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Unwrapping the Secrets of SEO: Brand Personas The New Phase of AI at Google I/O

Tesla founder Elon Musk deems it more dangerous than nuclear weapons. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg believes the technology will help save us from ourselves. Whether you’re onboard with advances in machine learning, few doubt true artificial intelligence is coming sooner rather than later. Upgrading won’t be optional once the paradigm shift happens. AI will soon manage whole businesses, oversee economic sectors and control brands. The next step? Building your brand persona. Find out why in this Unwrapping the Secrets of SEO.

Unwrapping the Secrets of SEO

Why a Brand Persona?

Artificial intelligence has long been seen as the next in line after mobile-first, the Internet of Things, smart assistants, voice and visual search, and the cloud. Google at its annual I/O developer’s conference from May 8-11 is expected to further detail plans for what the search giant believes will be a future where artificial intelligence guides everything from shopping and search to autonomous driving and home automation. The AI persona is a critical interface for voice search in particular, and could one day be a crucial factor in remaining competitive – even for small and medium businesses.

Upgrading certainly won’t be optional. A 2017 PwC study notes that where technology used to manage information in a business, AI will soon manage the whole business. Machines that are part of limited projects today will oversee economic sectors tomorrow, upending the way people communicate with potential customers. Yext’s Duane Forrester in a March talk issued a start wake-up call for marketers.: “If you are an SEO, you need to be deeply concerned about this. This is the bell chiming for thee.”

User experience, along with transparency, trust, and security are vital in this transition. It’s something many marketers intuitively understand. Yet one area where many already are behind the curve is the AI persona. In Hollywood, there’s the sinister Hal 9000 in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey or Jarvis in Marvel’s Iron Man movies. They point to the different faces and personalities of AI personas. On the tech front, Apple and Amazon have made Siri and Alexa household names.

To maintain your own brand, successful SEO and content marketing will require incorporating AI into your marketing strategy, including your website, and transitioning characters like Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger and the Geico Gecko from cute talking animals into personas that can accept input and make independent decisions about how to tailor messages specifically to the customer interacting with it.


Five Steps to Build Your Brand’s AI Persona

The days when a company merely adds a brand statement up on its website are gone. The coming new world will be one where the Geico Gecko can ask questions or look at past search behavior to quickly understand user intent, and create a strategy that meets that intent. AI engineering aside, there are five main steps to consider when creating your brand persona: the brand mascot model; the internet meme; mobility and voice; psychographic marketing; SEM strategies.

Forget Hollywood: A Brand Mascot That Thinks for Itself

Consider what your brand and your business would be like if they were a person? What kind of character would they have? What would their values be? You have to summarize the last decade of company development – and express future goals – through this single persona.

AI design company Kip says: don’t think of Hollywood. AI personas like HAL 9000 or the friendly R2-D2 from Star Wars are not that accurate or helpful. Instead, rethink the concept so that it is genuine, substantial  and original. One trick is to use novelists’ character creation techniques and to consult with creatives on brand character development.

Established marketers already should be adept at creating a likable spokes-character. Yet, remember cultural and local nuances are important. News outlets like Forbes often review America’s favorite and most-hated brand mascots. There is a fine line between creepy versus clever, funny or offensive, friendly instead of boring. For example, Business Insider found that Ronald McDonald and the Burger King are disliked by most customers.

The Internet Meme

An AI persona also incorporates potentially disruptive virtual marketing. Internet memedom can affect your persona’s performance. It’s a good idea to study memes and how they work with users’ instinctive responses. Heineken had huge success with their campaign, ‘The Most Interesting Man in the World,’ portrayed by actor Jonathan Goldsmith. In 2017, one of the top roaming Internet celebrities for hire was Grumpy Cat. In both cases, a psychologically appealing image, plus a catchy phrasal template appealed. The public urge to resend and repeat the character’s phrases spawned memedom, viral sharing, and contributed to the character’s longer term likability, bankability and durability.

Mobility, Voice Search, and Voice Appeal

Decide how your persona’s voice will sound. Does it have an accent? What gender would your brand have?

Google-owned GPS navigation company Waze made its chatbots big when they gave them celebrity voices. Stars like Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson tell you where to drive. Waze users can also use their own voices if they prefer. The character voice should appeal to customer context; in this case, Waze needed a voice that conveyed a feeling of traffic and mobility. You can determine what priorities your customers have in relation to your brand through ranking keywords analyses:


Waze’s chatbot approaches platform status as it offers motorists local services and retail offerings, adapting ads to drivers’ direction Since March, small businesses can now buy ads on Waze Local to appeal to passing motorists. It likely won’t be long before mobile ads include an option for local businesses’ AI brand personas to speak to motorists as they drive by those businesses. Consider designing a persona that can engage in a positive and helpful way with bots and apps used by passing customer traffic.

When developing content, your AI’s technical capabilities and your AI persona, you should read and meet Google’s Voice Search Quality Raters’ Guidelines. Released in late December, Google explained how it uses humans to evaluate voice search rankings. The criteria were: information satisfaction, including the usefulness and length of a bot’s answers; and speech quality, the style in which answers are presented, especially elocution, grammar and sentence formulation. These guidelines are also applied to how Google Assistant prioritizes and offers “eyes-free” search results.

They can guide your own AI persona design. Make sure your persona speaks in a way that is appealing and accessible to a broad customer base.

Psychographic Marketing

[Lack of trust in Facebook: This example shows that Facebook user privacy is now related to scandals and other negative keywords. This is bad branding for such a big and successful company.]

Part of AI development includes giving customers what they want by adapting in real time to users’ responses and data. You can gather data on your customers by interviewing them or by reviewing your website analytics and SEO performance. Check what has already worked in your online presence and what hasn’t.

Customers are more likely to buy from a persona that resembles their own personalities. So when creating your AI brand persona, consider customer values first.

Customers like to be understood, not labeled. Understanding inspires trust, loyalty and empathy. The alternative is to get in to a brand-destroying series of scandals that erodes interest in your product, ads shown recently with Facebook and the Cambridge Analytica scandal.