Is your brand prepared for AI?

Stephen ONAIVI

In the last few years there have been discussions and conversations around Artificial Intelligence in Africa, and Ghana particularly. It became more interesting when the US tech giant Google announced plans to open an AI Research Centre in Accra later in the year.

In the words of Google: “We are excited to combine our research interests in AI and machine learning and our experience in Africa to push boundaries of AI while solving challenges in areas such as healthcare, agriculture and education”.

What then is AI? Without complicating it with several terminologies linked to algorithms and for ease of understanding, the definition from Investopedia explains that: “Artificial Intelligence is a term for simulated intelligences in machines. These machines are programmed to ‘think’ like a human and mimic the way a person acts”. 

In a simpler definition, we can say AI is ‘the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent behaviour’. We can further explain that “the goals of AI include learning, reasoning and perception, and machines are wired using a cross-disciplinary approach based on mathematics, computer sciences, linguistics, psychology and more”. In simple terms, technology becomes an enabler to this as each AI becomes outdated with the upgrade of technology.

One of the most exciting experiences or outputs of Artificial Intelligence in global discussions is the new development of self-driving cars. Amazing, you might say – imagine the ease of self-driving cars in the city of Accra. It is obvious with this background that a computer system must consider all external data and compute it to act in a way that prevents collisions.

According to recent research by Deloitte, 22% of UK businesses have already invested in AI and about 85% intend to do so by 2020. Similar research by Accenture shows that Artificial Intelligence could add £654billion to the UK’s economy by 2035. This brings us to the big question of how Africa, and in our own case Ghana, is preparing to embrace this. This is more important to us as brand custodians, as AI is obviously going to change the way we connect with consumers in years or decades to come.

While we anticipate exciting times for machine technology experiences with AI, we as a people and brands need to be prepared for this opportunity. While some might be dealing with the ethics, morality and impact of AI on employment or unemployment, as the case may be, this piece postulates that no matter how distant the future may be, the way mobile and social media came and took over consumers’ lives to change the consumer journey today, AI will do same to us in Africa and indeed Ghana – a country that has a very high potential for adapting to artificial intelligence faster. Obviously, it will affect the way we build brands, the consumer journey and the way we connect with our consumers.

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With these in mind, the OMD global team has crafted three key frameworks, which could be described as AI adaptation levels, to help guide brands exploring the use of Artificial Intelligence. The exciting aspect of this framework is not that I am an OMD-er, but the fact it fits perfectly with our current context in Africa and in Ghana. It also gives us a very simple guiding principle on how to approach AI initiatives in the short-, mid- to long-term with the three key areas of AI application:

  1. Marketing with AI: This is the stage that involves preparation and setting the standard and the rules of engagement. In this case it means that a brand needs to be in tune by setting up structures to be able to leverage AI in the future. It involves developing quickly to drive performance and efficiency improvement.
  2. Marketing of AI: This is today’s emerging challenge in some countries with virtual voice assistants, such as Siri, and chatbot adoption growing fast. It is also a key to success in the long-term. It involves actual implementation of the key elements in AI infrastructure.
  3. Marketing to AI: This is a long-term vision for autonomous and Robotic marketing at its full scale. It will involve full outsourcing of consumer decision-making, which will only be achieved by gaining consumer trust during the first two phases.

In this part of our world, we are in the first era of ‘Marketing with AI’. In fact, a lot of us as brands are in the ‘Pre’ period of this era. There are key focus areas which each brand needs to focus on as we prepare for the first key area for AI application:

  1. Build your infrastructure as it is very important for sustainability.
  2. Consciously invest in data and research; as brands we should not underestimate the importance of research and data because they are very key tools for decision-making.
  3. Build Technology, and possibly drive partnership to enhance technology so as to improve the way we engage our consumers.
  4. Leverage Global initiatives/thinking, but adapt locally to meet local brand/consumer needs.
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If you are a brand custodian today, and you aspire to grow your business communication and leverage the anticipated changing consumer journey with AI, we recommend you consider the following key pointers and be best prepared to win:

  1. Winning in the 2020s will be based on application of tech to needs, matched with an understanding of consumer behaviour. Take brands like Uber, which has changed the way we travel within the city – and the same applies to Airbnb. We expect to see more of this in retail, relationships – and even the way we worship.
  2. Brands which assess their end-user values will be most successful in the adoption of their AI efforts. Their thinking about personality (how does the consumer behave) and functionality (what can I help you with) will help brands to further understand the consumer value ecosystem, and craft bespoke approaches to engaging them.
  3. Understanding the user trust-levels and attitudes to data-sharing is key, and varied and nuanced by segment. This is a very important as we prepare for AI. We need to build this trust with the consumer by clearly knowing and showing that it is not about the technology but the consumer. It is about who you are as a brand to the consumer – hence, your tone of voice should match the core brand essence to enhance trust.
  4. Brands needs to find the right balance of human to automation, and consider their personality throughout.

 

As marketing communication experts, we need to be consciously prepared for the future of our industry, as AI is going to change the way we connect our consumers across every aspect of our business; hence, we need to shape our brands to remain relevant in the lives of our target audience. In the words of Thomas A. Edison, “Unfortunately, there seems to be far more opportunity out there than ability…we should remember that good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation”. How prepared is your brand to leverage AI?

 

Stephen Onaivi is the Managing Director of mediaReachOMD Ghana, a leading media agency responsible for media strategy, planning and buying for Multinational and Local clients. Comments, suggestions, contributions and requests should be sent to sonaivi@mediareachomd.com

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