To Seduce (and Convince) Artificial Intelligence

29 Aug 2017|Added Value

There’s no doubting the importance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) cementing itself in the zeitgeist. Case in point: the evolution of search over the last five years has tripled according to Google Trends and it isn’t going to cap anytime soon. Artificial Intelligence is going to profoundly transform the marketing landscape and particularly its operational aspects. It already has.

Targeting will be more accurate, messages more relevant, CRM more efficient. A significant number of tasks will be automatized in an… intelligent way, and humans will be able to focus on operations that have added value (at least until the machines truly take control – but that is the subject of another debate:  #universalincome or #robotarmageddon?).

In a nutshell, the impact of AI has been broadly covered and the landscape is progressively taking shape. There is, however, one point which few have covered up until now. One that seems to be quite fundamental: AI is going to become an increasingly important part of people’s daily lives, it is going to become the go-to solution for a lot of our questions, and will probably disrupt our decision making process.

The implication for brands

The Alexas, Siris, Cortanas and Watsons of this world have a purpose to support us in our lives, always ready to be a mobilized, helping hand with any of our tasks (including the most personal ones) and capable of answering the most urgent of inquiries. All these things have a tremendous impact on the data we share and especially our online navigation (the Silicon Valley giants are already working tirelessly at this of course). But this will also further revolutionize the decisions we make, and thus the way we purchase goods or services in the not too distant future. It’s reasonable to assume the consideration phase will be dangerously reduced to a congruent share, or even completely skipped, as the actual choices will be subcontracted to machines which perfectly know us, our tastes, and our needs.

Until now, little has been investigated or written on the subject. Google came close with the ZMOT study (“Zero Moment Of Truth”), but to this day, it’s nearly impossible to forecast how decisions made by smart machines will evolve and how to take them into account in our predictions or marketing models.

All of this will have a very concrete impact for brands: soon, it will be as necessary to promote our offers to AI as we do today to humans. We’ll have to market to AI, fast.

In this new relationship with machines, brands will need to consider two main options or criteria:

1) Let’s not delude ourselves, recommendation engines are not always as personalized as we wish them to be, and it’s very likely that the AI in our personal or home assistants are subjected to a certain amount of commercial constraints. It is safe to assume these kinds of partnership mechanisms will become even more targeted and sophisticated, and we will have to elaborate increasingly complex and relevant partnerships to be promoted to the right audience. This will further increase the power of the developers of these assistants. Case in point: if you try to order batteries through Amazon Echo today, the choice is limited to Amazon-branded batteries or batteries from… Amazon (the others? “I don’t know those” says Alexa).

2) In a world where the consideration phase is subcontracted and practically annihilated, machines, just as humans, go for the obvious and the category’s reference becomes the de facto standard. It’s not a coincidence if today, “Dash Buttons” sold by Amazon are associated not to a product, but to a very specific brand. We can safely say this is the first step (both manual and human) of subcontracted ordering left to the machine. To be the favorite brand, the reference for a specific consumer will probably be the shortcut towards transformation. Enjoying a better “top of mind” status, the iconic brand will be better prepared to thrive beyond what iconicity already achieves today.

This all seems rather natural and intuitive. Requiring just a simple adaptation for marketers, right?

From tool to prescription

There’s a slight bump in the road, though: amongst design’s many components at our disposal (may they be visual or haptic), none will be truly mastered nor understood by AI in the upcoming years. We’ve only just reached the infancy of shape recognition. Whether that shape is pleasing to the eyes or not is a different matter altogether. The same applies to texture, olfaction, sound, color and everything that can possibly seduce or convince us, human consumers, to try out a product or buy it.

The brand builder’s arsenal suddenly seems rather restrained, doesn’t it? What kind of messages could best convince AI? What tone of voice? What humorous approach? Can humour even be learned by a neural network? What emotions can be conveyed?

As we now discover an unexpected facet of something which seemed almost familiar up until now, a broader horizon opens up. AI cannot just be a practical tool for brands & companies: it must become a specific audience to seduce and convince, in a complementary fashion to humans.

And if we consider the importance of sentience or personality for AI’s development, the Alexas or Siris won’t just be the reflection of the human consumer they serve, but they may very well be the prescriptors, the influencers, the wallet and the key (in every sense of the term) to every household.

This article was written by Alexandre Thomas, Director, Kantar Added Value France.

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