Concierge Intelligence & The Fulfilment of The Promise of The Digital Age

The Coming Age of Concierge Intelligence

I believe one of the key directions that Artificial Intelligence will develop over the next decade is what I call “Concierge Intelligence”.

Concierge Intelligence will, to my mind, go a long way towards fulfilling the initial promise of the digital age.

The impetus for the development of Concierge Intelligence will come from two areas of strife.

The Divisive Power of Social & Digital Media

In societies across the world, there is a growing realisation that Facebook, Google and its kin are critical fuelers of fissiparous tendencies.

This power to divide is a result of echo chambers that reinforce tribal tendencies and conspiracy theories.

These echo chambers result from the use of algorithms (algos in tech-speak) that drive engagement.

Everything s Facebook ar a Google does is to increase their advertising sales — their only source of revenue.

Therefore, for change to come, it will have to spring not from regulators but from the hands that feed them — the brands.

The Unfulfilled Promise of Digital Marketing

The consumer marketing world is filled with disquiet.

Though the pandemic has added to the disquiet, the turmoil has been present even before the pandemic struck.

At the core of this disquiet is the increasing share in the marketing budgets of digital marketing.

Let’s define what we mean by digital marketing before we proceed further.

Digital marketing is the marketing of products and services using messaging through digital platforms — social media, other websites and Apps, e-mailers and Influencer marketing (the use of social media accounts and cachet of celebrities)

The Initial Promise of Digital Marketing

Many in the marketing community started out as enthusiastic advocates of digital marketing.

It seemed to hold the promise of better ROIs over the short term and stronger brand-consumer relationships over the more extended period.

They imagined a clearer view of the individual consumer resulting in increasingly sharper and dynamic segmentation.

They looked forward to combining sharper segmentation with the related promise of more focused addressability.

They foresaw a future where digital marketing combined with the promise of flexible manufacturing would lead to an era of custom-designed products and services for sharply defined consumer needs.

Brand managers and advertising agencies began to prepare for a future of dynamic and custom-crafted messaging. They anticipated a move away from the mass-media driven tyranny of addressing the lowest common denominator. They thrilled to the creative freedom to enter into two way communication with real consumers. One-to-one multimedia messaging but at scales that matched mass marketing. Reinforcing this creative excitement was a technology-driven fall in production costs. This enabled brands and agencies to look forward to multiple hand-crafted messages instead of that once-a-season super-expensive TV campaign that had to run for months to justify its production cost.

Today’s Reality of Digital Marketing

As it has evolved over the past decade, the reality of digital marketing has belied most of the high hopes listed above.

Today digital marketing for most brands does not represent access to a more clearly defined target consumer.

Instead, it represents a surrender to the tyranny of the Algos. Algos that hide and obfuscate behind the facade of attribution in terms of “views” and “click-throughs” numbers. Numbers that cloud as much as they reveal.

If most marketers are dissatisfied with digital marketing, the question that emerges is why the share of most brands’ marketing budgets grows, year on year.

The reason for this inexorable growth is, I believe, two-fold.

The rise of digital media is weakening mass media. OTT platforms are stealing away audiences away from linear TV, cinema and radio. Print newspapers and magazines are being decimated by social media and news aggregation.

The result is that big brands are forced to allocate an increasing part of their marketing budgets to digital marketing to even reach their audience.

The other reason why digital marketing is growing at pace is because of the modularity it affords. Smaller brands with smaller budgets can reach out to smaller target markets. This is a positive development fostering increased choice for the consumer. On the flip-side of the coin, is that it also encourages hucksterism and fraud.

The Coming Transformation

After the Arab Spring of a decade ago, social media was much ballyhooed as the force that would bring about and strengthen egalitarianism and democracy in societies across the world. Instead, in nations after nation, social media today is seen as one of the forces feeding tribalism, extremism, encouraging authoritarianism and threatening anarchy. The rallying cry of the likes of Zuckerberg, Dorsey and Pichai seems to be “Surrender your data, and I will feed you, for free, the opium of tribal comfort while putting your psyche to power my advertising revenues, a la The Matrix”.

However, it is my belief that the page will likely turn again, and social media will get back to being a force for good over the coming decade or two. This transformation will come about not just under the gathering onslaught of regulators but also public opinion. I wrote about this in a post-dated April 4th 2020 titled “The Coming Age of AI and IoT as Public Utilities”.

The Age of Concierge Intelligence

My belief is that under an emergent paradigm Individuals will own the data that will be gathered through their digital footprint.

I envisage a time when an individual will own a digital locker where all data gathered through analysis of his digital footprint will be stored.

A brand or a service could request data from this locker on the promise of a quid-pro-quo. It could be in the form of a payment that partly goes to the Data Utility provider, partly to the social media platform that contributed the data and, most importantly, to the individual — the real owner of the data.

The intermediation between data-seekers and the individual will be mediated by a type of Artificial Intelligence product I call “Concierge Intelligence”.

“Concierge Intelligence” will be an AI service that will be owned by the individual and work only for the benefit of the individual.

Much like a house, a car or an electronic device for the use of the individual alone.

The era of Concierge Intelligence will avoid the concerns raised by the age of marketing to bots like Alexa or Sirir that I wrote about in my post of April 25th 2018 titled Marketing to Bots: The Coming Paradigm Shift?”

Concierge Intelligence will instead be the emergence of Ai with an agency. The kind of agency that I wrote about in my post dated June 14th 2019, titled, “Machine Intelligence to Machine Curiosity — The Route to Machine Creativity” as also in my post dated December 19th 2019 titled “Should AI Have Agency”

The individual will buy his Concierge Intelligence (CI) — a software application -from the market and load on to all the devices she uses. It is my belief that CI will be the next big thing in consumer marketing. CI will get to work to learn the consumer’s interests and preferences. The scope and depth of this learning will be set by the individual. I can imagine the emergence of a new form of Yoga — CI Yoga! CI Yoga trainers will coach the individual on how to refine their CI settings for maximum well-being.

CI will be mediate between the world and the individual. It will map your learning patterns and maximise the speed and efficacy of your learning. It will continuously keep a tab on the individual’s inherent talents and emergent capabilities and connect her with opportunities to put these talents and abilities to use, in the process not just maximising her earnings but increasing her sense of self-worth. It will perceive the individual’s relationship and leisure needs and help her meet them. One of the minor duties of CI will be as the gatekeeper to brands and services that seek to message and sell to the individual. While the CI will have powerful capabilities, it will be under the total command of the individual. She can change its functionalities whenever she wants, and even it switch it off if she so desires, much like today’s smartphones.

To my mind, CI will, over the next decade, become the most widely prevalent form of AI. I like to think of a CI as AI with soul. A form of augmented intelligence that fuses an individual’s psyche, with all its complexity and humanity intact, with the power, speed and reach of AI.

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