AI & Market Intelligence Redefining What It Means To Be a Brand

Scott Kerr
July 17, 2018

Market intelligence refers to a comprehensive understanding of a market, and as it becomes widespread, it will fundamentally change how business gets done at many levels.

At the most immediately tangible level, market intelligence gives brands insights into competitors, and to digital behavior that has historically been difficult for companies to see (such as search activity and conversion rates on retail or OTA sites).

At the next level of abstraction, market intelligence facilitates better data-driven decisions, better connections with customers, and better alignment throughout an organization.

But at the deepest level, market intelligence will give such a comprehensive picture of consumers that it will fundamentally change the relationships between brands and consumers.

In this post, media and marketing veteran Scott Kerr explores how artificial intelligence is on the verge of using market intelligence to build nuanced relationships with consumers, and in the process fundamentally change what it means to be a brand.

Stephen Kraus, Editor-in-Chief,


Artificial Intelligence + Market Intelligence = New Ball Game: How AI (and MI) Are Changing What It Means to Be a Brand

By Scott Kerr

It was the season six “To Have and To Hold” episode of Mad Men.

In a classic scene in one of the great television series of all time, fictional ad man Don Draper and his team from the agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce meet with Heinz execs to pitch an ad campaign for the iconic Heinz ketchup brand. The three ads Draper presented in the campaign remarkably did not show the product. Each ad had the tagline “Pass the Heinz” with just close-up images of fries, a cheeseburger and a steak.  When the Heinz execs passed on proposed ad campaign they said, “It feels like half an ad.” Draper felt Heinz was synonymous with ketchup and didn’t need to show the product. “It’s Heinz. It only means one thing.”

Draper is a marketing genius. He knew that force-of-nature brands like Heinz ketchup form deep, emotional bonds with consumers and transcend their visual presence. You don’t need to show the product. When people shop for ketchup, they instinctively pick Heinz.

But what happens when the refrigerator picks its own brand of ketchup? The washing machine orders its own laundry detergent? The car selects its own motor oil?


Waning Hold of Consumer Control

We’re moving in a direction where comprehensive market intelligence is allowing artificial intelligence to transform our relationship with brands. The rules of the game are changing. A brand is no longer a mark. It’s becoming an intelligent entity, a personality, an algorithm that’s constantly learning from human data.

How can brands stay relevant when connected devices will be selecting brands on our behalf? Decisions will be based on a database of reviews and quantified ratings. We already see ourselves willing to purchase an unknown brand on Amazon if it’s attached to a five-star rating. In the future, many purchase decisions will be driven by the wisdom of the crowds and synthesized data.

AI-powered digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Cortana are going to have unprecedented access into our lives and will know us in unexpectedly intimate ways. Amazon has an Alexa team beginning to analyze the sound of users’ voices to recognize their mood or emotional state. We’ll see these intelligent machines as trusted advisors, friends, and even as members of our family. They’ll hold a casual conversation with us and get to know us so well that they can proactively recommend things that we had not even asked about, but that turn out to be extremely relevant to our context, needs and aspirations.


Marketers Racing to Give Brands a “Voice”

It was in 2016 that Amazon Echo evolved from novelty to in-the-home powerhouse. The subsequent launch of Google Home officially legitimized the multi-platform ecosystem of voice-first devices. Recently-released comScore Connected Home data from February show the penetration of smart speakers is now at 20 percent of Wi-Fi homes, and expected to escalate quickly in the next few years. comScore has also forecasted that 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches by 2020.  Voice purchases made through smart speakers are projected to leap from $2 billion today to $40 billion by 2022, according to a new study from OC&C Strategy Consultants.

It’s no wonder why AI and voice have become a new creative canvas for brands. Savvy marketers are getting in on this trend with their own content-based skills to continue the conversation–literally–with consumers. The Wall Street Journal even declared that voice assistants are “the new marketing battleground,” pointing to brands like Diageo, Marriott International, and Hellmann’s that have launched voice-marketing programs with Amazon and Google.

Entertainment giants are starting to leverage Alexa skills beyond the realm of utility or information. HBO recently launched Westworld: The Maze an elaborate “choose your own adventure” style game that you can play on Alexa-enabled devices. Universal Pictures and Earplay developed an interactive audio adventure surrounding the latest movie in the Jurassic World franchise.


Disrupting Brand Choice

As smart speakers become more commonplace in the home and act and feel like real people, brand choice will be disrupted. This will be a big headache for consumer package goods companies who are battling rising commodity costs, niche direct-to-consumer brands, and waning consumer loyalty.

So, let’s circle back to Heinz ketchup. If you say, “Alexa, order me ketchup,” the voice assistant defaults to a suggestion based on your past Amazon purchases (which was Heinz). But if you’ve never ordered ketchup, Alexa will recommend one or two Amazon Prime ketchup brands through an algorithm.

In five years from now, the voice assistant will be smarter, more conversational and seemingly human. You will say, “Alexa, order me Heinz ketchup,” and it may suggest another ketchup brand that is cheaper and has a five-star review. Like a trusted friend recommending a new movie, you take Alexa’s advice and order the other ketchup. Suddenly, Heinz is watching years of meticulous brand building slip through its hands…disrupted by a cylindrical intelligent device.


Don Draper’s Advice

In a world powered by artificial intelligence, every brand will undergo a significant shift. The transformation in the way brands are built will require marketers to radically adjust their thinking.

Many of Don Draper’s marketing lessons from Mad Men can be applied to helping brands stay relevant and thrive in the conversation-driven era of customer engagement. Here are my three favorites


1. “Change the Conversation.”

Everything old is new. We’re back to just having a conversation, but with digital assistants. With the rise of machine learning and cloud computing to fuel innovation, natural language conversations with AI have become an everyday reality. Voice-activated intelligent assistants are becoming a major factor in people’s lives, and marketers must find their “voice” and personality to establish a more intimate connection.


2. “You Are the Product. You Feel Something. That’s What Sells.”

Brands will always be as powerful as long as they connect with us, and lose their power when they don’t. With consumers participating in brand choices in a less hands-on way, brands will need to really amp up their role as tribes that exist in people’s hearts and minds. Because the emotional side will be the only currency left for brands, even if when the purchasing robots are relying in part on review ratings.


3. “I Don’t Believe in Fate. You Make Your Own Opportunities.”

Marketers can’t stand on the sidelines and just watch voice disrupt advertising, or their brands are doomed to become invisible. Now is the time to start working closely with the tech giants to revamp your marketing strategy and create a voice-first experience that feels on-brand for consumers. More importantly, transparency, authenticity and simplicity will be essential to avoid making promises that a brand can’t deliver in the quest to build trust in this new environment.

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About the Author  |  Scott Kerr

Scott Kerr is Principal Strategy and Insights Consultant for Silvertone Consulting, where he helps leading brands stay ahead of the changes posed by emerging trends, cultural shifts, and disruptive technologies. He was previously Global Strategy + Insights for Time Inc., and has also held senior media and marketing roles at some of the most prestigious ad agencies, media companies, and consumer brands including Pepsi-Cola, Conde Nast, Ammirati & Puris, Burson-Marsteller, and Real Media.