Retail marketing lives and dies by one main principle: the voice of the brand. Once in a while it hits a mainstream nerve, forever changing culture, like the magic of Nike’s “Just Do It” or Dove’s “Like a Girl,” and other provocative, inspiring messages that literally helped build some of the world’s most successful commercial empires.
Retailers understand the importance of a distinct brand voice and how that connects to long-term customer loyalty — but generative AI is changing the game. This is a defining moment for the retail industry and brands need to adapt, fast.
Traditionally, a brand’s voice is singular but, with generative AI technology, it can become plural. This means it is now possible for a brand to speak in multiple voices to all its customer audiences, using distinct language for each. This shift is an enormous opportunity for retailers; in fact, forward-thinking brands like Tapestry (parent company to Kate Spade, Stuart Weitzman and Coach), Marks & Spencer and Gap are already reaping the benefits of this new strategy. Retailers that don’t quickly adapt will surely be left in the dust, acting and sounding like monoliths.
Getting to Know You: A New Era of Individualized Communication
Until now, it’s simply not been possible for retail marketers to get to know each of their consumers personally. Consider the degree of diversity among the consumers who buy Nike sneakers or cans of Campbell Soup. No two are the same, so why would a brand speak to them with just one voice?
For example, say you sell gear for hiking enthusiasts. It doesn’t make sense to market to your 65-year-old customer with the same words as to a 25-year-old. Maybe they both like the great outdoors, but the words you use to appeal to each should be different — while staying true to your brand values.
We all know personalization is not new to retailers. You use consumer data (like demographics, location and buying history) to better understand what your audience segments want, helping you deliver promotions and offers based on their preferences.
But if your brand voice is static and uniform, then your personalization strategy will be limited. By contrast, using multiple brand voices, your strategy becomes next-level: not only creating more personalized communication but also individualized shopping experiences.
Brand Voice isn’t the Same as Brand Values
Further killing the era of a singular brand voice is a confusion between brand values and brand voice. Brand values — such as integrity or optimism — are the pillars of what the business stands for. In the era of generative AI, your brand’s values remain constant; however, there are hundreds of thousands of opportunities to express your brand values to your customers.
Imagine how powerful it would be if you could express your values and speak to each customer with a specific voice that recognized their uniqueness. How potent would it be if your brand “voices” could communicate with the diversity of your entire target customer base? What if we could equip marketing and ecommerce pros to individualize communications at scale, and then continue to learn and refine the voices used? Good branding cultivates a sense of community, and communicating with customers in this personalized way only benefits your brand by reinforcing the connection they’ve established with you.
Today, generative AI makes this possible, enabling marketers to dynamically personalize the brand voice for each individual customer. It’s as significant a sea-change as the early days of customer relationship management (CRM) and has arrived at a time when retailers desperately need to find ways to cut through the noise to maintain the consumer base they’ve cultivated.
Generative AI can act as an individual copywriter…times a million. It gives you one million brilliant iterations of copy for one million consumers, “whispering into the ear” of each consumer in the specific voice that they engage with. For retail marketers, this is like gold, sprinkling its dust on all kinds of channels from websites, to email, social, text — even shopping carts.
Don’t be a Dinosaur
Generative AI technology is not a lengthy and complex deployment. It is already available, tested and proven to deliver value across multiple business use cases. This, to me, is a survival of the fittest situation moment for retail.
Within three years, or even sooner, I expect that the winners of the battle for dominance in retail will be those who understand that the values belong to the brand, while the voices should belong to the people.
Assaf Baciu is the Co-founder and COO of Persado, where he is responsible for the progression and foresight of Persado’s growing Motivation AI product portfolio and oversees the management of product innovations. Prior to Persado, Baciu was VP of Product for Upstream, where Persado’s core technology originated. Baciu previously worked for speech and imaging solutions supplier Nuance Communications as a Senior Director of Product Strategy, where he was responsible for developing on-demand and mobile solutions. Baciu holds an MBA from the University of San Francisco and a Master’s in Social Psychology from the Sorbonne in Paris.