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Human Intelligence versus AI: Finding the Balance in Order to Maintain a More Human Brand

Jamie Gordon By Jamie Gordon

In the age of AI and marketing, there are lots of debates about what the future holds for brands. Will AI help brands become more relevant or will it cause a rift between brands and our ability as humans who buy stuff to make conscious choices?  What, overall, will AI contribute to the quality of our interactions with brands as we march steadily into the machine-learning future?

When it comes to the value of great marketing, it’s all about how that brand engages with their customers and the degree to which they help make our lives better.

But we already know that.

So, wouldn’t a brand embracing AI already send it a step in that right direction?  Perhaps this quote from President Obama back in 2016 (ironically, given as part of a memorial speech in Hiroshima) will add some perspective:

“Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us.”

Obviously, he was referring to the creation of the atomic bomb, but how do we apply that logic to marketing?

For example, we’ve seen the rise of ideals/purpose-driven brands and their documented success with regard to growth and financial performance. That’s a big part of enhancing quality of life; aligning with values and being a source of affirmation, motivation, empathy, and meaningful connection.

According to a 2017 Havas media study, 75% of us expect brands to make more of a contribution to our quality of life. That means it’s not just about getting a great quality product for a good price, or perception of value based on a product alone. The context of this tidy statistic is actually related to how brands leverage Artificial Intelligence, or AI—the non-human but equally value-added revolution shaping the present and future state of marketing at astonishing speed, whether your brand has digital roots or not. AI brings a measure of efficiency that, in many ways, helps us simplify our lives in an increasingly complicated and busy world.

Certainly, there have been some amazing advances in AI that make it more strategic and even, in some instances, more enjoyable to interact with. But the real challenge is making sure brands don’t neglect human engagement as a complementary requirement to the use of machine-driven engagement.

So, what are some opportunities for brands in the age of AI to think about how their human side can augment their chances of building and maintaining a loyal following? Well, it’s important in this context to understand the roles that AI can and can’t play. With inspiration taken from the Emotive Brand blog, there are four things human intelligence requires that AI or machine intelligence does not: empathy, creativity, insights, and aspiration.

Let’s consider what that means for brands that want to use AI as a marketing tool without sacrificing their ability to be more human.

  1. Empathy versus Personality: You can use AI to give your brand a unique personality on social media and via chatbots—one that aligns with the values and personality traits your core customers admire most. This will make transactions more pleasant and perhaps even create more engaging conversations. It takes brand voice from a metaphorical space to a literal one. However, remember that actual humans are an important part of the empathy equation. According to a Survata study commissioned by Adweek, even though 57% of respondents said they would happily exchange messages with an e-commerce merchant’s chatbot (embracing personality), 67% are not cool with a robot replacing a human worker in stores (embracing empathy).
  2. Creativity versus Content Generation: AI tools can be used for things like sourcing and pushing content based on data algorithms and even, in some cases, creating content. However, as “smart” as a machine-based content strategy might be, it is not capable of creativity. A big part of what makes a brand human is the context of its interactions and character—the story! That means you have to make sure you have an actual, empathetic human driving creation of meaningful narratives. It also helps to make sure you have humans regularly engaged with programming of your AI tools, flipping the POV from AI (artificial intelligence) to IA—intelligent algorithms, advice, and assistance.
  3. Insight versus Data: The uses of data analytics capabilities related to AI are remarkable. It can deliver and even boil down massive amounts of data into tight analyses that help brands target more effectively, create better content, predict which marketing efforts will be successful and improve online ad performance—to name a few. In some cases, the info you can gather using AI can even lead to some very meaningful insights as far as the question about “what” types of behaviors people are engaging in. But if you want to get to the “why”: the value systems, beliefs, and principles people apply to their behavior, you need a human touch. Beware of forsaking the art of meaningful research for the science of AI. A good mix makes a distinctly more human brand.
  4. Aspiration versus Inspiration: What better way to make your brand more meaningful and useful than to inspire the humans who engage with your brand? You can do that by creating amazing content and even using AI to help you find the right moments to disrupt your customers and delight them. Inspiration isn’t just about how you engage with customers, however. It’s about how you find ways to improve your brand’s experience—and AI can even help you with that to some degree. However, if you are thinking about the future, you are in aspiration territory. So, how do you get your brand to mean more? You need human emotions and human intelligence. . . people capable of pushing boundaries because they are capable of being dissatisfied with the status quo and want to do better. Humans are capable of motivation where AI isn’t. You must make sure you have real, live people on your brand team, focused on innovation that is deeply rooted in human and cultural insights and in the hearts and minds of the humans who buy your products.

The moral of the story here is that AI is a great tool for brands and can even help them be better at being more human. At SCOUT we prioritize the conversation about Human Brands and push our clients to dig deeper to make more meaningful connections with the people who buy their stuff.

According to Roy Amara, president of The Institute For The Future, when it comes to technology, we tend to overestimate the effect it will have in the short run and underestimate the impact it will have in the long run. That’s why it’s important to understand the limitations and risk factors for brands that are presented by AI, despite its advantages. It’s why it’s important to always invest in maintaining a literal, not metaphorical or “virtual,” human touch.