We’ve been using AI for measurement for the last year at Imagination and got some extremely useful insights into behavior at our experiences. And it’s comforting to think of AI as a rationale tool for delivering facts you can’t argue with that back up our subjective opinions.
But there is another side to AI that creative agencies should be interested in: the potential for AI to massively disrupt the creative and strategic outputs that we work on every day.
It’s attractive to tell ourselves that AI isn’t going to replace the creative process, that there is some secret sauce only humans can bring to an artistic output which can’t be replicated by machines. And my hunch is that eventually this will be the case – the imperfections and flaws in our output and the cognitive leaps we make will ensure that human outputs continue to be valued, will actually become a luxury. But the very thing that will make human designed and built objects luxurious is that they will be rare. In other words, the majority of the creative output we consume will be generated by AIs.
Bleak? Maybe, but we aren’t there yet.
Read my paper to find out more about how we can use AI positively in brand communications and experiences today, and why we need to prepare for AI’s growing impact on our tomorrow.
It’s a busy time of year at Imagination. We cover SEMA, LA Autoshow, CES and Detroit in 3 short months. The good thing about that is there is a lot to digest and explore and some interesting things to bend your mind around from what the B2B experiential landscape looks like to where technology trends are going in the next 12 months.
Here’s my report from CES which picks up on some of the trends we were seeing in our Experiential Trends report and identifies a couple of themes from the tech world that we will definitely be using in our future autoshow program.
I’ve said before I love working with the creatives in Imagination, nothing is impossible to them. Plus we get to work with incredible partners such as Unreal, Kitestring and NCAM. And here’s another example – a world first use of AR at the Detroit autoshow to tell stories about Ford’s cars when people can’t actually see inside them.
How much do you notice your environment? As a strategist at an experiential agency visiting a conference like SXSW is a busman’s holiday for me. Alongside all the talks and tech trends I am constantly observing experiential trends. This post is part 1 of a two part post on my experiences at SXSW 2017. Part 2 will focus on Top 3 Tech Trends at the conference.
Trend 1 – Colour me happy
Last year there was a strong trend for natural textures combined with high tech elements that were very often silvery or metallic. This year the naturals are still there but there was more colour everywhere. From post-it notes to displays, from lampshades to billiard tables brands were activating spaces with more attention to diverse colour palettes.
A great example was the Sony experience. The whole space was an owned temporary structure, designed to showcase tech. The build was very functional – lots of chip board and exposed scaffold. However, via clever use of coloured decals across dividing walls they brought a more structured and warm feeling to the space.
Great British House is another interesting example, coming from a different place. The UKDTI took over a bar called the Speakeasy on Congress and so they had to work within an existing aesthetic. The overall feeling was dark and traditional with lots of natural wood. So it was individual elements which lifted the space such as bright neon lights and spray painted lampshades in red,white and blue. The billiard table took the flag theme, and the walls were lifted with colourful participatory post-it notes.
The effect is informal, warm and unpretentious. It’s a development of the appeal to Millennials who love authenticity and the idea of being involved with brands at a more fundamental level.
Trend 2 – Keep it simple
If I asked you to predict future trends for next year how long would it take to answer? How much space would you need? What if I asked you how a brand experience made you feel? Most people find it easier to share short form emotional responses than dig deep into information and opinion. Trend 2 centred around finding creative ways to engage users directly, using analogue mediums. Post-it notes, flower markers in sand pits, writing directly onto walls and so on appeared in spaces as diverse as IBM, Dell and Fast Company.
The sense of something being crafted by a group, something less digital being therefore more personal seems to be what is driving this. The question stimulus was always around memory and emotion. That’s partly because it is much easier to respond to this than to have to give an expert opinion. But it’s also because it creates an emotional connection that drives a memory and above all brands at SXSW need to create a memory of relevance and modernity.
As a whole there was a sense of simplicity and analogue engagement across brand spaces which emerged out of these types of installation.
Trend 3 – Personalize
What do you take home from every conference? Swag! SXSW is no different. I got some very nice CNN shades for instance. But the main problem with swag is that it ends usually ends up in the bin or at the gym – or maybe on your kids. It’s not valued or valuable. This year brands addressed that by looking at ways to make their swag work harder through personal relevance.
Let’s start with IBM. Watson is an AI product IBM are pushing hard. It is an artificial intelligence combining data analysis with intelligent outputs to help with almost anything you can image. The IBM house this year was packed with partnerships from music creation software to home safety monitoring for the elderly and weather pattern analysis. This year’s swag was, like last year’s a t-shirt. Unlike last year’s this year’s had personal relevance, a pattern that expressed your personality as determined by Watson. After answering some questions the engine buckets you into one of 5 types I was a Mentor (most people at the conference were Mavericks or Dynamos with Mentors coming a close 3rd). As a result of engaging with Watson and IBM I have a t-shirt that is both meaningful and attractive. I might actually wear it outside the gym!
Less attractive but no less personally meaningful is this digital give aways from Great British House. A dress-up booth and some props combined with some fools produced the masterpiece you see here. A digital memento that I treasure…
Similar things were happening at CNN which took pics of you on a swing and created a gif in much the same way. And at Fast Company Ford were offering a digital selfie that showed you what an autonomous car sees when it sees you.
These gizzits are personal, more relevant than a key ring or waterbottle and of course fittingly digital.
2016 saw an explosion in virtual experiences created by brands for their customers. And by virtual experiences I don’t just mean VR. If you look closely there has been an expansion in all kinds of virtual experiences from chatbots, to drawing applications to AR games. We’ve arrived at a crossroads in communications technology.
One key driver of this explosion is clearly cost. VR was prohibitively expensive only two years ago, but is gradually coming within reach of even home users. Oculus Rift comes in at under $600 and Google Cardboard works with any smartphone and is just $20. Couple that with ever increasing processing power that is now available on small handsets or headsets and it’s clear that we have reached a tipping point in quality for these kinds of interaction. And quality plus cost is driving uptake from both brands and consumers.
But it’s not just about practical realities. For something to take off in this way there has to be a deeper resonance with a human need or desire. I believe it boils down to three key factors:
Expectations of connection
Mintel have identified a search for authenticity that has been driving brand interactions for some years now. It can manifest in searching for the an expectation that brands will be more open and more honest in conversation. But it can also manifest in a desire to come closer to ‘the real thing’, particularly when that thing is difficult to show in reality. Take for example Samsung’s gear VR rollercoaster, Yes, they have used it to demonstrate the power of Gear but they are also bringing a familiar moment in which to experience that. It’s relatable and understandable and it’s excitingly realistic. Other great examples of a desire for the hyper-real include Marriott’s The Teleporter, which allows you to travel to a Hawaiian beach and London hotel and Merrell’s virtual hike which combines vision and movement to create a walk in the Dolomites which is actually scary! Land Rover’s recent I-Pace VR at the LA Auto Show is a prime example of this. A futuristic landscape combines with the real features and design of the forthcoming electric vehicle to create a deeply immersive experience about a product you can’t yet buy, but will be purchasable in the near future.
VR offers the chance to bring to life near future scenarios particularly in product development or display that drive uptake and excitement. This isn’t dreaming it’s hyper-reality.
Our brains are hard-wired for stories. Bowker reports that over one million (1,052,803) books were published in the U.S. in 2009, which is more than triple the number of books published four years earlier Even logical problems are more easily solved when they are embedded inside the fictional world of story. We also experience the world through a combination of senses. For this reason a story that goes beyond the telling to the directly experiential, the doing, is a powerful way of communicating. Virtual experiences can take us beyond even what we can imagine to a new way of experiencing messages and moments. Take, for example, the Lockheed Martin VR bus that let children ride to school as if they were living on Mars. or Superman VR Roller Coaster at Six Flags amusement park.
We love stories and virtual experiences can tell us stories in new and immersive ways. Why wouldn’t we gravitate towards them?
Expectations of connection
Service has become a price of entry for any brand in the market but expectations of service are dramatically different even than they were 5 years ago. Social media has brought immediacy and changed expectations of what counts as ‘fast’; a global ‘always on’ culture has driven an expectation of 24/7 interaction, and customers feel more empowered. To provide the kinds of service that people need brands have turned to robots. These range from intelligences like Watson from IBM which can drive extremely human like interactions with physical robots such as Pepper to much simpler chatbots who can answer the most common customer questions completely on brand, and 24/7, like Audi’s chatbot from the Frankfurt auto show.
This ‘Robot Renaissance’ as Rohit Bhargava calls it, focuses as much around striving to be as human as possible as it does around replacing humans, a kind of Virtual Humanity, if you will. And with machine learning these kinds of virtual interactions will only become more lifelike and satisfying.
What is the value to brands?
Clearly for brands who have technology at their heart the move into all things virtual is simply a stop on their journey. But you can only ride that wave for so long before everyone is doing it and you no longer stand out. Where then is the value in this virtual world we are creating?
As products become commoditized so experiences that communicate what a brand stands for become essential. They’re the differentiator, the reason to believe and to buy. The best virtual experiences bring humanity, connection and dreams to life in a way that is expressive of the brand. They generate an emotional moment that allows the consumer to really understand what you are about and to form an affinity with your product, brand or positioning which is rooted in personal experience.
Virtual experiences that create connections, drive emotions, and deliver immersions will make your brand stand out in a sea of gimmicks and lightweight conversations. The virtual world is your oyster.
Some members of the interactive team at Imagination and I have put 4 proposals to SXSW for panels/workshops run for next year.
We are really interested in the intersection between brands and memory, in the way that digital brands manifest themselves in physical space and in the evolving role of experience in our culture. Plus we love Detroit!
Our proposed talks reflect these interests and we need votes to move forward to be considered by the organizing committee. So this is a shameless request for your vote! Below are the proposals.
Experts like Disney are increasingly using digital to create memories, while we of course are doing it every time we post on Instagram or share on Facebook. The intersection of physical and digital for brands is a space where you can explore memories and create new loyalties, lasting relationships that build favorable opinion. We think that’s interesting and we are constantly building experiences like this for our clients. So we created a talk called
A panel discussion w/ Darell Bryja of Ford and Brittany (our social influencer) about how Imagination creates memories with brands using digital to extend the experience – http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/62017
In a world where you can grab and Uber who needs a car? In a world where you can hire a curated wardrobe who needs clothes? My colleague and I discuss. Actually myself and my colleague differ on where the sharing economy is going, (to the point of argument!) but we do both believe that experience is key to business evolution moving forward.
Death of ownership and the Rise of Experience
Yann Caloghiris and myself bring an idiosyncratic argumentative technique to the stage in a speaker presentation. Discussion on the serious topic of why Imagination’s approach to experience creation is going to become ever more important. http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/64796
There is a quiet conversation going on between the way digital brands think of themselves and the interests of the Millennial generation who value experience more highly than any other generation. In fact, some 76% of millennials, compared with 59% of boomers, said they would rather spend on experiences than on material things, according to new research from Eventbrite, a ticketing company. We are proposing to run a workshop that takes brands through our visioning process to explore what their experiential might look like and how it might manifest.
We work out of Detroit, so we love it, so it’s us vs Everybody. But actually, more and more people are interested in Detroit and we know some interesting people so we thought, why not bring them together to explore what makes Detroit a great place for tech start-ups and established businesses
Detroit the Unlikely Hotbed for Tech Start ups A panel discussion on why Detroit is an up and comer for tech start ups with partners like Gunner and Vectorform. http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/64792
Finally, why not have a laugh at our videos if nothing else?
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair" - Charles Dickens
I'm the founder of the Tuttle Club and fascinated by organisation. I enjoy making social art and building communities, if you'd like some help from me feel free to e-mail me: Lloyd dot Davis at Gmail dot Com or call +44 (0)79191 82825