The future of marketing is AI, telepathy and psychological layers


The Marketing Society’s annual conference featured a varied roster of speakers, from pop-philosopher Alain de Botton to Atom Bank’s Anthony Thomson and AI expert Professor Nick Bostrom. The subjects covered were diverse, and yet some themes kept recurring. Rebecca Coleman sums up the day’s trending topics.

It’s all me, me, me

When it comes to the contemporary consumer, it’s all me, me, me, according to The Future Foundation’s managing director Maebh Quoirin: ‘They expect you to deliver it all, but then they want to take all the credit.’

They want brands that offer personal, rather than personalised. Your role as a marketer is to validate people’s bragging rights and put them in the driving seat of their brand experience with you. ‘Consumers desire control at all cost,’ said Quoirin.

Consumers expect you to deliver it all, but then they want to take all the credit

This desire for autonomy is also crucial inside organisations said Jeremy Darroch, CEO of Sky and Sir David Brailsford, general manager of Team Sky, who took to the stage to put the ‘i’ back in team.

‘Individuals, not teams, make things happen,’ said Darroch. While Brailsford commented that if you ask people for perfection, they’ll fight back. However, if you ask them for self-progression, they’ll get fired up. It’s all about putting them in control of their own destiny.

Telepathic branding

The future of personal brand interactions and experiences is set to become almost “telepathic” in its capabilities. This is the goal of Atom Bank, which is developing mobile tech that will allow the financial services newcomer to deliver hyper-personalised communications and offers.

“Our job should be to look at big data and predictive technology to know what consumers are going to need even before they do,” said Atom Bank founder Anthony Thomson. He added that becoming the world’s first “telepathic bank” would be bolstered by tech yet to come of age, such as innovations controlled by brainwaves.

Our job should be to know what consumers are going to need even before they do

The Future Foundation’s Quoirin backed up this idea that consumers are on the hunt for brands that instinctively preempt their desires. This could become easier as AI tech takes off and people invite digital personal assistants into their homes. Amazon’s Echo product is already on sale in the US, ready to sit in the corner of buyer’s homes, listen in and answer their questions.

Meanwhile, Amelia is the next-gen of this tech with its empathic ability to detect tone and comprehend context.

HLMI (human level machine intelligence) is coming

AI was amplified beyond the marketing realm by Oxford Professor Nick Bostrom, who focused on its potential impact on the future of humanity. He pondered the idea that creating computers that can think and feel would logically be the final invention for the human race.

The even more frightening bit of foresight from Bostrom was the fact that when polled, top experts in the field of AI think that there is a 50% probability that we’ll have achieved HLMI by 2024 and a 90% probability by 2070. The end is nigh?

The psychological layer

Plugging into the idea that the veneer of advertising has lost its sheen as consumers now know the tactics, it’s time for brands to deliver on their psychological promises. Rather than just showing pictures of happy people using your products, consumers now want products and services that actually make them happy.

Philosophy guru Alain de Botton’s School of Life mission to help people live better lives is now being transferred to the world of brands and marketing. “How do we commodify the things that push people’s buttons?” he said. “If we get smart, we will make lots of money from commodifying people’s psychological needs, rather than just the material.”

De Botton let the audience in on the fact that he’s been working closely with AirBnB, LinkedIn and an unnamed bank to develop a ‘psychological layer’ for their brands.

If we get smart, we will make lots of money from commodifying people’s psychological needs, rather than just the material

He explained how AirBnB CEO Brian Chesky (who de Botton had never heard of) called him on a Sunday night and offered him a sum of money that made it ‘impossible’ for the philosopher to accept a flight to AirBnB’s San Francisco HQ in a couple of days time. On arrival, Chesky told de Botton that the travel industry was a ‘pile of shit’ and enlisted his help to create travel experiences that live up to expectations.

De Botton said that we’ll soon see the fruits of this collaboration when AirBnB launches ‘psychological products’ in the near future. These will include packages for couples looking to reignite their relationship, for example. Opposed to the cliched use of hearts, flowers and candles, this could include the introduction of an ‘external threat’, something that de Botton says is much more effective for romantic bonding.

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