What Happens When the Voice of Your Brand is a Humanoid Robot?
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A powerful transfer of power is underway around us. It takes many forms from drones to driverless cars to robotics factories made freshly famous by Tesla. This rise in robotics is remaking both the supply chain and demand sides of business (see ‘Rise of the Robots’), but they will soon transform brand marketing just as dramatically.
Big Data has already changed our experience of life as human beings. The insights we share about ourselves – whether it is the music we like, who our friends are, or where we went on holidays – constantly generate compounding data streams that inform how brands better target consumers in their marketing. Over time, these data sets are re-shaping the individual’s experience of life as its targeted and predictive nature informs the choices and opportunities individuals see that subsequently define their real world experience of life. This is especially true of younger demographics reared on intuitive technologies and social media that have been capturing and repurposing their data to shape their lives for the last decade. This feedback loop where data increasingly defines an individual’s real world experiences is an important shift in polarity from the last several decades in which our real world lives generated a growing number of data points.
With this shift in dynamics between atoms and digits as a backdrop, it’s easy to see how robotics will take marketing into new and unchartered territories. Instead of using marketing like TV ads to build emotional connections, robots will that have empathic personalities, AI-powered sentience and multi-faceted skills to position them as brand ambassadors for companies. They will be able to learn new skills, give advice and provide companionship on an increasingly nuanced level on their data input. Imagine doing your workout with your Under Armor robot, learning engineering lessons at college from a GE robot, or using an in-house robot as a Culture Captain for your company.
One may argue that robots will always be defined and limited by a quality of “otherness” that will always give human interaction the upper hand. But as this video by Furhat Robotics reveals, the human appeal of a robot is a huge focus for the AI and robotics industry. In fact, technology has moved so quickly that a recent study by researchers at Toyohashi University of Technology and Kyoto University in Japan provides the first neurophysiological evidence of humans’ ability to empathize with robots. Meanwhile groups like Boston Robotics are building robots whose movements mimic human frailty to inspire relatedness and empathy. It’s easy to see how robots with such human appeal can be widely used given their artful blend of robotics, Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality. In fact, guests can already stay at a Tokyo hotel staffed mainly by robots that define the brand’s customer service and experience.
The challenge for brands then becomes how to codify their core values, company culture and customers relations within robots in ways that do justice to their heritage and future. Specifically, several questions come to mind:
How much sentience should a company allow a robot to possess to decide how to respond on behalf of their brand?
How do you ensure robots stay in alignment with the brand’s purpose, values and messaging, and differentiate themselves from robotics competitors?
How much control must companies surrender to technologists inventing and iterating the next generations of robots and their capabilities?
The next generation of marketing and consumer engagement will be defined by two parallel paths. One, is a reorientation of the human experience of life around an exploding number of data points generated and leveraged by technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and augmented reality. Second, is the breathless pace at which robotics will evolve to control the ways that consumers experience brands (just as we have seen companies like Facebook and Snapchat define how consumer interact with brands inside their walled gardens). And if recent history is any guide, it won’t be long before these two paths intersect and brands become the driving force behind the adoption and evolution of robotics in marketing. Our best hope is that these new tools don’t just take brand marketing to a new level of automated but nuanced engagement, but that they also relate in ways that reflect our best selves, that increase the well being of the largest number of people, and that protect and preserve the planet.
Image via Flickr courtesy of Ashley Coombsat https://flic.kr/p/brdQKp
Simon Mainwaring is the CEO of the brand consultancy, We First. Follow him on twitter @SimonMainwaring.
Originally posted on Forbes at http://www.forbes.com/sites/simonmainwaring/2016/05/06/what-happens-when-the-voice-of-your-brand-is-a-humanoid-robot/#fe59e4c5e00a