IBM looks to startup culture in bid to get marketers and their technology peers talking

Edwards at the pop-up lab in Sydney

Edwards at the pop-up lab in Sydney

Global technology giant IBM is looking to harness startups for inspiration as it aims to challenge the way marketers “understand and engage with the world of technology”, its VP of global communications and digital marketing Ben Edwards has told Mumbrella.

The company has been experimenting with “marketing experience labs” across the world and has recently set up a pop-up version at its Sydney office, as it looks to innovate its products and offerings.

Edwards said marketers have grown up in a “world of marketing communications, of agencies, of content” and it is quite new that marketers have had to think about technology.

“So how do marketers understand and become fluent in the language of technology and how do technology companies like IBM bridge to the language and the culture of marketing?” he said.

“I think of the work really as needing to bring those two worlds together in a very particular way. Inside IBM how do we bring together my world of marketing and communications with our own CIO organisation which builds and deploys enterprise technology inside IBM?

“I think of it as exactly the same as with our clients, so how do we help our clients bridge internally their own worlds of marketing and technology and help them adopt a common language, but more importantly common methods and practices to integrate the work.”

This practical question of bringing together the world of marketing with the world of technology is achieved internally at IBM through a these marketing experience labs.

“We have a lab in New York, one in London, Tokyo and Bangalore,” said Edwards.

“We actually just constructed a pop up lab here at IBM Australia Sydney and the idea of these labs is they bring together practical day to day ways of how marketers and our tech partners and internal technologists work together to get things done.”

The pop-up structure takes half a day to put together and comes with a “playbook” with Edwards explaining: “The playbook includes lean startup methods. So how you basically go from a standing start to getting  product into market very quickly with minimum overhead and minimum waste.

“So we ship with this very low cost, self-assembly environmental design made out of essentially printed foam board and plastic fasteners. We ship a 60 inch flat panel  screen for team collaboration then we provide this marketing experience lab playbook to help the teams with how they work together to get the work done,” Edwards explained.

This focus on importing startup techniques into an already established business such as IBM is due to startups’ ability to put something into market to test and learn from that experience, Edwards said.

“Within marketing communications one of the materials we work in increasingly the output of our work is websites, web applications, mobile applications, web services, APIs – these are the materials we work in so, yes to startups.

“They have learned how to get to value fast and to fail fast,  but also the methods and techniques form software developers, because we build and execute increasingly in software.”


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