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Brand equity — that intangible asset that sets your brand apart and directly impacts its success, can either flourish or wither at the hands of artificial intelligence (AI).
Using artificial intelligence in your external communications can be a threat to any brand equity you’ve built up, but does this mean you shouldn’t use it at all?
In this article, we’ll explore the delicate dance between technology and human connection, exploring the AI risks when it comes to your brand equity.
What is brand equity?
Brand equity is the value gained from a consumer’s perception of a company, service, or product — beyond its functional attributes. It is the cumulative effect of various factors that contribute to how a brand is perceived, recognized, and differentiated from others within its industry.
There are four main elements of brand equity:
Brand awareness: The recognition and familiarity consumers have with a brand. If a customer has strong brand awareness, they are more likely to think of it when making purchase decisions — this is the first step to building brand equity.
Brand associations: The characteristics, qualities, and attributes that consumers associate with a brand. This can be through previous experiences, recommendations, or even online perceptions.
Perceived quality: The consumer’s perception of the overall quality of the brand. This will differ from person to person and does not always reflect the actual quality, instead being based on parameters that are important to the individual.
Brand loyalty: When a consumer chooses to buy from a particular brand over others. This could be related to repeat purchases or recommendations for higher ticket items, such as mortgages.
Brand equity will have a significant impact on the company’s success. Stronger brand equity often means brands can justify higher prices, enjoy customer loyalty, and be protected against competitors.
How does brand equity relate to AI usage?
Like everything else in marketing, AI can affect brand equity. With AI tools widely available, the two elements of brand equity that could be impacted are brand awareness and brand associations, i.e. what they see of your brand before having their own experiences.
When AI is harnessed effectively, it can either boost or erode brand equity depending on whether it enhances authentic customer interactions or turns them into robotic, disconnected experiences. In essence, the smart use of AI can either reinforce your brand’s value or, if mishandled, risk damaging the trust and emotional connections you’ve worked so hard to build.
How the overuse of AI can affect your brand equity
Brand equity is the culmination of years of trust-building, consistent messaging, and positive customer interactions. It’s the intangible asset that sets your brand apart in the hearts and minds of your audience.
The right AI-driven experiences can drive awareness and solidify positive brand associations in the minds of your customers. But while the temptation is there to utilize AI-generated content to speed up output, it’s important to know when to use it and when to stop.
Dangers of overusing AI for your customer communications
AI can be a valuable asset, but it can also be a potential liability in your marketing toolkit. It’s crucial to tread carefully and be mindful of the potential dangers lurking when AI-generated content is used within your communications.
Losing that personal touch
Your brand was made by humans, for humans. If your customers start to feel as if their interactions with your brand are too automated and lacking that vital human empathy, the emotional connection you’ve spent so much time building will begin to weaken. For example, you ask an AI tool to produce an article around a specific topic, and you upload that content straight to your site without fact-checking or personalizing it. That piece will stand out from the articles already on your website, either because of the change in tone of voice or mistakes and inaccuracies within it, leading the reader to question your branding, authority, and trustworthiness.
That loss of personal touch to content can not only affect what your customers feel about your brand but can also impact your site’s ability to rank. A recent AI vs. humans experiment carried out by Reboot found that pages created by copywriters outperformed AI-generated content in search engine result pages (SERPs).
Using AI tools to collect and analyze personal data can raise privacy concerns within your customer base. Because artificial intelligence is about always learning and improving, AI tools will store any information put into them, which includes any data. Allowing another party to store customer data opens up more opportunities for it to be viewed, copied, and even stolen by outside sources.
If your consumers believe their personal information is being misused by AI tools or their privacy is compromised, you can erode the trust in your brand and damage your overall brand equity.
To negate these privacy risks, some AI tools give you the option to opt out of this data storage. On ChatGPT, for example, there is a setting you can use to prevent it from saving your chat history.
Not understanding intent
Understanding and fulfilling intent is what helps your content to rank, and keeps your customers happy. AI content tools and recommendation systems might be unable to pinpoint customer intent or preferences. Continually missing the mark of what your customers want could negatively impact their perception of your brand’s competence.
If you’re looking to combat this pitfall, you can try asking the AI tool to create a piece of content with a particular search intent in mind. As with all content produced by artificial intelligence, though, this will need to be thoroughly fact-checked and edited by a skilled copywriter.
Loss of brand identity
Your communications could lack consistency with your brand’s image if they are solely produced by AI tools or even a mix of AI and human-generated content. Recognizable features of your brand are watered down, which could lead to confusion among your customers and a dilution of the all-important brand image.
Not only this but how can you be sure your tone of voice stands out when your competitors have access to the same AI tools? You know your brand best, and it is in your best interest to ensure any information you put out there is accurate, relevant, and on-brand.
Lack of human interaction
For complex or emotionally sensitive issues, customers might prefer human interaction rather than AI. If you don’t offer this option or rely too much on AI for customer service by only offering chatbots or email assistance run by artificial intelligence tools, you may start to notice increased dissatisfaction and reduced loyalty.
Can AI tools recreate recognizable brand communications?
As mentioned before, AI will affect your customers’ awareness and perception of your brand, primarily if you use it in your communications. Can you trust AI-generated content to adopt your tone of voice accurately?
Brand tone of voice is a direct manifestation of its personality and values. It’s what drives brand perception and feeds into equity if you take away all of the visuals, logos, and videos.
Let’s see how a popular AI tool, ChatGPT, deals with mimicking the tone of voice of a famous and instantly recognizable brand.
AI tackles Cards Against Humanity
Cards Against Humanity has one of the most identifiable brand voices out there, which feeds into customer perception. There are specific qualities and characteristics that those familiar with the brand would expect from its communications.
To test out the AI tool, we input the prompt:
Please write a 120-word ‘About Us’ section to be used on the Cards Against Humanity website. Make sure this copy is instantly recognizable to customers by matching the brand’s tone of voice and style of writing.
The word limit was to make sure the copy fits in line with the existing page the brand already has. For reference, this is the brand’s current About Us page on the site:
It’s short, to the point, and has brand-specific humor; it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a tone that anyone familiar with the brand would associate with their messaging. But how will an artificial intelligence tool compare?
Going off the prompt, this is what ChatGPT produced:
While the finished products are dissimilar, you can pick out inspiration from the brand’s existing content. With phrases such as ‘renegades of irreverence’ and ‘inner misfit’, Cards Against Humanity’s somewhat overtly offensive branding comes through.
However, Cards Against Humanity thrives within the sarcasm, self-deprecating space, which is where the ChatGPT content misses out. It doesn’t quite have that tongue-in-cheek humor that is apparent from its existing About Us page.
How this could affect brand equity
Consistent branding is pivotal in constructing and upholding a positive brand perception. If you’ve built up a consumer base familiar with a particular tone of voice and personality but then start to move away from this, you’ll go against their perceptions and chip away at their brand awareness.
Even though Cards Against Humanity has already formed relatively strong brand equity through years of consistent messaging and good-quality products, that doesn’t mean it’s invincible. If the brand decides to go ahead with AI-generated content for its future communications, it risks going against its consumer perceptions and damaging its brand equity in the long run.
Striking the balance between automation and the human touch
AI isn’t the enemy of brand equity. But you do need to be careful when using it. Balancing creativity caution with AI is like finding the perfect blend in your morning coffee — too much AI can leave a bitter taste.
You should aim to avoid your AI-generated content coming across as robotic or inconsistent with your brand identity. By selecting the appropriate AI tool and always referring back to your brand’s unique voice, you still have the ability to craft captivating content that truly connects with your audience. Here’s how you do it:
1. Have a solid TOV guide
Why is having a tone of voice (TOV) guide a big deal?
It’s a roadmap for your messaging, ensuring your brand always sounds like, well, your brand!
This consistency is crucial for brand recognition and recall. When your audience can easily identify your style and personality across different channels, it’s like having a familiar face in a crowd — feeding into brand awareness and perception.
A well-crafted TOV guide can even set you apart from competitors in a sea of voices, helping you stand tall in your niche.
How to create a TOV guide:
Start by digging deep into your brand’s purpose. What’s your mission? Who’s your audience? What values drive your business?
Once you’ve got those nailed down, pinpoint your brand’s personality traits. Are you fun and casual, or all about professionalism?
Lay down some ground rules. Decide on vocabulary preferences, sentence structures, and even whether to use emojis (yes, they can be part of your TOV!).
But it doesn’t stop there. The key to a good TOV guide is keeping it fresh. Revisit and update it as your brand evolves. Get your team on board, train them up, and keep the dialogue open for feedback and tweaks.
2. Train AI tools to recognize and use your TOV
You can train many AI-content tools to use your brand’s TOV as you would with any new starter. Start by feeding it some of your brand’s past content so it begins to understand how you structure your sentences, how informal your messaging is, and how you talk to your audience.
Then, using Natural Language Processing (NLP) and machine learning, AI recognizes patterns in your communications and starts to produce similar content. With time and ongoing pointers, amendments, and tweaks, most tools can begin to recognize and use your TOV.
But remember, it’s an ongoing practice. You have to continuously fine-tune and review its outputs to keep it singing in perfect harmony with your brand’s voice.
3. Monitor AI content and edit
Even after you’ve trained your chosen AI tool to mimic your brand’s TOV, you still have to thoroughly check and edit the content it has created. Just as you would proofread and edit any work from a content writer.
Monitor the output and use your TOV guide to ensure it hits the brand’s values, tone, and messaging standards. AI tools occasionally throw out incorrect facts or statements without context. Publishing anything incorrect that can be disproven by your audience will alter brand associations and even perceived quality, so it’s important to have a rigorous fact-checking system in place.
4. Test and give feedback to the AI tool
Think of the AI tool as an eager employee. If you want it to improve, you need to provide thought-out feedback.
Start by conducting structured evaluations of its outputs against predefined criteria, measuring aspects like accuracy, relevance, and adherence to your brand’s tone of voice.
Then, maintain a clear and consistent feedback loop, offering specific and constructive comments to help the AI tool learn and improve over time, ultimately aligning it more closely with your brand’s unique requirements.
How to safely build brand equity with AI
The good news is that by adopting a thoughtful approach to AI and making some adjustments, you can generate content for your brand that is entirely distinctive and tailored to your identity.
There are some ways you can use AI tools that will work to spot patterns in your analytics to inform your ongoing strategies, as well as improve customer experiences.
Spotting data patterns and unearthing customer insights
Analyze customer data
Some AI tools can analyze large datasets, such as customer churn rates and sentiment analyses on social media, to identify patterns, trends, and correlations. This valuable insight into customer behavior can help to inform your brand to craft personalized marketing strategies and improved user experiences, ultimately leading to better decision-making and enhanced customer satisfaction.
It’s worth keeping in mind the privacy concerns point from above, though, making sure the AI tool you use has the option to not store chat history for this.
Stay in the loop with social media
There are AI tools that can track brand mentions, sentiment analysis, and emerging trends on social media. This will allow your social media marketing team to spend more time elsewhere, crafting perfect campaigns to work with the AI’s findings.
Do market research
Artificial intelligence has reshaped the field of market research, providing tools that can dissect data and generate invaluable insights. This is a great way to save your team time that would otherwise be used to analyze this data.
An example prompt to do so could be:
Generate a report summarizing the current market trends and customer preferences for [specific product, service, or industry]. Include information on key businesses and any notable shifts in consumer behavior. Please provide statistics and insights from the past year.
Improving customer experiences
After you’ve already used AI to sift through customer datasets, you can use the findings to produce personalized content tailored to their needs and preferences. This can span from customized product suggestions to tailor-made marketing messages.
24/7 AI chatbots enhance the customer experience by delivering quick and reliable service around the clock — chatbot conversions are also pretty powerful for your bottom line. You can provide instant, consistent, and cost-effective customer support, handling routine queries efficiently and freeing human agents for more complex issues.
Automatic subtitles and image captions
With video becoming one of the preferred methods of consuming content, AI-powered subtitle generators such as Kapwing and VEED’s tools are getting increasingly popular. This helps with accessibility, which can improve user experience and save your team time.
How to avoid AI risks when it comes to your brand equity
Safely building brand equity with AI involves a strategic approach to harnessing the technology while mitigating potential risks. Here’s how to do it:
Define your brand’s AI strategy: Begin by setting clear objectives for AI integration in your branding efforts. How will you use it? Will you use the tools to generate content, automate processes, or gather insights? Ensure you have answers for these and the goals behind them. What are you hoping to achieve?
Apply strict quality control: Establishing a robust review and approval process for AI-generated content will help to protect your brand awareness, associations, and perceived quality. Human oversight will always be needed to catch errors and maintain consistency in messaging.
Remain transparent: Maintaining transparency with your audience about your AI use will help to build and keep their trust. If chatbots or automated systems are handling customer inquiries, make it clear that customers are interacting with AI. If a blog post has been produced using AI, add a disclaimer about it highlighting who the piece was checked by to make sure you’re still hitting ‘experience’ and ‘expertise’ in E-E-A-T.
Focus on data privacy and security: Safeguard customer data rigorously. Comply with data protection regulations like GDPR or CCPA, and communicate your commitment to data privacy to enhance brand trust. Similar to the above, share any instances where personal data is handled by AI systems and the steps taken to make sure it remains confidential.
Be prepared for a crisis: Even with the most watertight approval processes, some mistakes still slip through the net. This is no different when using AI. To safeguard the audience trust you’ve built, ensure you implement a plan to address potential AI-related crises, such as misinterpretations or mishandling of sensitive issues.
There will always be AI risks if using it in customer-facing content, but this doesn’t mean your brand shouldn’t use it.
To successfully integrate AI into your brand’s strategies while building brand equity, you should ensure all uses align with the brand’s values, messaging, and customer expectations.
Have solid processes in place for everything from proofreading and fact-checking to keeping all customer data confidential. This way, you’ll be able to protect your brand awareness, associations, perceived quality, and, ultimately, your brand equity.