At the annual INBOUND conference this fall, Hubspot co-founder Dharmesh Shah spoke about the immense power “chatbots” will wield in the near future. With artificial intelligence assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa already well integrated in our day-to-day routines, it’s easy to recognize the traction these services are gaining.

Chatbots are undoubtedly going to be a huge trend for 2017. There is, however, a kind of tension between the impending assimilation of interactive bots and the importance of maintaining authentic, human brands. A Google search for “brand humanization” generates literally thousands of results, with articles from Forbes, Hubspot, Moz and more all detailing strategies on how to make your brand more genuine and real. The question then becomes:

How do you maintain the humanness of your brand if the future of technology and business is robots?

What exactly are chatbots?

Forbes defines chatbots as messaging applications designed to simplify complex predefined task(s). They can schedule meetings, check the weather, report the news, and soon enough, pretty much everything between. With the widespread implementation of chatbots, people will be able to receive tailored information addressing their individual needs immediately.    

The reality is that consumers aren’t hoping for this kind of personalized information, they’re demanding it, and organizations are struggling to keep up.

What’s more is that the channels on which people spend their screen time are shifting. Until recently, companies could provide information to their consumers on social media apps with relatively consistent viewership. But a new study conducted by SimilarWeb data revealed that time spent on the 4 leading social media apps (Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter) is down in almost all countries.

Assuming this trend continues, companies are going to be scrambling to reach their consumers on the channels they are using most frequently. Chatbots introduce the perfect solution to this as they offer access to consumers on the one channel that is surpassing social media in popularity: messaging apps.

How will companies use chatbots?

Mark Zuckerberg recently launched bots for Facebook’s Messaging platform. With this development, businesses are now able to build customized bots for the Messenger app that will in turn allow them to connect with their consumers on the channel they are using most. Instead of downloading multiple apps or navigating various organizations’ websites, people will soon be able to chat with their favorite brands and companies through bots on messaging systems just as easily as they talk to their friends.  

Take KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, for example. The Dutch airline recently launched a bot through Facebook’s messaging system which offers passengers the option of establishing a chat feed where they can receive booking confirmations, flight statuses, schedule-changes, and boarding passes. The customer’s information is more tailored, specific, and immediate than ever before.  

Sephora is another example of an organization harnessing the power of bots. Their Kik messaging integration has the ability to offer customers personalized beauty tips, product recommendations and reviews. A user need only answer a short questionnaire to receive highly personalized product information at their fingertips.    

But while it may seem as though chatbots are the answer to a company’s content production needs, they also pose the challenge of portraying an authentic and relatable brand identity through artificial means.

Sephora Chatbot

Establishing human connections with robots

Humanization is at the heart of a brand. Consumers identify not so much with what you sell so much as who you are. Take Apple, for example. Arguably the most successful and valuable brand in the world, Apple doesn't just communicate their product information, they impart the essence of their brand, establishing an identity that is both intriguing and relatable to their consumers.

In their 1997 “Think Different”campaign, Apple highlighted innovative personality types (the rebels, the ones who see things differently and can’t be ignored) as champions of their brand, declaring, “the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Even though the advertisement featured no product whatsoever, Apple’s stock price tripled in the 12 months following its launch.

What were people responding to? The personality Apple was selling and their relatability to how consumers think and feel.

So if this tactic is what resonates with consumers, how can companies maintain a genuine tone in their brand as it is communicated by inherently non-authentic bots?

The best way to do this is to have a rock-solid brand story. As the "Think Different" ad demonstrates, people love narratives and emotive content; the brands that are going to win the chatbot game will be the ones that have a tight, cohesive brand story. All the content the bots provide will need to be consistent with a brand’s identity, as consistency is an essential element of humanization, establishing a brand as reliable, trustworthy, and familiar.

Organizations will also need to make sure their bot is offering high-quality content. A chatbot is only as good as the content the company itself creates. Therefore, it will be crucial for brands to be able to create and access their content faster than ever to keep up with the demand bots will introduce. 

Preparing for the future

Beerud Sheth, CEO of enterprise messaging service Gupshup, points out that “‘about once every decade in the history of the tech industry, we’ve had these paradigm shifts.’ In the mid-90s the world switched to the desktop, and then in the mid 2000’s it moved to mobile apps. ‘Predictably on schedule, in the mid-teens, we’re moving to the bot era.’”

It's not a matter of if you’ll have to communicate your brand story through bots, it's a matter of how well you'll do so. Content management and brand management will be the most essential tools to streamlining consistency and enhancing efficiency in order to unleash the emotional, human side of a brand so that it can create a personalized experience for the consumer.


To learn more about how to create a compelling brand story, click the download link below for a free white paper, or visit bynder.com to learn more about branding automation!

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