By Jerome Botbol, Head of Strategic Development, Happy Finish
With fewer than three in ten UK consumers saying they aren’t worried about AI, there’s some way to go before the new technology on the block captures hearts and minds.
According to a 2021 YouGov survey, 29% of respondents based in the UK disagreed when asked if they were concerned about the use of AI, compared to 40% who stated it worries them. These figures closely align with consumer feelings across the world.
When consumers are wary of jumping in with both feet, brands must ease them in to salve their concerns. There’s little doubt that AI is the future of advertising, as it is in many walks of life — from healthcare to manufacturing — so this will be vital.
But how can marketing techniques be used to give gateways to AI acceptance, providing a balance of benefits for consumers and brands alike?
In partnership with Hyphen London, we recently ran an immersive, AI-driven experience for H&M Group at Web Summit Lisbon that presented the perfect opportunity to do just that.
Fashion and Art Collide with Good Feeling
The installation centered on providing attendees with the chance to help generate a piece of art that changed in real-time as they interacted with it.
Called The Changing Room, the experience leveraged state-of-the-art visual technology to evolve the artwork in response to each visitor’s behaviour. The generative piece altered with every interaction by harnessing and reflecting users’ emotional and physical data, such as their facial expressions and body language.
It also used open-source music software to create reactive music that responded to human input, mapping faces and motion data to several variables in the AI-driven music composer.
The overall effect was one of connecting people with the art itself, each other, and the brand — delivering a twist on the concept of a ‘space for change’, just as happens when customers try on clothes.
Importantly, though, the experience was also another step towards de-stigmatising new technology in the minds of consumers.
This will be key in many brand categories, but the process of buying fashion items is set to go through particularly big changes by embracing AI. Motion and body tracking technology will allow shoppers to virtually try on items without needing to go in-store, extending convenience and choice.
Many of you will have heard of such promised developments already, but as the tech matures and the experience improves, this new approach to selling apparel should take off.
Imagine revenues if virtual fitting rooms had been available across the board during the pandemic as people smartened their wardrobes ready for the return to work and socialising, or simply to cheer themselves up.
Moving Closer to an AI-Driven Future
Brands need to recognise that a ‘softly softly catchy monkey’ approach to introducing consumers to new technology can work wonders in the long run. If firms want to flip those YouGov survey opinions around segue experiences such as The Changing Room will be vital.
Helping people feel comfortable with AI by using it unobtrusively can subconsciously prepare them for its wider application in the future. This could broaden the scope of the marketing industry’s use.
For agencies, it’s a chance for everyone with an interest in a project and the tech behind it to immerse themselves, too; from developers and creatives to graphic specialists and salespeople charged with tying experiences back to the bottom line. This important part of R&D will be a critical part of sharing and gaining knowledge for us all, helping to embed AI and maximise its positive use for marketing.
The fact is, much of this tech already exists and could quickly lead to a revolution in both creative advertising and content consumption, from generative art to product placement. Think of the potential effects of providing a fun and ultimately ‘soft sell’ experience where visual effects ‘changes’ the logo on a can of Coke to Pepsi as they walk past the technology installed in a store window, for instance.
But this will only be possible if consumers become more accepting. That means taking care to understand whether several elements of your approach work in harmony, or if they’ll clash with consumer expectations: aspects such as location, logistics, acoustics and — most important of all — your intended audience. Ultimately, this comes down to the key question: can we be immersive without being intrusive?
I believe there’s a sweet spot brands should aim to hit, for the time being at least while adoption remains low and suspicion is high. Tell them a story, give them a good experience, but don’t make it so untouchably magical that they might start to wonder how personalisation happens and what you’re doing with their data.
Tech-driven experiences provide a cool brand immersion and a low barrier to entry for the use of AI. Impactful, tangible instances of tech used for good, while brands getting involved capture a greater share of attention.