In a recent article published by The Drum, strategist Houda Sayed claims that ‘3 vital things are missing’ as AI enters the world of branding.

AI is everywhere now, including branding and campaign work.

Although there are strengths and weaknesses to the use of AI, Sayed says that this technology can lack heart:

AI lacks one of the vital ingredients needed to make compelling brand connections with consumers: heart. The emotion, empathy and cultural context that drives engagement.

Ian Maskell who is the ex-vice president of marketing at Unilever, and founder of Pecorino Group said: “Relying only on AI-generated content risks generic or formulaic branding, lacking uniqueness and emotional resonance. Branding should evoke emotion; this human touch is still vital in the creative process.”

Sayed writes:

Just like humans, brands must mindfully connect with their audience, embracing a strong, consistent personality that reflects beliefs and values, resonating with the right crowd. Loved brands effortlessly evoke emotions in every interaction with their audience.

Emotions drive the way forward. If brands don’t win hearts, they can’t survive. With AI tools having an increasing impact, it’s even more crucial now.

The bond between brands and consumers is essentially a human bond, and this means it is difficult for AI to replicate that relationship. Here are three areas in which Sayed believes AI currently cannot match human skill:

1. Emotional intelligence

In order for companies to be successful, it’s important for them to build deep connections with their audiences. These relationships are built when customers experience a series of emotional connections with the brand. Sayed writes:

[W]hile AI falls short in emotional intelligence, human strategists and creatives step in to grasp audiences’ emotions, laying the foundation for meaningful interactions.

Take Ikea’s ‘Proudly Second Best’ campaign, a recent example of strong emotional insight. Knowing that parents seek products that simplify parenthood without losing warmth, Ikea tapped into the love-and-care trigger, forging an authentic bond with families.

2. Cultural context

When it comes to culture, AI has certainly inherited some of humanity’s biases. When using AI tools, it’s especially important to double-check any generated content with the intended audience in mind. Sayed writes:

True connection often comes from understanding a society’s beliefs and practices – tied to emotional intelligence. Brands engaging with diverse audiences across backgrounds and geographies create lasting bonds. However, AI’s limitations in cultural context persist, missing the human touch.

3. Inclusive communication

In branding, inclusivity means creating content that resonates with diverse needs. The objectivity of AI heavily relies on the quality of its training data. When biases get into the data, they can circulate into AI-generated content, making it biased as well. Hence, the involvement of humans overseeing AI tools becomes crucial to produce content that is fair and inclusive for all.

Sayed gives the example of Surreal, a cereal brand that ran a campaign to promote inclusivity:

Cereal brand Surreal successful campaign exemplified inclusivity with billboards featuring ‘celebrity’ endorsements from ordinary people who share the same names. This genius idea stemmed from people’s disillusionment with unattainable influencer lifestyles – reportedly, 61% of Britons “cannot relate to influencers”. But they could relate to this.

A creative partnership

As humans continue to explore the possibilities that AI offers, we should view this as a creative partnership where human input is essential.

Exploring AI’s limitations should not overshadow the tremendous potential it holds, especially when guided effectively by human expertise – not just in areas such as large language model-based chatbots, but elsewhere too.

Sayed refers to an Orange campaign which shows how AI can be ‘harnessed by the finest strategic and creative brains’.

The campaign, supporting female football athletes in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, sheds light on unconscious and uncomfortable biases about women’s football.

By blending the power of AI with the human touch, brands like Orange have found the sweet spot between technology, data-driven efficiency, and emotional connections.

What does the future hold?

If brands don’t win hearts, they can’t thrive (or even survive).

As Sayed notes, ‘the future of AI in branding holds immense potential, yet it remains somewhat uncertain.’ It seems that the key lies in balance: utilising technology in a discerning and sustainable way. There are doubtless questions and challenges that arise when discussing the use of AI in branding, and it is important to continue the conversion.

At Novagram, we like to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in technology and AI, whilst helping our clients to develop human connections with their audiences. If you’re interested in working with us – get in touch.

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