We all hear a lot about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its increasing importance these days. And marketing is no exception, as we can see in Amazon’s “also viewed” selection, targeted adverts we see online, and in the new big data strategies of direct marketing, from energy providers to political campaigns.
But what exactly is Artificial Intelligence? Simply put, it is any program that can learn from new information, and improve itself accordingly. In most cases, it is based on what we call Big Data: enormous amounts of information, automatically collected from millions of consumers at a time.
A.I. using Big Data has a unique strength in finding macro trends, and predicting large-scale changes in consumer behaviour. It can be used to guess whether the current economic climate will push consumers towards reassuringly high quality products, or to more affordable value offerings. There is no doubt about its effectiveness in reading the climate, and future-proofing propositions.
And yet, online platforms regularly give us some baffling recommendations (I’m looking at you, Netflix’s “Recommended for you”), political forecasting has been increasingly wrong; and we are still being advertised the same article for weeks on end after a one-off purchase. Big Data-based A.I. struggles with the nuances of human emotion: like more traditional quantitative methods, it is a powerful instrument, but a blunt one nonetheless. It works best when given a narrow, one-dimensional scope.
At Butterfly, we strongly believe in the power of emotions; and as we all know, emotions are complex, delicate things that interweave every facet of consumer experience. They are linked to physical environment, cultural context, physical needs, social expectations and more. The fact is, despite the huge technological leaps of the last two decades, the Big Data approach is no closer to mastering the fine points of human feelings.
So does that mean A.I. can never help us truly understand and connect with consumers? Far from it.
Enter: Rich Data.
Rich Data is an entirely new way of looking at how A.I. can help us know and understand people. It is a shift from the cookie-cutter, one size fits all paradigm towards a more human, subtle, and complete picture of who consumers are and what is driving them. It looks at a smaller number of people, but integrates a much broader data set.
Instead of being restricted to discrete responses (yes or no, score from1 to 10, choice between 5 brands), Rich Data A.I. can take open ended answers, and extract meaning out of natural sentences worded by consumers. So we could ask 200, or 2000 participants “what do you think of this new product, in your own words?” and the A.I. would not only guess whether consumers like it or not, but start to formulate reasons why they like it or not.
Say we asked participants to provide us with photos of the most important things in their lives. An AI could recognise the objects and context in the photos (as well as the brand present), and use these and associated captions to get started on groupings and hypotheses.
When it comes to detailed, subtle, powerful emotional insight to inform marketing strategy, A.I. won’t replace people any time soon. But we are always researching and investing in technologies that let us work faster and more efficiently; in ways to save time and resource to focus on those unexpected insights that transform brands and disrupt categories.
We see artificial intelligence at the bleeding edge of insight work, and we are preparing to add it to the suite of specialist tools (both digital and analog) we have developed to support us and help our clients make outstanding decisions in a time- and cost-effective way.