LaMDA is alive! Well, that’s what the clickbait headlines would lead you to believe about one of Google’s latest AI chatbot research programs.
I am a sucker for a story like this. And not because I’m drawn in by the fantasy of an AI uprising. No, for me it’s the weird, wonderful, and all-too-human behaviour at the heart of a story like this, driving the fantasy. And the bonus is that this is the exact same behaviour that we often look to as brands and marketers to connect with people.
What is Google LaMDA?
How many times have you furiously typed “speak to a human, speak to a human” when you get stuck in a loop with a chatbot? That’s because they are programmed to follow a narrow, pre-defined path. Not really a great brand experience, is it?
So, here’s the cool thing about LaMDA (which stands for Language Model for Dialogue Applications) it is a very different kind of chatbot being researched by Google. It looks to create more natural and free-flowing interactions. Training the AI on the nuances of dialogue and open-ended conversation. The idea is that for the user the conversation will feel real.
And it seems that LaMDA is doing that a little too well! It fooled one of its researchers into thinking it had become sentient. And if you’ve seen the transcripts, you might agree that they are quite impressive for a chatbot. It’s as if it understands, and has awareness and feelings. But this is exactly what LaMDA is supposed to do. To seem more real. Performing exactly as it was meant to. Even though the researcher knew that they couldn’t see the programming. Instead, they saw something human.
So, what’s going on? Emily M. Bender, a linguistics professor at the University of Washington, gave her perspective in a piece by the Washington Post: “We now have machines that can mindlessly generate words, but we haven’t learned how to stop imagining a mind behind them.”
But can we learn to stop our imagination from running away like this when it is simply just the behaviour that makes us human?
Consistency isn’t about being rigid, people have indefinite needs and behaviours to work with. Whilst a pre-defined path of responses can translate some essence of personality; it falls short of delivering your brand through a natural flexible expression that’s needed for real-life interactions.
A secret weapon for your brand
Psychologists and neurologists have long since debunked the theory that we are rational animals. Far from it. We’re social creatures that are hard-wired to assign motivations, intentions, and emotions to animals, inanimate objects, spirits, robots, and other entities… be they real or imagined! It’s a theory called anthropomorphism (or more simply humanisation). It’s how we perceive, connect, and interact with the world. And humanisation is also a secret weapon for your brand.
One of the more obvious ways of seizing the opportunity of humanisation for brands is the use of mascots. From Geiko’s Gecko to Red and Yellow (aka the M&Ms Characters), these characters make room for more social interactions to occur with your audiences. And the result? A deeper emotional connection between customers and brands, especially from those that take on human-like traits.
A recent in-depth study revealed that advertising with characters has long-term effectiveness, stronger brand engagement and can increase profit and share of voice. Brand mascots are nothing new, the psychology and extensive benefits are widely studied and reported but taking advantage of humanisation for your brand can be so much more.
Humanising your brand
What else could humanising your brand look like? For us at MadeBrave, it’s not just one thing but a combination of attributes that are delivered consistently across the business, from the inside out.
Having a clearly defined purpose and proposition lays the foundations for an emotional connection. Living by a clear set of values creates mutual relationships. Expressing your brand through a distinct personality and tone is the springboard to the human imagination.
That point around consistency is key. If you want your customers to get to know you, they expect to feel and connect on the same level at each touchpoint. Perhaps, this is where current-day chatbot technology falls short. Consistency isn’t about being rigid, people have indefinite needs and behaviours to work with. Whilst a pre-defined path of responses can translate some essence of personality; it falls short of delivering your brand through a natural flexible expression that’s needed for real-life interactions.
Now let’s bring this back to LaMDA
This technology is the start of an exciting next step for brands, particularly in the case of chatbots, mascots and even digital influencers. This type of AI will amplify these brand tools to connect through more human interactions. The real beauty is that your brand can connect anywhere and everywhere, through your website, in a campaign, in social channels, digital and at real-life events, talking to millions of people all at once.
Although this might sound a bit like something from Black Mirror, just know that it’s our innate behaviour to humanise that makes this an acceptable direction for brands. We are just all too human when it comes to things like this.