A sophisticated marketing technology and advertising technology stack has had a transformative impact on performance marketing over the past 15 years, but we are now starting to see a similar scale of impact on marketing further up the funnel. To gain attention, change perceptions and drive desire, we need to adopt cutting-edge automation and cognitive technologies to the realm of content distribution and customer engagement strategies.
Yesterday at the OMD Oasis I joined Twitter’s Global Head of Content Strategy, Stacy Minero, The Weather Company’s CEO, Cameron Clayton, The Washington Post’s Director of Strategic Initiatives, Jeremy Gilbert and Quartz’s Co-Founder Zach Seward, to discuss Bots, APIs and AI.
The rise of the bot
Over the past five years, we have seen the rise of a range of new digital technologies that are transforming the way that we interact with content and services. The website and the mobile app have now been joined by the bot and the voice based skill in platforms, such as Amazon Alexa.
Bots enable us to automate various tasks, such as shopping bots that guide users through purchases or chat bots that enable more conversational interactions. After much discussion, we concluded that bots are over-hyped because the most effective bots are the ones we don’t notice, that pass under the radar to a great extent.
Both publishers and brands have been utilising bots at scale over the past year. Quartz, for instance, have a conversational news bot that delivers news like a messenger conversation, dialling up detail as requested by the user. Bots enable the automation of much of the low-level interaction required to drive a more personalised experience. Brands too are experimenting with bots. Last year at OMD EMEA we have worked with clients to deliver bot based interactive story lines and shopping services in Facebook messenger and we expect many more brands to experiment with bots to drive deeper more immersive experiences throughout 2017.
Imbedding AI in bots
The cutting edge of bot technology has AI embedded within. That AI can be in many forms, such as natural language inference, meaning a bot can understand, ‘will I need my umbrella in Miami’ is a question about expected rainfall. Equally, it may be machine vision that recognises key elements in photos and video, or smart home connectivity that anticipates the consumer’s need to switch their lights on or heating off when they are more than 10 miles from home.
It was commented that every brand should now record and transcribe every conversation or interaction with their consumers. In those conversations, are the non-typical interactions that define the specifics of a brand’s purpose, that will ultimately drive the differentiation of their AI over any potential competitors. Waiting for someone else to solve those problems for you will be a significant business risk.
APIs (application programme interfaces) are the plumbing that connects these diverse services together. Solving problems like the translation between languages, or the ability to recognise faces is very hard, but once it has been perfected it becomes an API open to all, thus massively reducing the cost to implement such a service.
We can also add a range of immersion technologies from 360-video to Augmented Reality through to Virtual reality to the list of options available to the modern marketer. They may not scale instantly but they are showing huge potential to drive deeply immersive experience. The technology announced at CES such as the Intel Project Alloy VR headset should be watched closely. These technologies have been complex and unstable until recently, only now can we think of them as strategic platforms that can scale and be relied upon.
So how should brands think about the opportunity?
Whilst the technology is complicated the task remains simple. We need to identify the potential sources of growth and solve issues for the audiences that represent that growth. A clear insight about consumer behaviour and beliefs, aligned with an understanding of the technology will enable us to define solutions that create value; to minimise purchase friction, maximise salience and impact and drive experiences that are both memorable and shareable. Traditional advertising has an enormous role, signposting at scale to these great experiences and services where and when they are most relevant to the specific consumer segment.
All of the required pieces are now available so that we may be able to transform brand and content marketing to the same degree as we have already with the performance element of the marketing mix.