Branding With AI: A Hit Or Miss With Gen Z

You’ve probably noticed AI sneaking its way into brand strategies left and right. Some folks are waving the AI flag, claiming it’s a game-changer that turbocharges customer experiences and makes operations smoother than butter on toast. Meanwhile, others hang back, raising eyebrows, giving AI the side-eye. It’s a classic case of mixed emotions in the world of business and consumers. AI in branding? Some are stoked, others are sceptical, and it’s sparked quite the conversation.

Missing The Mark

There is cause for caution. Off the top of our heads, we look at the recent debacle in a popular Malaysian radio station. In October, Fly FM’s venture into AI-powered radio DJs left audiences with a hefty dose of disappointment. Introducing an AI radio DJ didn’t quite hit the high notes for listeners. In fact, it caused a noticeable dip in brand sentiment.

Source: CARMA

Later, it was reported that during the slot when the AI DJ took the mic, Fly FM’s listenership experienced a rather sharp plunge. On the flipside, the show timings hosted by real, flesh-and-blood human DJs continued to thrive, with listenership remaining high. Representatives were quick to call the event a ‘radio stunt’, emphasising that they are aware of the preference for real radio announcers.

“As a brand, it was part of a radio stunt, and we are pleased with the outcome that audiences still love our Fly FM team, and that we don’t have to switch to an all-AI radio team."

This turn of events serves as a reminder that when it comes to radio, the human touch still reigns supreme in capturing hearts (and ears).

What Makes Gen Z Tick

So how can brands incorporate AI into their strategies with grace?
Knowing your audience is key. Let’s spotlight a hot demographic these days: Gen Z. They operate on a distinct set of values that dictates the way they respond to marketing campaigns and brand messages. But what drives such consumer behaviour? A deep dive into Gen Z’s psyche reveals insight that can guide how brands curate their messages for this audience.

Numbers report that Gen Z is the loneliest generation in the world. The digital landscape, saturated with picture-perfect, manicured feeds crafted primarily by millennials, leaves Gen Z feeling adrift in a sea of carefully filtered moments. In response, they’ve forged their own distinct trend – deliberately sharing low-quality, blurry images on social media. Popularised by celebrities like Khloe Kardashian, this isn’t merely an artistic choice; it’s a direct rebellion against the gloss and sheen of their predecessors. Gen Z showcases a deep desire to break through facades, to be real and raw, and to establish connections grounded in authenticity rather than perfection.

Unfiltered Realness

When it comes to brands, Gen Z is all about the real deal. This attitude contributes to the popularity of apps like BeReal, which sets a 2minute window period for users to snap a picture of what they’re doing only once during the day. This limited countdown ensures that there is no time to ‘fake’ a post, forcing users to be raw and unfiltered about their content in real time. BeReal’s very first global campaign to find the “Realest Person on Earth” is all about celebrating genuine, authentic folks. By promoting these “real” people and their stories, the campaign celebrates genuine human experiences and encourages a collective shift towards more authentic connections and behaviours. BeReal’s campaign is a rallying cry for sincerity in an age of digital illusion, and Gen Z is loving it.

A Call For Dialogue

Brands, therefore, must be discerning about using AI when it comes to generating rapport with this generation. The path to meaningful connection with Gen Z lies in community, collaboration, and communication.

“You are co-creating with your audience—not treating them as guinea pigs but as partners.”

Coca-Cola hits the sweet spot with their Real Magic campaign, where they posted an open call to encourage artists to use the company’s creative library to produce AI-assisted art. By leveraging on transparency and collaboration, Coca-Cola showcases how artists and AI can come together, fostering goodwill instead of backlash. Their campaign reinforces that AI and human creativity can complement each other instead of cancelling each other out.

Source: Coca-Cola

Transparent communication and dialogue with audiences are essential. The difference between Coca-Cola and Fly FM’s AI stints is that Coca-Cola invited open, honest collaboration, while the surprise appearance of Fly FM’s AI DJ might have come across as blindsiding to its loyal base of listeners.

Fly FM’s AI radio DJ experiment serves as a reminder that technology, while impressive, can’t fully embody the depth and nuances of human creativity. By maintaining an open and authentic dialogue with their audience, brands can bridge the gap between the digital and real worlds.

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