Brand management in the age of AI
If you have a look at today’s most successful brands, you will probably find one thing they all have in common: Emotional charge.
Those brands connect with their audience on a level that transcends pure product-based likes and dislikes. Sure, Nike shoes keep your feet dry, but that is probably not what got people excited about the Air Jordan One. Coke has more caffeine and bubbles than tap water — but you need more than that to reach a market cap of 178 billion USD.
Over the last decade, many people have tried to put their finger on what is an intangible asset. Accenture, for example, has recently conducted an extensive survey of more than 26,000 respondents, and they came back with something called the “Love Index”. The idea was to break down the vague concept of “brand affinity” into key elements that can be quantified and measured — a personality test for brands if you will. These five criteria were plotted:
Fun: Holds people’s attention in an entertaining way
Relevant: Makes it easy to find clear and customized information
Engaging: Identifies with people’s needs and adapts to their expectations
Social: Helps people to connect with each other
Helpful: Is efficient, easy and adapts over time
While there are some characteristics unique to each industry (apparently banking isn’t fun — who knew!), the index is supposed to be applicable across all sectors. And so it should be because consumers’ experiences in the digital space are raising the bar for everybody else. We want retail banking to be as smooth as picking a Netflix movie. We demand that renting a car be as easy as a purchase on Amazon. It is therefore not a surprise that the most successful brand score high in all five areas, not just those traditionally associated with their industry.
So far, so good. But now let’s throw some machine learning into the mix. Let’s train an AI with all the “on-brand, off-brand” data we can get our hands on, and then teach it to score any piece of data it comes across. Voilá, we have just created an omnipresent brand manager.
You no longer need to scan social media for keywords (a crude tool at best). An intelligent agent with contextual awareness can do that job, and more: Maybe you are scoring low on Fun, and somewhere in a quiet corner on the web something is happening that you may be able to capitalize on? Perhaps the AI can spot an emerging trend in another industry that may apply to yours? This may sound futuristic, but just a few months ago Condé Nast enlisted the help of IBM’s Watson “to build and strategize social influencer campaigns”. And let’s not forget those areas where machine learning is already present, like behavioral targeting and customer care. Right now the purpose of most AIs is to sift through vast amounts of data and identify patterns. They can generate insights on demand, both for marketers and consumers. If you add a basic understanding of abstract values such as “Fun” and “Engagement” and how they form part of your brand DNA, machine intelligence can take a very active approach in shaping those micro-moments that define how consumers experience your brand.
This goes way beyond the virtual shopping assistants that are currently emerging in your living room (Siri, Alexa, Google…). A voice controlled home is useful, — but any emotional attachment is to the home, not to the interface. But a virtual brand ambassador could be anywhere, anytime, ready to spring into action if someone wants to go for a run with Nike or hit the town with Red Bull.
About the Author(s)
Volker Konietzko is a Business Developer at Digital Business Design agency Brains & Hearts (www.brainsandhearts.de).