News and Insights

Branding in the Conversation Universe

Kerry Grady, Founding Principal

Not so long ago, we’d only engage in a conversation with a brand if something had gone wrong. Now, we’re starting to use conversation to do much more: to explore options, to make purchases, and even to investigate medical treatments.

Whether it’s in the form of instant messaging or voice-user interfaces, conversation is becoming an important part of the brand experience. What impact will this conversation renaissance have on brands? And, if artificial intelligence starts to express the nature and personality of a company by holding conversations with users, how should we build brand into that A.l.?

The New Conversation

Today, we’re seeing a range of brands using conversation for different ends, leading the way for dialogue to become an integral part of the brand experience. U.S. insurance provider Lemonade has thoughtfully crafted a chatbot platform that enables an entirely digital experience, end to end, and results in a policy tailored to each user’s needs. In the UK, Babylon Health offers an A.l.-enabled triage tool that answers patients’ questions and assesses the urgency of their situation before referring them to a doctor, easing pressure on already stretched health services.
In a world where conversation is becoming a crucial interaction with consumers, brands need to turn their attention to the challenge of creating differentiation. It’s no longer enough to think of the brand as a logo, a typeface and a set of rules. Now, it’s all about how a brand behaves and how well it knows its users.

When we like someone or we want to impress them, we subconsciously do something psychologists call “mirroring,” where we mirror their body language and match the cadence of our speech to theirs. Technology available now enables brands to do the same: to get to know our behaviors, our language patterns and our tastes. Imagine that a chatbot or voice-user interface representing a brand could use what it knows about you in order to become more like you. Eventually, every brand will be able to differentiate itself for each of its customers.

This level of personalization won’t make sense for all brands, though. Those with strong and unique brand personalities may not see the benefit in diluting their established identity and tone of voice, but many organizations such as banks, utility firms, insurance providers and retailers could capitalize on this type of intelligence to help build rapport with consumers by speaking to each of them in exactly the way they want to be spoken to.

Branding in the Age of A.l.

if brands use A.l. and the machine learning to become the most popular or attractive services to each individual, marketers will have to work hard to find ways to maintain a strong brand personality that underpins those unique interactions Quartz’s unconventional approach to delivering news through a chat-messaging interface is full of personality, amplified by the use of emojis, GIFs, charts and quizzes. Slack is also leading the way with multiple bots such as Workbot and Meekan, which help you get organized and have efficient and playful personalities to match.

When it comes to voice, things get even more challenging, If you’re A.l. becomes your brand and personality, then Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home and Facebook’s Cortana will increasingly become the ears and voice of your brand, further limiting brand expression. There’s also the challenge of getting through to potential customers who have embraced the idea of making purchases through these voice-user interfaces. These users have their options narrowed by algorithms immune to conventional branding efforts, so marketers will have to determine how to get around them.

The existential quandary of brand personality communicated through conversation is a challenge marketers will be managing for years to come. Companies not only have the opportunity to become more human and responsive in real time, but conversation and compassionate interactions will become an expected part of the customer journey. Brands prepared to answer this challenge can weave brand voice and identity to create meaningful customer interactions; brands unprepared risk appearing robotic and tone-deaf and may be left out of the conversation entirely.

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