I and my 98.2 million closest friends watched the Super Bowl on Sunday night. And while it was never said aloud or predicted by Tony Romo, conversational marketing was front and center on advertising’s biggest stage. In particular, three campaigns said a lot about the landscape for today and tomorrow.
T-Mobile Tells A Story Through Messaging
T-Mobile ran a series of ads showing humorous, relatable conversations through messaging. No big-game pizazz, only a fixed image of a conversational interface and a song laid on top. It may seem underwhelming at first, but read between the bubbles here.
They leaned into the authenticity of messaging to express a range of emotions well. One ad type made people relate to funny aftermath of a break-up, dealing with friends, or even helping a tech-illiterate parent. The common denominator across all these stories was the delivery: through a conversation. This abstracts the brand from the content itself while playing to messaging’s intimacy. We associate messaging with friends and family, which gives it a subconscious connection. When a brand taps into that well, we’re likely to draw a deeper connection as a result.
The NBA’s used this well, too. A conversation between friends (complete with gifs and emoji) hype up an upcoming game. Imagine how your audience would likely talk about your product, campaign, or event. If you can understand that voice well, ads in this style go a long way.
Intuit Dismisses Chatbots and Automation
In one of the creepier campaigns of the game, a man’s sentient robot wanted to become a TurboTax advisor. The robot’s creators broke the news that only humans can do that job.
The clunky animatronics were no mistake. Rather, they’re a jab at how consumers perceive most chatbots today. Intuit differentiated themselves on their investment in humans. They believe their audience doesn’t want any level of impersonal automation. While it makes for a great PR campaign, this stance boxes them in over the long-term. As TurboTax blows past 30 million users, there may well be a day when the best way to help the next user isn’t with a human advisor. Chatbots are a great way to democratize access to standardized information.
Intuit’s not the only company who may struggle to evolve their stance over time. StateFarm and Charles Schwab have run similar campaigns throughout 2018 and 2019. To change people’s perception of your chatbots, set clear expectations up front of what it can and can’t do. A common source of frustration is when one side assumes the other knows how to interact. And never write your bots to pretend to be humans. That’s the quickest way to contribute to the image that Intuit loves leaning into.
Amazon Disarms Through Humor
A star-studded cast (namely Harrison Ford and Forest Whitaker) have whimsical experiences with the virtual assistant and connected devices. While Amazon has sold more than 100 million Alexa-enabled devices, they poke fun at a few unsuccessful “prototypes”. A dog collar for dogs, hot tub, and toothbrush to name a few. Their big push into connected hardware started back in September 2018, when they released, among other things, an Alexa-enabled microwave and wall clock.
There’s a large education gap on what these smart assistants can do well and why connected devices are helpful. For Amazon, a lighthearted stance is the right way to make gains here. The four categories featured (in dramatic fashions): consuming content, commerce, listening to music, and home automation. According to research by Dashbot, these are all top use cases.
Technology companies have used humor to make their products more approachable for decades. My favorite example of this is still the I’m A Mac, I’m a PC campaign in 2006.
This year’s ads had stronger overtones about where we’re headed than in previous games. Interacting in a conversational way is the future. One conversation is over, though: the Patriots are the greatest dynasty in sports. If you need me, I’ll be at the parade (and on Twitter).
What Did The Super Bowl Teach Us About Conversational Marketing? was originally published in Chatbots Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.