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How AI Can Create Brand Intimacy & Personalisation

London, UK
The R/GA EMEA team, CCO Nick Pringle and CEO Rebecca Bezzina, take to the Advertising Week Europe stage to share how AI can create more personalised experiences, writes LBB’s Nisna Mahtani
In 2024 and beyond, as brands look to build a more personalised and intimate relationship with their customers, it seems that there is one innovation which delivers this in space – AI. Of course, it’s been a particularly hot topic since 2022 and the initial launch of ChatGPT and Midjourney, but it’s come so far since then that we have to consider just how integrated it is set to become within the marketplace.

The ‘AI: From Attention to Intimacy’ talk at Advertising Week Europe was led by R/GA’s chief creative officer Nick Pringle and CEO Rebecca Bezzina, who shared their learnings from client work including the likes of Nike, Samsung and more. 

“I could have written my voiceover today, I could have put it into VASA-1, I could have not been here and you could have me talking to you in a way that I could argue is pretty realistic,” Nick joked as he began to take the audience through the timeline of AI and how it’s evolved up until 2024.

From the early stages of ChatGPT and Midjourney to VASA-1 realistic digital images, Ray-Ban Meta Smart glasses and the Sora AI video generator, Nick shared examples with the audience and showed just how far the technology has progressed in a two-year timeframe. 

Focusing then on the Ray-Ban glasses’ ability to effectively tell the user if their outfit ‘works’ as an ensemble, Nick explained, “These ideas of assistant AI as an agent to do things you want to get done, to pursue outcomes is very, very new and very, very exciting.” The idea of “prompting personal outcomes” according to Nick, is the new way to interface with digital experiences – the prompts ‘write my college essay’, ‘organise my week’ or ‘plan my trip’ having already saturated the market.

“The thing that we really care about is the customer expectation, and how they expect the internet to interface with them and that’s where things are changing. Things are very exciting, because we’re now starting to think of digital experiences being able to deliver incredibly personal outcomes rather than the commands we’ve been used to,” Nick said. He then explained the idea that we’re in the phase of ‘experience 3.0’, explained below:

  • Experience 1.0
Going into a shop, telling the shopkeeper you like a jacket, asking if they have your size, having a nice chat and getting the jacket – or not getting it if it isn’t in stock.

  • Experience 2.0
Heading onto a brand’s website, having access to all of the stock, choosing the size and delivering it to your home.

  • Experience 3.0

Prompting the outcome we’re looking for. Asking questions such as, ‘Which size will fit me best? Does this jacket come in a shorter sleeve length with dark trousers?’ This becomes a ‘style outcome’ rather than a way of getting a product quickly. 

Nick said, “You can look at these as the human interface, the digital interface and the synthetic interface – which makes the most of the two.” As he explained that younger generations are implementing and adapting to these more quickly, he also gives an example of how this could be integrated within a brand, like Nike.

To summarise the experience the audience saw in person, Nick has an interaction with the hypothetical Nike App, asking it to pull up some shoes from a TV programme he saw – the app goes on to find the shoes he mentioned, add them to his cart and ask if he’d like them shipped to his current address or home address. It then went on to make a movie recommendation – which Nick added to his watchlist – and the Nike app interface suggested a relaunched shoe collection for him to look at later.

Though it might not sound like it, it was somewhat of a revelation to the audience at Advertising Week Europe – myself included.

It was, of course, a hypothetical of what’s to come, but as Nick mentioned, “We’re really not very far from that as a reality as companies are putting these technologies together,” in what they see as a gentle AI practice which supports the user in carrying out tasks. 

Taking over from Nick, Rebecca explained how brands or marketers are starting to embrace this ‘AI intimacy’ in a real and tangible way. “AI has been around for a very, very long time over the last decade, it's been integrated into many businesses, probably referred to as machine learning.” Now, Rebecca explained, it’s generative AI which is coming to the table and basing the vast majority of conversations, as AI is split into:

Image & Video

As marketers now have AI at their fingertips, they’re not only able to implement things they’ve dreamt up but deliver them with both scale and precision. “If we look back on this time in years to come, it will probably be similar to when the internet came online, the level of disruption and the speed in which it is happening is truly, truly remarkable,” said Rebecca. She then went on to explain that there is a shift in how we consider the consumer. It’s going from,

‘What you think I need’ to ‘What I want’.

“Brand on demand,” Rebecca explained, is a new consideration, how interfaces can pick up from where a user left off, learn more about the customer and thus serve them in a better way. “So in all of that, then how do we make sure we drive intimacy?” she questioned, as personalisation gets mentioned again. “It’s easy to get it wrong,” Rebecca said, but gives us an example of how you can get it right. In a Valentine’s Day study of a love letter written by a human vs AI, it turns out that while 69% of people could tell the difference between AI and human, 65% actually preferred the AI-written note. “I think it's an amazing demonstration of showing just how intimate AI can be and also how right you can get it.”

Aside from that, as Rebecca also explained it is the responsibility of technologists, brand owners and marketers to ensure that AI doesn’t cross lines into unsettling content, but there is plenty of opportunity for brands to add value with AI. “There's really two ways of breaking down that value. The first one is providing utility,” and continued, “And then on the other side engagement, if we think about end-to-end customer journeys, and how we're trying to slowly pull people through our sales funnels, or drive loyalty and retention. 

“How can you drive deeper engagement? How can you ensure you're learning from the past? And what do you know about them? And how can you continue to improve on that,” she said. Ultimately, Rebecca explained how all brands are trying to drive superior customer service, leveraging AI tools to bring this to life.

Imperative to all of this is brand distinction, as she asked, “Is your brand defined enough to be profitable? Is your brand defined enough to be comfortable? If you were to ingest all your content, and all your details that sit behind your brand right now, today? What would it feel like? What would it sound like? What would it look like? What would be my experience of the brand?”

She continued, “Everything from positioning voice imagery, signifiers, brand voice is a great one to think about. What's the tone? How do you make sure it's laser-sharp? How do you make sure that it's trainable?” Google is the example that Rebecca presented us, a company with a truly defined brand identity. (A deeper dive on this can be found on the link here and in the example below.) 

“Gone are the days of the Brand Book, you heard it here first,” she joked, “I'm forever chased, trying to make sure we get to really kind of the purest essence of the brand.”

Rebecca continued, “We really believe there's going to be a shift, and is going to be a shift to more thinking about brand as an operating system, or living and breathing thing that sits at the centre of everything, and is much more something that will be generative, something that you train”

She left us with three key takeaways: 

We’re living in ‘Experience 3.0’.

Profitable brands - the one thing that makes experiences and drives product choices is the brand.

Brand building, as it moves from attention to intimacy, will bring change and exciting times ahead.

Work from LBB Editorial
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