Every technological advancement that has wide reach provides opportunities for brands to communicate with people on a deeper level, but it also means these same brands need to adjust their tactics and strategy in order to do so. From old-time radio commercials to the introduction of social media, brands have had to evolve from broadcasting to interacting. Today, artificial intelligence (AI) plans to take this communication a step further, and in the process, change branding as we know it forever.

Flipping the interface on its head

We believe one of the most radical shifts AI will bring to branding is voice technology. Let’s take the smart speaker– think Amazon Alexa or Google Home. Instead of clicking, swiping or scrolling, people can have an actual conversation with these devices using their voice and language– an inherently human feature. 

This natural form of communication strikes a chord as smart speaker adoption is forecasted to be higher than mobile phone adoption was¹. Although most people see smart speakers as a way to get immediate answers to their questions or to play their favourite song, the technology of this device has the potential to achieve so much more.

Like Spotify for products

We believe this shift to voice technology will cause users to trust smart speakers not just as a source of information but as a way to make decisions for them. It’s possible that someday a smart speaker will have enough knowledge to predict when a user needs something and perform an action without any prompt. 

Let’s say a smart speaker is aware a person is running low on toothpaste. It could place an order ahead of time and have a new pack delivered to a person’s home just before they run out. At first, the device might choose a toothpaste based on the person’s preferred brand. But then, as it gets to know the person better, it will pick up on values and preferences that may influence it to choose a different brand it believes is a better fit for them. 

How does AI know what I want? 

Every time a user talks to a smart speaker, the device is collecting new information and using that input to feed its machine-learning algorithms. With all the data it has about you it can craft a profile about you. As AI starts to get to know you better, it will get a better understanding of your personal preferences. It will start knowing to what extent you are price sensitive, how much you value quality over price, and how that preference can differ between product categories. On a basic level, Amazon’s recommended products section already does this today. However, a smart device in your home will be able to aggregate way more data than a webpage, since it will be integrated in your home and interact with you on a daily basis. This data will make it smart, and allow it to make a prediction of how satisfied you might be with a particular product.

AI taking over buying decisions

Just as Spotify uses algorithms to give personalised song recommendations, the smart speaker can use machine learning to recommend certain products or brands. But if a device is capable of making choices based on user needs, what does that mean for brands? 

As AI takes over purchasing decisions, doing branding the old-fashioned way will not be enough. Marketers will need to brand their products on a human level and AI level. The human aspect uses emotions and creativity, while the AI bases itself on logic, preferences and characteristics. This dual perspective of brand experiences provides new challenges for advertising agencies, creatives, companies and brands, where integrity between the emotional and the rational becomes more important than ever.  

In this world, if a brand is going to be successful, it will need to present a solid understanding of what makes it unique (UVP), its target audience, and how to effectively translate its values and mission into a complete AI brand experience. 

For a toothpaste brand, for example, on the emotional side, they could get so entwined in our lives that they manage to get us to say “Alexa, order brand X of toothpaste.” Or, on the rational, algorithmic side, they combine company, brand and product characteristics with our own preferences to decide, they are the brand for us. One thing is for sure, a crystal-clear brand definition will be more important than ever.

Why we’re excited

As technology advances and provides new layers of connectivity between brands and customers, it creates opportunities for brands to integrate deeper into the lives of their customers. Since the whole idea behind AI is to make technology more human, it means your brand could become more human too. Which means marketers need to ask themselves, if my brand could think, talk and had a personality, what would it say and do? AI is changing the way the advertising industry looks at branding, but it’s opening up a new door for establishing closer brand affinity and closer marketing relationships.