Intelligent Agents – the death of traditional branding and marketing?

The other day, while I was reading an article about Intelligent Agents and Artificial Intelligence, I realized that this might be the end of marketing and branding as we know it.

Why? It’s all about emotions and values.

There are lots of people out there that won’t get in the Christmas spirit before watching the Coca-Cola Christmas ad.

Commercials are funny, smart, stupid, sad, happy. And it works – because so are humans. We’re filled with emotions, we have values, and when we make choices those emotions and values are part of the mix.

An Intelligent agent on the other hand will not have emotions. It will not chose to buy Coca-Cola because when you think about it, you feel better than when you think about a generic brand *. Your personal assistant will use rational measurements for what to buy you, and will not be swayed by marketing.


How can you trust the IA actions to be neutral?

Intelligent Agents, like VIV, SIRI, Alexa and so on all have to be set up to how to weigh their decisions. I like to think that they do for information that Google do for web pages – filters and connects it to your need. Google have advertising, and some form of payment will have to be part of the IA as well. The thing is – if you don’t make the IA neutral / user need focused, can people trust the actions it takes? When I Google for something, I trust the pages from the organic search – and I don’t trust the paid ones. If I used an IA to do my shopping, how could I trust it to be neutral, and not paid by a third party? If they use advertising, how will they mark it? Wouldn’t the IA no matter what always chose the best offer for you?

Would an Intelligent Agent advice you to user another Intelligent Agent if it would solve your problems better?


If it’s neutral, how do you ‘win’ the purchase?

At Telenor, when we develop new services user needs guide our entire process. If there’s a new and exciting technology, if we see a new market – the question to ask and explore is: What user need are we solving here? With a neutral IA service, the products and services that solves a user need the best will always win.


How do you define user needs?

That leaves me with the question of defining user needs. How will an IA measure that? Personality tests measuring what you value as a person, and then score products on a set of value metrics, besides classic price / quality? Maybe the products will have their own “brand personality and values” that you can align to the user.

It should be possible to set this up, the same way we have SEO for websites. Ex. if you’re a “cool geek”, the IA would know that what’s hot in Silicon Valley might be a better fit for you then what’s hot in L.A. It would also know your budget, friends, friends purchase pattern, maybe also the purchases of people you follow online and often share/like. If family values are what’s important for you, the ethics of the producer might be something to put weight on: Do they pay a living wage, do they have good policies for families, are their products environmentally sustainable?

I guess Adam Smith would love the rational IA buyer, moving the market based on perfect information and rational choices. What I’m wondering is how this will work ‘in real life’.

How rational will we allow our world to become? How can we make emotions and values a vital part of rational choice?

It’s gonna be exciting to see what happens in the Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Agent space the next couple of years. It’s impossible to predict the future, but I believe and hope that we’ll see a major technical disruption within 2-5 years.

*Ok, maybe it will in the future, when it can connect to your feelings.