Robots: The future of marketing that's already here

Artificial Intelligence shouldn't be feared -- it will allow marketers to forge more personal relationships than ever before, says Havas Media's global head of strategy

Artificial Intelligence (AI) might seem like something from the future, but it has already made a big difference to marketing communications and product design  and it's potential for brands is huge.

The Holy Grail of customer-centric marketing is to create truly personalized, meaningful and relevant interactions that foster long-term, value-generating relationships. AI can help here.

The term describes the capacity of a machine to simulate human intelligence; that is core to most advertising technology today, either through search engine recommendations, voice and facial recognition, or programmatic media. All these solutions have been made possible through AI and algorithms that mine massive amounts of consumer data.

Today, most artificial intelligence is referred to as "narrow intelligence,", limited to discrete functions and programs on individual devices such as a mobile phone, car or PC. But as AI develops more broadly, it will reach the potential of human-level brain intelligence (AGI), that can reason, respond and react like a human being.

It may sound counterintuitive (and even scary), but a personal robot that responds, evolves and reacts to individuals in real time, providing custom experiences and information, will be able to help us create more personalized relationships.

The opportunities are endless. In advertising, rather than building engagement plans reliant on email, text, websites, app, banners or TV commercials, we will be able to build emotional connections with our audiences through robots that have personality, sentience and multi-dimensional capabilities.

Robots can help people learn new things, organize their time better, inspire new ideas, provide advice on how to save money or manage the home, or guide people to live a healthier, better and happier life. All under your brand umbrella.

Imagine this: If a person really, really wants to become more athletic, she can seek out a robot that embodies a healthy lifestyle — a Nike robot, perhaps. Or a fashionista might seek a robot that can help him with custom style advice, from a brand like Net-a-Porter. Maybe a company decides that it needs to inject a little bit of magic into the workplace — there isn’t a better solution that hiring a Disney robot, which would be a friendly, social, joke-telling, entertaining addition to office life.

While it may sound absurd, crazier things have happened in advertising. The type of brand associated with a robot is very likely to impact consumers’ purchase decisions, just like celebrity endorsements or content marketing do today. It’s not about the technological savvy — it’s about lifestyle benefits.

I won’t blame you if you are reading this and thinking that a rotten future awaits us, populated with branded robots and all. Many people are indeed wary of the very notion of robots in general, with good reason. We have the movie-induced visions of robots taking over the world, creating a society with no humanity or culture or displacing humans completely.

Yet artificial intelligence, robotics and machine learning will not create indolent people too lazy to think, move or dream. Robots that are designed with good intentions can enhance our lives in meaningful, positive ways, helping us overcome the complexities of modern life and optimize its pain points.

As important commercial and cultural entities, brands will play an important role in this robot evolution. Our everyday lives are already hard to imagine without brands. The brands we already trust in our homes and offices, or in our interpersonal relations and individual communication, are the ones we will trust when they start using robots to convey a message, provide utility or entertainment.

Starting now, engineers and programmers need to work alongside with designers, strategists, experience designers and traditional tech teams to go beyond application, product or functionality and think about human connectivity.

Rori DuBoff is the global head of strategy at Havas Media.

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