IBM Sells Off Watson Marketing Automation to Private VC

James T FletcherJames T Fletcher
CEO, Principal Consultant


Has IBM given up the ghost on its marketing automation platform Watson? The jury’s still out.

The Back Story

IBM acquired marketing automation platform SilverPop (which is now part of Watson) in 2014 for a rumoured $300M. Its goal at the time was to use SilverPop’s capabilities to maximise IBM’s enterprise-marketing portfolio, providing a solution to help organisations improve customer journeys and “allow IBM to make it easier for clients of any size to acquire, retain and maximize the lifetime value of their customers.”

Pinning Hopes on AI

IBM Watson Marketing is made up of several multi-channel marketing solutions with a range of capabilities including campaign automation, real-time personalisation, insights, customer experience analytics, and a content management tool. But the real differentiator in the Gartner Magic Quadrant came with its 2017 launch of the Watson Marketing Assistant, which enabled marketing teams to automate tasks, run reporting, and get to grips with sentiment and tone (both in outbound marketing and in customer reactions to marketing campaigns).

With the increase in Artificial Intelligence (AI), it seemed that IBM Watson Marketing was going to be competing in the Marketing Automation AI space and, more specifically, pitting itself against Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud (mainly in the B2C space).

Hybrid, Cloud or On-Premise – Pros and Cons

One pro – or one con, depending on how you look at it – is the way in which IBM Watson Marketing is built: clients access some capabilities on-premise and other capabilities in the cloud.

Much like with the Adobe Customer Experience platform, this approach is great for those enterprise-grade clients who want to integrate with other on-premise platforms. Clients of IBM Watson Marketing have praised its automation features along with its complementary integrations to other products like IBM UBX, its data-mapping and combination technology.

However, the hybrid architecture can be a huge frustration to some clients – because not all capabilities are available in both.

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The Future of IBM Watson Marketing

Today IBM have announced the sale of Watson Marketing to Centerbridge Partners, who are dedicated to forming a standalone company that will deliver a modern, comprehensive portfolio of solutions to meet the biggest challenges CMOs face across marketing and advertising. The company will announce a new name and brand identity, both of which will be launched after the close of the deal (expected in mid-2019) and will be led by Mark Simpson, who is currently Vice President of Offering Management and Strategy for the IBM Marketing Platform and Commerce offerings.

“We are excited about this next chapter, which will enable us to build on the significant steps we have taken over the last few years to modernise the portfolio. Once closed, this transaction will help us accelerate our efforts to empower our clients to make smarter, more timely decisions in their marketing and advertising initiatives. We look forward to working with Centerbridge’s world-class team to ensure a smooth transition and position the business to drive the next generation of marketing clouds,” said Mr. Simpson.

This article was originally posted by James T. Fletcher on LinkedIn.