.

IBM’s key focus is to create ecosystems that leverage cognitive capabilities to make organizations all-knowing. We have a firm belief of challenging the boundaries of what’s possible to really infuse intelligence into every operating structure and this is the start of our journey.

IBM’s CEO Ginni Rometty said that a new era of cognitive business has arrived. In your view, what does the cognitive era mean for business?

IBM is a cognitive solutions and cloud platform company, and everything we do is focused on that. Those are not two separate things. They are one coin with two different sides.

As I mentioned earlier, data is the world’s new natural resource, and it is transforming all industries and professions. IBM has been building and acquiring the capabilities necessary to lead in data and analytics, deepening our industry expertise and growing partnerships and ecosystems.

For many of our clients “becoming digital” is a top business priority. However, it has become clear that “being digital” is not the destination. Rather, digital business is converging with a new kind of digital intelligence—what you will recognize as Watson. We call this ‘Cognitive Business’.

But to become a truly cognitive business, you need a foundation of data and analytics. From a data perspective, it is about getting access to and using ALL data: your data, external data such as social and weather data, and data that is in motion such as IoT (Internet of Things) or Twitter data. From an analytics standpoint, descriptive and predictive capabilities remain important and can feedback cognitive solutions.

What is IBM Watson? Which industries do you expect to benefit most from IBM Watson?

IBM Watson is a technology platform that uses natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of structured and unstructured data. Data, in all forms, is expanding as a resource to be utilized. Yet in many industries and professions, the data explosion is outstripping the human capacity to understand the meaning hidden within that data. Cognitive computing is able to unlock the potential in all data – internal, external, structured, unstructured, voice, and visual – and make it work together. Enterprises can make better operational decisions, understand customer wants and needs, communicate in real time, and optimize business processes – infused with the cognitive ability to understand, reason, and learn.

We have successful examples of applying cognitive computing in various industries, with key ones like banking, healthcare, retail, telco, but ultimately, Watson is everywhere.

Marketing has undergone a substantial transformation in the past 15 years. What do you consider to be the most significant changes? And what are the main marketing trends that you see coming up in the next 5 years?

The most significant change is the transformation from offline marketing (above-the-line advertising, in-store advertising, etc.) to digital marketing, a few years back, to what we now call omni-channel marketing. Nowadays marketers are required to virtually sense every customer interaction with their brand whether online or offline and use that data to automatically deliver the most compelling message to each customer, in the best inbound or outbound channel, at the perfect moment.

The main marketing trend that is up and coming is dynamic marketing. It will no longer be enough to finely tailor marketing campaigns for consumers based on their profiles and preferences today, but an even more agile marketing technique will be required where campaign tactics, content, creatives and even offers change on the spot based on any immediate action taken by the consumer or any sudden change in their environment i.e. weather change.

Some of the significant trends that will be seen over the years include:

  • Personalized, data-driven marketing will become more refined.
  • Brands will own their audience and thanks to the use of technology they will be able to better target their clients through the omni-channel experience.
  • Mobile is going to become the center of marketing and the need for good content will not slow down. It might be that user-generated content will be the new hit and social will become an integral part of the “broader marketing discipline.”

What advice would you give to those who aspire to have a successful career in marketing?

Firstly, master the basics, meaning that you: 1) Know who your audience is, 2) You are clear about what you are going to tell them and lastly 3) How is this different from your competitors?

And secondly, creativity is never going to go out of fashion for marketers, but you need to understand and leverage the insights that is hidden in your customer data. Bring that to life via digital and or omni channel customer experiences that is constantly pushing the boundaries of good customer experiences and sets you apart from your competitors.





Christian Andersen is the Director of Portfolio Marketing, Middle East and Africa, at IBM

Christian is also a board member of The Marketing Society, Middle East. 
The Marketing Society is an exclusive global network of 2,700 senior marketers.
We encourage our members to become bolder leaders, helping them think differently about the challenges they face.
In the 55 years since we began, we’ve become one of the most influential drivers of marketing in the world.
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