"Who is....Paris Hilton!"

Scientific breakthroughs, data management techniques, and analytics technology….BORING. 

But wait.

A super computer battling the smartest humans in a live Jeopardy show? Now we’re talking.

IBM’s Watson microsite transforms a nerd-tastic subject into one for the masses. For big companies like IBM, microsites are a smart idea – they have double the response and conversion rates compared to campaigns with a corporate link.*

Relevant titles like “How Watson Works” invite curious users to click on content. There’s also a section which offers a behind-the-scenes look at The Research Team and what each member specializes in, making the project more personal.

The Twitter feed on the side panel of the page utilizes social media to foster a sense of community. There’s even a sliding scale that visually shows how trending topics have changed over the last few days, which meshes well with the data-driven purpose of the project.

The site also generates anticipation by listing the number of days until the February 14th Jeopardy Challenge. It’d be even more effective if the meter actively counted down to the minute/second, instead of just listing the day as a static image. 

Mainly, the site features a ton of videos. This makes sense because video is one of the most effective formats for raising consumer purchase intent.** However, there is a limited number of clips that people will watch on a topic before they move on.

IBM should direct users to the most engaging videos and get rid of the others. They would also do well to diversify the types of videos. So far it’s all IBM employees talking about the project, which isn’t very Web 2.0. Where’s the conversation? 

Instead, they can film normal people (or employees, letting loose) competing with Watson and post the videos on YouTube. Another idea is to design an app around the topic, which increases user impressions through Facebook status updates from friends playing the game. Some of the pop culture questions are current enough for people to know (e.g. “What is Yelp!”) so it’ll be fun, not frustrating.

Currently anything that’s not video is pretty much Arial size 10 chunks of text. This presents an opportunity to showcase that content in other ways through Q&A, interviews, pictures with captions, etc so people can skim.

It costs more to develop an engaging apps and rich media content, but it might be worth it. Why? Because Watson is the first time that I’ve heard people bring up IBM in a while. This may be a good way to grow brand awareness and spark conversation for those who typically wouldn’t talk about the brand.

Any other ideas on ways to express content besides through videos?

Sources: *Aprimo Marketing Studio B2B White Paper, “Five Tips to Better Automated Lead Interactions”; **Dynamic Logic, June 2010 report

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