What the future of camera and screen enabled AI assistants means for brands…
In recent weeks we’ve learned that Google, Amazon, and Apple are all working on smart personal assistant devices that integrate cameras and displays into the system.
These ambient computing platforms, including the latest Echo Show, combine various artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, such as image recognition, natural language processing, and machine learning, into a system that’s continuously aware and seemingly omnipresent.
This next generation of smart devices, which are moving beyond the current voice-only paradigm, have the potential to accelerate the technological step-change we’ve seen in our homes.
new brand experience opportunities
For brands and marketers, this rare new channel opens up a world of exciting opportunities. It offers a platform for direct 1-on-1 interactions with a highly desired group of early adopters with disposable income – right inside the privacy of their own homes. Gartner estimates that by 2018, 30% of consumers’ technology interactions will involve ‘conversations’ with smart machines. Furthermore, using integrated displays and cameras, brands can not only interact verbally with these users, but are able to observe their behaviors and serve up brand-driven content in visual form.
However, the question is whether they should. The true cost of such systems and the value they offer is trust. Trust in devices to protect people’s information and not abuse the unrestricted access to people’s private homes.
This trust naturally extends to brands looking to be present on the platform. In the coming months, brands will need to figure out what the right mix is for providing users with relevant content, collecting useful information and interacting with visuals.
A risky challenge
On one hand, marketers need to learn to respect the intimacy of these emergent channels. By going too far and interrupting, surveilling or even worse, intruding on people’s personal lives – brands could be seen as overstepping the boundary, and consequently, endanger their reputations.
Recently Burger King learned this tricky lesson, when it launched an advert that included the “O.K. Google, what is the Whopper burger?” trigger sentence, which activated people’s assistants to provide an answer. While this was a creative way to make an impact, it also sparked a significant amount of negative public feedback and caused Google to disable the assistant response. Clearly not what Burger King had in mind.
But on the flip-side, being too careful and reverting back to a conservative display advertising approach, will simply invite people to skip and ignore the content. More importantly, by not embracing the strengths of the platform, brands could miss important moments to connect with people who are open to suggestions, entertainment, and purposeful content. So how do brands find the right tone, the right level of awareness, the right moments to connect? How do marketers find a way to continuously provide useful, contextual interactions, without being ignored, or worse, disliked?
Data to the rescue
Maybe the answer lies in the ambient computing platform itself. The system has a unique ability to observe users throughout the day, establishing intimate behavioral patterns, and finding moments when interactions are welcome. This is exactly the kind of information a brand team needs, helping them understand what to share, when, with whom and how. While few brands have publicly shared whether they collect this kind of real-world data already, many have for years leveraged the digital data equivalent, serving target ads at specific IPs, in specific moments.
A brand’s tailored personality, combined with a rich contextual understanding could, over time, help create deep relationships with users. Establishing a brand as a trusted companion – one that elevates, rather than disrupts our experiences at home. Aside from familiar tech products like Google Maps, which use location data to create personal relevance, more recently e-commerce start-ups like Stitch Fix have built uniquely tailored brand experiences. The brand uses a clever mix of human and AI analysis of their users social media behaviors to create hyper-detailed user profiles. Allowing them to select, design and send perfectly tailored clothing packages to customers.
Are you ready to get personal?
Marvin Chow, VP Global Marketing at Google recently commented:
With the shift to the AI paradigm, consumer expectations of brands around context and helpfulness will elevate. This will create a new opportunity for marketers to stretch themselves, and create new relationships between their brand and users over time.
It’s certainly a meaty challenge, one where a single mistake could leave a lifelong impression. The question isn’t whether brands are technologically able to get it right eventually, but whether brands can be subtle enough with their approach, after all these years of using volume to cut through the marketplace clutter. If some succeed, the final test will be to see whether people are ready for such personal brand relationships.