Brands are announcing digital voice assistants and chatbots seemingly everyday. While they vary in specialty and quality, they all fall under a fast-forming category called “intelligent agents,” programs that gather information and perform a service on behalf of the user. The most popular versions of these are Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Facebook’s Messenger, Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant and Samsung’s forthcoming Bixby.

Recent advancements, namely artificial intelligence, have reframed the category from a fun novelty to a meaningful utility for businesses and consumers. Just as touchscreens changed phones in the 2000’s, intelligent agents will again revolutionize how we interact with our devices.

What’s more important (and frankly more interesting) than how a consumer uses the device, is the type of relationship he or she builds with a program that is intentioned to talk, sound, and cooperate as natural and human-like as possible.

Interaction with intelligent agents are mainly voice and text-based today, but the tech community is making big strides to include visual and spatial sensors. Imagine Samsung’s Bixby using the phone’s camera to scan and search for objects, or Apple’s Siri coming out with facial and gesture recognition. These added senses will make intelligent agents more human-like and more capable – acting as a true aid to a consumer in daily life.

3 Things to Consider About Applying Intelligent Agents in Marketing

But the nature and pace of change of intelligent agents present a unique challenge for marketers, who must become truly agile to capitalize on this brand-building potential.

Let’s take a look at three things marketers should consider when designing and marketing intelligent agents:

1. Build Technology that Enhances Your Customers’ Lives

Consider your brand’s purpose and the capabilities (near-in and far-out) of your intelligent agent, and how that relates to the life and needs of your targeted consumer. Developing an agent that is both functional and intimate for consumers will build and sustain relevance for your brand.

Capabilities of the category and competitors change daily, so building a strategy around a “white space opportunity” is a less fruitful exercise. You may find a space today, but by the time you build, design and launch, competitors may occupy that space already. For example, Amazon Alexa’s grew its skill set by 500% to 7,000 in the second half of 2016 alone.

2. Develop Unique Brand Personas for Intelligent Agents

Existing brand guidelines are necessary, but not sufficient for the nuances of intelligent agents. Existing brand guidelines likely include your master brand’s personality traits or tone of voice, but these are intended for different purposes and a much wider audience. For example, while Jeep’s brand is about exploration and freedom, it wouldn’t be fitting for their in-car intelligent agent to be risk-taking or rebellious.

Brand personas for intelligent agents should include traits that build trust with users, such as empathy, wit, obedience and reliability. The user will rely on intelligent agents in more intimate contexts, engaging with them in their home and allowing access personal information. This requires brands to think on a more interpersonal level.

3. Partnerships are Necessary to Compete

While intelligent agents provide profound utility when accessing your personal information and contacts, more value lies in their ability to integrate with third-party products and services. These partnerships could include the intelligent agent accessing and controlling third-party products or services (e.g., Bixby ordering an Uber, Alexa reading Good Housekeeping tips) or being co-developed, licensed, and marketed by other B2C or B2B brands as an ingredient (e.g. Alexa being integrated into VW vehicles this year, or Microsoft partnering with Publicis to bring AI-driven marketing analytics to their clients).

The list of scenarios and settings where your intelligent agent can be experienced will be expansive (and never fully known). This means that while seeking partnerships to expand utility and connectivity on behalf of consumers, it will be important to focus on the agreement details and persona governance of your agent.

Final Thoughts

Intelligent agents have come a long way in recent years to provide greater utility to users through more human-like interaction. Now it’s time for marketers to lean forward in this new era of intelligent brand building.