CMOs, don't be dumb when It comes to AI

Originally published on AdAge

The potential for artificial intelligence (AI) to soon become a powerful tool in the CMO toolkit is very real. Right now, brands are using AI "bots" to engage customers, distribute content, merchandise products and answer questions.

Brands should take note, however: a poorly executed foray into artificial intelligence can make you look dumb. Here are some considerations that will keep you intelligent:

Keep it simple

Lenovo's Serverpocolypse is a fun, choose-your-own-adventure "interactive comic" that my agency developed to help Lenovo engage IT guys. But it is not AI by any stretch of the imagination.

Rather, it is a basic application of some of the concepts used by sophisticated AI bots -- relying on a rules engine and conversational navigation to guide users through content. More important, the app was effective marketing: 89% of visitors to the page interacted and finished the online experience.

The point is, you don't have to build Watson to put AI principles to work for you.


Be charming

The Wall Street Journal and Quartz both have created AI bots to direct people to content. The experiences they provide, however, are nothing alike.

The WSJ's Facebook Messenger bot is sterile and boring. It's like the experience has been handed from an information architect to a developer without a good writer ever giving it a look.

Contrast that with the Quartzbot AI app. The experience essentially does the exact same thing, but does it with personality: conversational copy, emojis, even animated GIFs. I know the Quartz app is a computer program, but I like her anyway. She's fun. She's my pal.

Consider distribution

In the above example, the WSJ bot serves me daily headlines in Facebook Messenger. I'm in Facebook 427 times a day, so that may be a smart place to be.

Quartzbot is an app, so I have to download it. That's a big hurdle to overcome, but now that it's on my phone, notifications from pop up five times a day, with headlines to lure me back.

The point is, think hard about how you customers will have access the AI you create. Like any content, if no one sees it, it's a waste of money. Distribution is critical to your success.

Create value

Taco Bell trumpets that Tacobot, a bot for messaging platform Slack (currently in private beta), is "a peek into the future of ordering tacos," because "no one should work hungry."

Only time will tell if workforce hunger prevention will prove to be a compelling consumer need, but I salute Taco Bell for giving it the old college try.

Like any great customer experience, great applications of artificial intelligence start with insight. What problem are you solving for your customer?"

LinkedIn's new "Reconnect" bot lives within their mobile app. "Reconnect" identifies opportunities to reach out to your contacts, and suggests you comment on an article they wrote, compliment them on being featured in the news, or congratulate them on their new job.

You probably have hundreds of contacts that you haven't touched base with since you added them. LinkedIn will help you network better with those people -- this extracts real value from your network.

Every robot has its limits

Even the smartest attempts at fake intelligence can come across as pretty stupid. Take this suggestion from LinkedIn to reach out to a friend I hadn't spoken to for a while.

I took LinkedIn's suggestion and emailed my buddy to ask how he felt about Grey's decision to hire Nirvik Singh as CEO of the Middle East. His response?

"I literally know more about Mars than I do about that guy. You good?"

So, the Reconnect bot was dumb enough to think that either of us would care about Grey hiring Mr. Singh (No offense, Nirvik … Congrats on the new job!). On the other hand, it was intelligent enough to know I'd enjoy touching base with an old friend.

Pretty clever.

Adam Kleinberg CEO

Adam is the CEO of Traction, an interactive agency broadly recognized as one of the top small agencies in the US. Kleinberg plays a hands-on role for all agency accounts and keeps his team at the leading edge of emerging digital channels. He is also a regular contributor to Ad Age, Forbes, Mashable, Digiday and iMediaConnection.