Last week, IBM's artificial intelligence (AI) robot put up a convincing debate against humans, and it even made a few jokes about its own role in the future of healthcare. It's a clear indicator that AI is moving in a more human direction, even if other attempts have been more creepy than convivial. The question is, are consumers ready for this shift in public engagement methods?

As business decisions and messaging become increasingly more technology- and data-driven, a company can appear too removed from the human side of its brand. In reality, though, more data means more engagement opportunities for brands. Not everyone is ready to take on a robot debate, but there are other ways to engage consumers using data- and AI-focused initiatives.

Use customer data to inform your innovation.

The next evolution of marketing insight or focus groups involves collecting data through platform-enabled conversations with customers. This method of collaboration simultaneously recognizes future brand ambassadors and creates brand investment within a core group.

Dickies Workwear is taking this approach with its newly launched online community, Dickies Ambassadors. The platform, created in the U.K. to advance customer-led innovation, will utilize insights to develop deeper customer relationships and inform product development. Vision Critical's Sparq 3 customer intelligence platform allowed the company to scale collaboration and allow thousands of people to give instant input. This customer collaboration extends far beyond the scope of traditional market research.

Let customers take your data tools for a spin.

Adobe is also inviting customer collaboration, and it's taking on the world of sports talk. In our first-take culture, opinions have ruled for too long. Sports radio hosts can spend three hours on nothing but Jordan vs. LeBron, but where's the data to support anyone's claim? Adobe decided to insert itself into March Madness and give users the option to settle any sports debate using data analytics to back their claims. Its Hack the Bracket project--an interactive site powered by AI and analytics--helped more than 70 million people fill out their data-backed championship brackets and exposed these potential customers to Adobe Analytics.

For the first time in Adobe's history, it opened its entire data intelligence platform to the general public for this free trial. The initiative helped thousands of basketball fans win their office pools, but more importantly, it exhibited the practical applications of AI.

AI is becoming a buzzword, like blockchain or synergy. Humanizing AI and showing its practical use cases in a hands-on way is effective in branding. Adobe won with Hack the Bracket because people actually got their hands on the Adobe Analytics product and envisioned what their business could do with it.

The attempt to form a relationship with customers is changing. These new strategies strengthen customer engagement through feedback and product visibility. By getting the right feedback and having a little fun providing customers access to your tools, you can form more loyal relationships and outlast your competitors.

Published on: Jul 1, 2018