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Break on through to the AI side

Break on through to the AI side

Ian Gourley

Creative Director



When the editors asked for contributions to this year’s BrandZ report, these were the two “topics” suggested for an article on industry thought leadership.

How brands adapt to digital communications.

How brands make a local connection.

The times we are moving into (many say we are there already) call out the flaw in both of these topics. That flaw, simply put, is that brands still think they are in charge. Do they think that they can adapt to digital communications? Do they think that they are making local connections?

Sorry, brands. The cart is now officially in front of the horse, and that’s the new normal. This is not a bad thing. It’s great. Disruption is being thrust down our throats, and the status quo is having a hard time swallowing it. It's changed.

This is when out of the turbulence two things emerge: innovation and death. New models and ways of doing things have to be the daily mantra within organizations operating in the industry. Doing what you’ve always done? RIP.

The themes of digital and hyper-personalization are not new but have gained more and more traction as they are inextricably linked.

The more digital is out there and interfaced with, the more we can track, see, understand, refine, and redo it. The personalization gets more hyper!

The use of more and more refined algorithms, coupled with the rise of AI, is starting to thrust us into a position where digital is soon going to start telling brands, “Relax, we got this!”

Digital is making local connections and using your brands to do this.

A very exciting space where we are seeing this play out is physical retail. It’s always been a mass media channel, with very little space for the retailers to be as agile and targeted as in other, more conventional media channels. Digital has allowed this to happen and, if used correctly, presents retailers and therefore brands with huge new opportunities to increase sales and build connections.

We have been working with leading retailers in South Africa, the US, and the UK to roll out what we call the “Connected Store.”

On the face of it, the Connected Store is the simple digitization of store fixtures that improve the overall shopping experience in store and allow for the instant and simultaneous upload of campaigns or communications to shoppers.

As we have come to learn with all things digital, don’t take them at face value. There is so much more.

Due to a deep understanding of the shopper, coupled with brand and retailer insights, we, with an ever-growing helping hand from AI, are able to serve up content to the fixtures that deliver unprecedented levels of localization. A single message or piece of communication from a brand can be uploaded nationally and will appear on screen in the store in the local language of the shoppers in that particular store.

A brand that has sponsorship rights to a global sports event is now able to use AI to change the messaging on a national basis as the event plays out. Live score updates, who’s playing who next, and much more. A windy day in Cape Town? Then a brand like Dove should be recommending a variant that has the solution for frizzy or tangled hair. Just for today. Weather’s going to be fine and sunny tomorrow? What’s the variant for that, and then serve it up. In Afrikaans, the predominant language in the Western Cape.

Technology embedded in the fixtures blended with live retailer data allows us to see if our agile behavior has affected sales—in real time. The data pouring from the fixtures, combined with the retailers' data, give us metrics with which to measure effectiveness and ROI and refine campaigns or communications as they are still being flighted.

The whole game has changed. In fact, we’ve moved to a new field.

This new model targets the largest audience in the world: shoppers in physical stores. What makes this model and the content it serves up so valuable is its proximity to the product. Shoppers go into stores to shop. Communications are hyper-personalized and targeted specifically to them in this space when they are already in a buying mindset. This, coupled with the fact that the product is right there in front of the communication, results in the highest probability of converting to a sale.

As these shoppers continue to opt into retailer apps and programs, the media that appears in the store as they move through it can start to talk directly to them. The more they engage, the more we learn, and the more AI refines.

To harness this media platform to its full potential, entirely new content management systems are being built. Everything is about speed, responsiveness, and much lower content and production costs.

The Connected Store is a revolution for brands and retailers alike. The model keeps demanding new and exciting ways of working as data flowing from it gives us, our retail clients and the brands more and more real-time insights into what is happening in the largest media channel in the world. Retail.