June 28, 2019

AI is coming for your brand

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.

June 11, 2019

Influencer Marketing, is the hype over?

We recently had the opportunity to attend a conference about Influencer Marketing and its effect on the Flemish media landscape. The conference was hosted by Arteveldehogeschool Ghent who did extensive research around this subject. Interested in what our main takeaways were?

Is there too much hype around influencers?

The digital marketing world today is a chaotic free-for-all of commercial messages through a wide range of channels. The effectiveness of digital marketing is changing at a rapid pace (raise your hand if you have an adblocker installed – ✋) and as a result, many brands are choosing to work with influencers to break through the clutter and gain more trust and credibility. A good thing you might think, however, there are a few downfalls when working with influencers. 

There are three main questions to keep in mind while selecting an influencer, which could have a negative impact if not considered critically:

  1. Is the influencer authentic?
  2. Is he or she professional enough to get the message across?
  3. Is there a match with your brand? 

If one of these boxes are not checked off, the influencer and potentially your brand itself will lose credibility and authenticity. Brands need to be extra careful when linking themselves to “ambassadors”.

If we look at the data of Flanders, Belgium we see that 50% of young adolescents follow influencers and only 16% show resistance towards it. This means it’s working right? Well, it only works when you have a waterproof campaign plan. Here’s what you need to think about: 

Transparency

More than 53% of the adolescents interviewed by the Arteveldehogeschool say it’s important to show commercial transparency. You may have already seen these tags on Instagram: #sponsored #ad. This means that users appreciate and expect an honest and transparent approach when influencers tell commercial stories.

Quality over quantity

One global shift we’ve noticed is that the interaction you have with your community is becoming more important than the number of likes a post gains or the number of followers your account has (vanity metrics). So keep quantity as part of your criteria but aim for qualitative content that your followers can relate to and that sparks a conversation.

Influencers and the social media industry have had a mutually-beneficial relationship thus far, which is evident in the fact that feature changes on social networks reveal the future of Influencer Marketing. 

For instance…

  • Instagram tested hiding “Like” counts in a leaked prototype (source), this means that our statement around the focus of content quality is something the platforms are also thinking about. 
  • Facebook wants to focus more on communities rather than broadcasting (source), this means the “real and authentic” connection between influencers and our audience will become a priority and should result in a community strategy being included when building the campaign.

Are influencers toxic attention-seekers?

There many different definitions of influencers, the most extreme ones say they are attention-seekers without expertise. One of the reasons why brands nowadays still have doubts about collaborating with them is the risk that an influencer will harm a brand’s reputation.

What must be understood in this argument is the thin line between influencers and content creators. Influencers have the ability to tell a story and convince their audience to take action, whereas content creators have the creative ability but not necessarily the power of ‘influence’ so to say.

“You often see conflicting things appearing on an influencer’s account. Once they do something for Mac, the next day there’s another makeup brand. They just grab it. We believe more in ambassadorship or longer campaigns, with more exposure. They cost more, but the impact is greater.”

– Simon Smetryns, Tagmag

In our opinion, the key to identifying the right influencers for your brand is to pay attention to their level of expertise in a certain niche. In recent times, ‘Micro Influencers’ are becoming experts in travel, sports, and fashion to name but a few. Their audiences are built around that niche and brands need to be certain that the connection is real.

“If you pull an influencer out of the influencer zone, and you bring it in a brand from which a certain confidence is expected, and which does not comply with that expert role, it’s gonna be punctured.”

– Eva Van Driessche, Flair

It’s really easy to expose non-authentic influencers straight away because of their lack of expertise– the proof is in the pudding. We can conclude that there is a big gap in effectiveness between influencers who would take any collaboration request and more professional influencers who are experts in their niche.

One golden rule: find your expert in the mass flock of influencers.

Experts who can convince their audience and encourage fans in taking action aren’t attention seekers but one-man businesses.

An influencer policy without rules?

From the cases that were presented to us, it was obvious that the majority of brands create a briefing and set general rules that influencers should take into account. We agree on the fact that you should brief influencers, however, teaming up with them also means that you trust them to create content in their own style/tone of voice and therefore you need to create the space for them to do so. A place for creative freedom is needed to create authentic content.

So the answer to whether your influencer policy should include rules is both yes and no… 

No, because the main strength of an influencer is their credibility and authenticity. Whatever content they create, needs to fit their own style and tone of voice. If that doesn’t fit your brand, then that influencer isn’t for you. 

Yes, because Influencer Marketing is still in its infancy where sometimes rules are needed, however, there are no general guidelines defined about it (yet). Every brand needs to set their own objectives, guidelines and agreements. It needs to be clear why you choose to work with an influencer and how you’re going to. 

If you do or don’t, just know that some general guidance is often appreciated by the influencer itself, like some dos and don’ts. The main thing to keep in mind here is not limiting the influencer in telling their story in an authentic way. Let them be who they are and let them tell your story in their own way. It will only benefit your brand!

“Pick an influencer who would buy your products on their own, without a collab.”

– Ludovic Lenaerts, Medialaan

Stats show us that the hype of working with Influencers is there, and we’re convinced that doing Influencer Marketing in the right way works if you do the following:

  • Do extensive research about the potential influencers you want to work with. 
  • Check the credibility, professionality and link with your brand as main criteria.
  • Don’t narrow influencers down to just people that are experts in their field of expertise.

So back to the main question: is the hype over? We think it’s just the beginning of Influencer Marketing and that it’s going to be harder and harder for brands to create an honest perception towards their audience. However, done correctly, it will create extra value for your audience and your brand.

May 10, 2019

What’s it like to be a Springbok intern?

At Springbok, we’re all about creating opportunities for growth not only for our employees, but also students who are eager to learn and get a taste of agency life. We asked Lucas, Louiza and Matthias, students from Thomas More University, to tell us about their experience as Springbok interns and the lessons they’ll take with them as they build their careers.

What is your role at Springbok? 

Lucas: I am a UI/UX design intern. At first, when I started my internship, I thought I was going to be spending 90% of my time creating interfaces, but I soon found out that UX/UI encompasses so much more than that. I’ve learned a lot over the past few months, including how to collaborate with a team of designers. I’m also creating work for big clients like Bridgestone, WABCO and Mercedes-Benz. 

Louiza: I did my internship at the Springbok Amsterdam office. My role at Springbok included UI/UX tasks and front-end development. I worked on projects for Lytho (Sabern), Mercedes-Benz, Grundig and HireFirst. There are a wide range of tasks I’m responsible for, including web mastering, creating wireframes, designing and developing websites. 

Matthias: As a web development student, I’m part of Springbok’s development team. Most of the time, I take the role of a back-end developer because I love writing PHP in, for example, Laravel and WordPress. Since Springbok loves Laravel as well, I spend most of my time creating models, controllers and migrations. 

I’m working on Springbok’s international clients (Bridgestone and Mercedes-Benz) and the projects I work on are quite large with many different cases.

Is there a project you worked on that you’re most proud of? 

Lucas: One of the projects I worked on was helping my team design an internal database for a client. It was satisfying to see how we came together to create a brand-new platform in  3-4 weeks. I enjoyed the challenge of taking on more responsibilities and making some crucial decisions. 

Louiza: The last two weeks I worked on a landing page for one of our clients. I think this is one of the most challenging projects because I’m working on it independently and learning how to manage my time efficiently. I enjoyed having a full overview of the whole customer journey and meeting the client’s needs. 

Matthias: One of the main projects I worked on at Springbok was developing a user-friendly system that builds web pages for a client’s website. Instead of diving into code, the client can add pages to their website by choosing a set of pre-defined components. The team decided to build the project in Laravel and use Backpack as the admin panel, which I had never heard of and didn’t have any experience with but was happy to learn. It turned out to be very “developer friendly,” and I enjoyed learning how to use a new platform. I’m sure I will use the skills I learned from Backpack in future projects. 

How is this internship supporting your career? 

Lucas: Springbok uses Atomic design: a design methodology that accelerates the modular design process. I was already familiar with it from a previous school project and found the topic fascinating. During my internship, I finally had the opportunity to put this methodology into practice. My teammates were very helpful and invited me to work on projects using the methodology, so I could see how it works in an agency. 

Louiza: I appreciate the fact I had the chance to work on different projects in a variety of fields to get a more well-rounded experience. As a designer, I learned how important it is to align your work with the development team and vice versa. For example, the more detailed your Sketch file is, the faster a developer can finish the job with fewer revisions. Working for a client was completely new for me, but I got to learn how to meet tight deadlines and find efficient ways of working. 

Matthias: During my internship, I’ve learned lots of new things such as Laravel Backpack and deployments with Envoyer. I also gained more experience with Laravel itself, Vue.js, Linux server commands and more. Besides these hard skills, I also learned new soft skills. Before I started my internship, I was curious about how an agency works and everyday life in the workplace, and in the past three months I’ve discovered so much.

April 25, 2019

What does it mean to humanise a brand?

If you do a quick Google search for “humanising brands,” you’re likely to find a variety of articles with topics ranging from how to build a brand persona to the importance of creating an engaging tone of voice. At Springbok, we believe humanising a brand goes beyond making it more appealing, and using it as an opportunity to develop authentic connections with people to become part of their daily lives. 

From broadcasting to listening 

The average person today is continuously bombarded with all types of messages and content, and it can be hard for brands to find a way to break through. If a brand is going to succeed, they need to evolve from merely disseminating corporate messaging to understanding who their audience is and what makes them tick.

One of the best ways a brand can create a genuine connection with its audience is through brand experiences. The term “brand experiences” is one of those terms that seems to get thrown around a lot in the marketing industry, with many different meanings depending on the context. From our point of view, we see them as an opportunity for brands to build an emotional connection with their audience, but strategically, so that relationship stays relevant, memorable and seamless. 

The impact of AI 

Brand experiences aren’t new, but they’re evolving. Thanks to advancement in AI and data science, the brand experience we described above is possible because of data. Marketers that have insightful data gain a better understanding of their audience and use it to support creative storytelling or delivering highly personalised customer journeys. 

But in the pursuit to create a brand experience that’s “data-driven,” it’s essential marketers don’t lose sight of one crucial element: to stay human. When we talk about “staying human,” we don’t mean making a brand sound like a person with a great personality. It’s more about creating a seamless experience for the user. This ideal brand experience is human when there is no barrier between the person and technology, and the user believes the brand is answering their needs and expectations. 

How to bring the humanised brand experience to life 

We believe creating a humanised brand experience can happen today, and we’re making it possible by combining data, brand design and service design. 

The whole process starts with data. While some people may see incorporating data science as counterintuitive to making a brand experience more human, we view it as essential. It’s through using the latest technologies, like Conversational UI or content optimisations, brands can show they really know the people behind their target audience, and how to address their needs to spark more meaningful connections. 

Understanding an audience also means brands can unlock a human truth to see how, when and where they speak to people. And this is where data feeds into the next layer of the humanised brand experience: service design and brand design. Whether the experience plays out as a chatbot, website or app or multiple interfaces, the experience should occur so naturally that people don’t have time to think about the technology behind it, or realise they are part of a customer journey. 

When all of these elements come together —data, design and creativity— we have a “humanised” brand experience. In that moment, the person does not question why a brand is popping up in the middle of their lives. Instead, they’re experiencing it as a natural part of their daily life.. 

Why being human matters 

Humanised brand experiences is not another word for the average marketer’s lexicon. It’s a future-proof way of looking at how brands today can create more meaningful connections with their audience to build long-term loyalty and trust. 

January 3, 2019

Five tips to build a conversational UI

Conversational UI (CUI) is nothing new, but it is making a big comeback in the mainstream market because of advancements in AI. With the number of chatbots and voice assistants that exist today, CUI is an active medium for organisations and brands. But what should you know before jumping on the bandwagon? We rounded up our top five tips to consider to get your CUI just right.

Trigger and channel
First, you must pinpoint an incentive as to why your audience should engage with a CUI. Will it help users complete a task, solve an issue or exist for entertainment? Once you understand why there is a need for a conversational interface, it’s time to think about how you can trigger the user to engage and map out the channels to carry the conversation. For example, will the entry point start on a website before switching to another platform? Will it incorporate text or voice? 

Data access
One of the advantages of using this medium is its ability to create a truly personalised experience for each user. But to do this, it will need some context beforehand, and the best way to get this information is through data. Allowing data access is necessary because it creates a framework for a seamless, one-on-one conversation for every user. Recording data also gives the CUI a reference point for future discussions. 

Fall back plan
AI technology has come a long way, but it’s inevitable there is a hiccup now and then. To avoid frustrating conversations with continuous “I don’t know” responses, you need to think of a plan B. Offering a link to a contact centre, redirecting the conversation back to its original context or offloading the chat to a real human are all viable alternatives. 

Persona
We like to think of developing a personality as more of a characterisation. What we mean by that is it’s essential to use copy and media together to not only ensure the conversation completes the right action, but it does so in a way that’s fun, interactive and consistent, to ensure the CUI maintains a distinct tone of voice in every interaction. 

User testing
User testing is crucial to make to ensure your project meets expected outcomes and, above all, is usable. Defining parameters helps set the bar to measure results and determine which elements need further development. In most cases, this could mean optimising the NLP so that it not only recognises what a user is saying, but also the variety of expressions to say it.

Got a project?

We’re more about the walk than talk, but if you have an idea for your customer experience project — we want to hear it!

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