Won't be a jiffy
2nd November 2016

How Brands Are Adopting Virtual Personalities...

Louisa MarsdenLouisa Marsden

Ever had one of those experiences where you’ve just felt like money-in-the-till to a business or a bit inferior, even?

Let’s put it into context a bit. So, say you've visited the same coffee shop on and off for the past few months – the one just down the road from work. You order the same vanilla macchiato, soy milk, extra hot, to go, every.time.you.visit. You’d expect someone to remember after a while, right? You’re a loyal customer and probably in the minority of awkward macchiato orders pre 8am.

But when that never happens, what do you do? Just accept they’re there to run a business, not test their mastermind skills? Still, you can’t help feeling a bit let down…

Then think about that time where you’ve been remembered. Not just for being a numbered coffee order, but a human.

Welcome to the human era…

We saw a shift in 2015 when human to human marketing became the ultimate buzzword. Brands wanting to stay at the top of their game in the human era have to adapt their principles to resonate with an ever more emotionally connected audience. Brands have to act as peers, not superiors.

But that was 2015, and this is now.

Brands are now seemingly succumbing to the demands of their audiences, providing next level innovation, to not only communicate on a human to human level but offer personalised, virtual assistance to ease the chaotic lives of their users. The big players Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook have invested heavily in what is becoming a revolutionary way for brands to communicate with their audience.

Virtual assistants as brand personas

You’ve been introduced to Siri. Whether your virtual buddy is male, female, American or English; Siri has done its fair share of beatboxing and searching Safari since its launch in 2011. Now there are some new kids on the block.

Amazon has Alexa, Microsoft: Cortana and Google have Google assistant. This idea of brands being seen as humans is reinforced with the choice of names Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple have adopted. Google have taken this one step further; with their vision being for users to treat Google as more than just a search engine. The company’s AI assistant isn’t just part of Google, it is Google.

While the conversations around these AI assistants has generally focused on their accuracy and speed, i.e. their overall functionality, little focus has centered around the personalities they convey to aid the brand experience.

So, just as brands have tapped into the emotions of users and tailored experiences to the individual user in other forms, they are beginning to take on virtual personalities. Building a familiarity with their users, while building up a trust for the brand itself.

Brands are now able to communicate with audiences in their most personal spaces, in the home, and gather information about shopping habits, user data, and personal information along the way, without seeming intrusive.

The future for brands

Virtual personalities are the first step of a long, transitional process for brands. As it stands, the main competitors have built a singular personality virtual assistant, which aims to offer appeal to an extremely wide, international audience.

Going back to the first point of the article, while these virtual assistants offer a level of personal interaction for brands and consumers, a further, tailored approach is needed, for users to feel their identities are recognised as individuals. As development continues, brands will need to adapt their virtual assistants' personalities to keep engaging consumers who demand content personalisation. No doubt, in the near future, we will see these characters’ personalities develop, to gauge a user's mood and temperament.

With Apple's iOS10 opening Siri to third-party apps ("Siri, get me an Uber 🙄"), and Amazon's Alexa having the power to read aloud your tweets and trending tweets from Twitter, anything is possible, right?