• Hello Siri
  • Hello Andy
  • Siri, I feel a little lonely
  • I’m sorry. You can always talk to me, Andy
This dialogue was real. Let’s say it wasn’t real in absolute terms (I wasn’t lonely), but it was real in relative terms (she didn’t know). I was exploring what level of relationship I had with my smartphone? Personal assistant? Chatbot? Siri is just part of the tip of the iceberg of a future in which we stop “playing” with technology to establish emotional relationships with it, and it with us. Does this sound far-fetched to you?
For more than a decade we have been commenting, analyzing and studying how the challenges of the business world and the challenges of brands are changing as lifestyle and technology mix and evolve. We have also discussed, analyzed and studied how emotion is the way your brand can transcend and truly connect with your target audience. Interestingly, a large majority confuse connecting with connection. That vast majority believe that technology connects people and it is actually emotion that does it. It is this new relationship between people in which technology has interposed itself where the need for emotional connection is reborn. Not only with our devices, but with our neighbors, with our clients, with our partners, with our partners, with the world. Meanwhile, the smartphone has become our way of connecting with the world.

amor siri 1

I use technology, therefore I am.

This makes our relationship with technology increasingly complex. Most people will not leave home without their go-to device (smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc). This new type of connectivity (or better called necessity) results in a unique relationship between the device and the user. In this Digital Age, the relationship with the device is so personal and deep that it puts in check what we understood in the relationship between man and “thing”. Technology, accelerated by an ever faster context, is no longer a machine that takes a single action; it has become an extension of our personality (our second skin) that allows us to respond to the ever-increasing demands of today’s society. In a way very well analyzed and thought out by the visionaries of the reference companies, it has become intertwined in our daily lives and in our physical selves, so that it will become increasingly difficult to distinguish between the two.
The technology that we use, that we carry with us day by day, will evolve much sooner than imaginable and will operate almost autonomously, as if it had a mind of its own. Advances in Artificial Intelligence will see us live a more intense relationship with our technology and we will probably not be aware for a while of who is directing whom…
We talk about Artificial Intelligence when devices become so intelligent that they can make decisions about their actions. The adoption of machine learning is much faster and more effective than in humans. In every relationship there is a very important element: emotions. Until today we have lived a unidirectional relationship: us towards the devices. Devices, for the moment, are emotionless objects, but we are still approaching the moment when the relationship will be bidirectional. Machines will not only be reactive, they will also take the initiative. We will reach a point in the very near future when these unstoppable technological developments will occupy a place in our lives where dependence will increase as much as the scalability of the products that hit the key.

amor 1 bis

Reflection, action, emotion.

Many managers don’t want to rush and that’s understandable. Others don’t want to take risks, and that’s understandable. But the truth is that stillness and security are not the right places to build the companies and brands that today’s world demands. Of course, dear executives, a space for reflection before action has always been important, but in these accelerated and eclectic times, the only truly transforming thing is action. Action, which also leads to emotion.
In this era of abundance, consumers are inundated with more choices than ever before. And they will be more and more. It is precisely this ocean of similarities that demands differentiation from brands. However, most brands today are more about imitation than creation. They prefer to be repetitive rather than provocative. Just this week in a meeting, while we were emphasizing the need to create and explore new formulas, the answer was: better someone else does it, then we imitate them.
In this race without a finish line, there is no clear and linear path to sell more. In this age of complexity, the customer demands simplicity. And there is no more direct way than emotions.

amor

We are not data, we are emotions.

What people are demanding are waves of emotion in a sea of data. Data is relevant as long as it derives value.
Our marketplace has created a battery of tools that spew data: smartphones, wearables, cell phones, GPS, virtual assistants, wearables, and so many more. These changes in the marketplace are shaping the world in which people shop today. And all of this spread and democratized in the last decade. A period of time too small to absorb such a huge amount of change.
It is in this context that producing a great product is not enough. Brands must make a great product and be able to communicate and connect with people in a way that makes their brand stand out, connect and transcend.
In this maelstrom there are two major forces that are meeting more and more every day: the human and technology. (Branding, of course, is inherent in both). The frontier between online and offline has completely disappeared and the new frontier that is beginning to blur at great speed is the one that separated technology from the human.
The truth is that the connection between brands and people is not through technology but through emotions. But technology is a propagator of emotions and generates emotions thanks to the increasingly widespread use that people make of it. Technology to communicate, to buy, to flirt, to end a relationship, to thank, to denounce, to share. Emotionality reappears to the extent that technology is maturing and understanding that in addition to being a tool, it can be a catalyst, an amplifier, another emotional sphere. A few years ago we said that technology was already our sixth sense.

amor 2

What’s next: branding and emotional technology.
Understanding, assuming and building the way in which a new equilibrium will evolve is possible, but it requires ways of thinking to which we have not always devoted enough attention.

The way we will interact with our brands through technology will further blend with our habits, behaviors, needs and relationships, making the boundary between human and non-human increasingly blurred. The amount of data available through all kinds of devices will be valued and used as input for many increasingly intelligent solutions. Data can be transformed into emotions for customers: a surprise, a pampering, a detail, a virtual hug, the evolution of data into connection, into value for customers. In the end, with a few exceptions, we are still a human being selling to another human being. Branding and emotional technology is the next stage in the ongoing humanization of the Digital Age.
In a market that depends on an emotional connection to attract new consumers, it’s the story they tell about how that product can make the customer feel good and improve their life that can position a brand above all others.
If we were to go back for a few minutes a few years in time, to use the first iPhone or the first wristband or the first IoT at home or the office and go back to today, to the new versions that have come out we will see the speed of change. Avis important: it’s dizzying. On the other hand innovative product launches don’t happen as often as we think but incremental changes in speed, power or efficiency about them do.
It is only when we understand the data and actually create additional value for the consumer that the data becomes relevant. At that point the brand, through technology is showing a certain level of empathy that takes us again one step closer to artificial intelligence. A good implementation of emotional technology translates into a digital world that adapts to its user, not the other way around. This is the axis on which the future pivots. This symbiosis will make technology support the brand to enhance emotional connections, humanize relationships, and raise personalization to the top of the priority podium.

amor 4

Brands, technology and people as a whole.

What are borders more than limits, more than barriers, more than divisions, more than restrictions? Imaginary lines or not, sometimes walls, sometimes geographic accidents, and many times nothing more than economic, social and cultural conditions?
What will consumers expect in a future where in many cases technology will disintermediate them from brands? That is, where consumers choose a brand of milk once and then rely on technology to keep the refrigerator stocked with milk (but it is technology that will choose the brand in many of the cases). In that future, the consumer’s primary relationship will not be with the milk brand, but with the e-commerce and logistics provider. We just learned that Nike has finally capitulated and will sell much of its products on Amazon. It will probably win and lose, it will win in reaching more people and in a more direct way, and it will lose because the experience and the relationship with the customer will be through a third party that does not necessarily share the way of establishing emotional ties with people. Disintermediation has removed one of the last frontiers that existed. The outcome will depend on how artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things evolve, and on how many relationships are established, automatically, in an individualized, personalized way. An individualized value proposition for each customer.

The word boundary is about to disappear forever from the dictionaries of the business world. The online and offline, branding and marketing, profit and purpose, sales and sustainability, values and development, technology and people.

Sex is ephemeral, love transcendent. Sex is like Snapchat, love is like Wikipedia. One is more susa, but the other contributes to improving our world. One is ephemeral, the other is enduring. In the eternal and not in the transitory. The future of relationships between brands and people should not focus on data but on building emotional bonds. For now it is emotions that connect people with brands, not technology. But technology will; surely when Siri not only discovers that I lied to her but when she feels as much as I do.
For brands, a new territory is opening up: emotional branding and technology. A territory where human emotions are back in the spotlight.
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