Could technology drive a bespoke brand experience? I touched on this notion during my talk at Future of Web Design, but didnt have the time to explore it further. There seems to be a shift towards very specific personalisation when it comes to our experience of many products and services. Spotify playlists, iGoogle, Ensembli, etc. all provide a framework for us to experience and consume things hand-picked by ourselves. It's something were getting very used to. Indeed, there was a lot of grumbling when Twitter introduced its new retweet feature, as people were all-of-a-sudden seeing comments in their news feed from users they hadnt specifically chosen to view. So how could a brand possibly support this continued drive towards personalisation, while retaining some semblance of identity itself?
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="580" caption="Your M&S isn't really 'yours'. It's still 'theirs'."][/caption]
Just because a brand is a unique entity does not mean it cant shift its personality to suit whomever it may be addressing. We all have distinct personalities, but we all alter our behaviour depending on to whom we are talking. Personally, I talk and act slightly differently depending on whether I'm with friends, business clients, or my children. Despite my changing behaviour, all these people recognise me as Dean. By the same token, I always know Im me. Could a brand do this?
Of course, many brands have employed differing voices to communicate with different sections of their audience, but its still a relatively blanket approach, based on a combination of research and best guesses. Yet no research, however specific, could hope to facilitate communication on an individual level. Technology could facilitate this.
There is a project that's been developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology called Personas which aggregates your online activity, to create a visual represenation of your time on the Web. You are presented with a graph, which categorises the subjects you have spent time being involved with. Its an interesting little project, but it got me thinking: could we not also track and analyse the language people use online?
Twitter, Facebook, blogs, forums, comments… regular web users have a huge wealth of thoughts and opinions in the public domain. If we had the technology, we could see what people think on myriad subjects, and what language they use to express themselves. Could a brand not harness this information and use it to deliver the ultimate personalised experience, one which not only provides the content, products and services a customer is interested in, but delivers it in a voice specific to them?
While it can take years for an audience to develop a sense of trust in a brand, why cant a brand harness a voice each customer already trusts – their own?
How could it work?
Let's look at Amazon.com as a possible case study. For years, Amazon has utilised a customers browsing and purchasing habits, as well as those of others, to deliver a powerful recommendation service – one which continues to impress me. However, look and feel of the site aside, theres no real personality to accompany this, and it feels something of a missed opportunity.
What if Amazon could not only access a customers activity on its own site, but that persons entire online activity? It would have a much deeper understanding of someones likes, dislikes, motivations, not to mention the kind of language they use. If a user was comfortable with colloquialisms, text speak, longer words, even bad language, Amazon could recognise this and alter its voice to suit, while still providing the level of service people associate with the brand.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="580" caption="Examples of how Amazon could shift its personality"][/caption]
Everyone would have a unique experience of, and relationship with Amazon, and Amazons brand would be strengthened by this. Yet through its other brand touchpoints (service, visual communication, etc.) it would assert a distinct brand personality. As with myself and how people see me, everyone would have a distinct view of Amazon, yet it would still be instantly and consistently recognised.
Technology driving brand development
This kind of ultra-personalised experience would only be possible with emerging technology, that not only recognises and matches words, data and so on, but can also understand meaning, context and subtlety. This is what is so interesting and exciting right now. Technology isnt just offering new touchpoints for customer contact. It is allowing brands to do things they've never done before. Those brands which can recognise and exploit such possibilities stand to make massive progress in the coming years.