A new view on chatbots

Skyn, L'Oreal and Hendrick's find inspired uses for their tech.

This article appears in the June 2017 issue of strategy. To keep up with the tech having an impact on the marketing and media world, check out strategy’s weekly Marketing Tech newsletter.

Chatbots are among the buzziest new tech for their ability to facilitate one-to-one, AI-powered interactions between brands and customers. But ask most marketers about their potential applications and they’ll likely talk about how bots will replace call centres. That feels a little uninspired, so we found some ways brands have used chatbots beyond fielding questions and complaints.

Skyn analyzes how sexy your voice is

The second-most cited application for bots is product recommendations, but given the sophistication of AI currently available to brands, many of those bots will simply have users select from a list of answers and prompts, which takes away from the whole personalization aspect. Condom brand Skyn added more of a personal touch to its bot, making recommendations based on an analysis of something totally unique: your voice.

Conceived by Sid Lee Paris and developed in Toronto by Jam3, the bot asks users to create a voice recording of them “dirty talking” (with or without a script provided by the bot). It then analyzes their voice based on four characteristics – “mysterious,” “sensual,” “sophisticated” and “intense” – and uses that to recommend a Skyn condom or lubricant. Product recommendation is the goal for the brand, but as a user, it’s almost secondary to determining how sexy your voice is, according to science.

Hendrick’s helps you adopt a cucumber

Holding a conversation with a machine is already weird, so why not use them to do something even weirder? Ahead of World Cucumber Day on June 14, gin brand Hendrick’s launched a bot that lets people adopt and raise their own cucumber (a signature ingredient of the brand’s gin recipe). A person can name their cucumber, answer questions about how often it’ll be watered and decide what kind of activities it’ll do on its growth path, from listening to poetry to being tickled. From there, they receive updates on the cucumber’s status twice a week, once a week or every two weeks (depending on how dedicated of a vegetable parent you want to be) with the bot speaking in an ornate dialect reminiscent of Hendrick’s Victorian-era branding.

L’Oréal finds the right bot for you

L’Oréal recently developed a series of Facebook Messenger bots as part of a partnership with Montreal-based company Automat. Stephane Bérubé, CMO of L’Oréal Canada, says the company is approaching its bots by looking at the consumer needs the bots might be able to serve, as opposed to the cool things it can do – for example, using bots to help health-conscious customers find (or avoid) products with certain ingredients. Or, in the case of L’Oréal’s “Beauty Gifter,” helping consumers find the perfect present.

Launched in time for Mother’s Day, the “Beauty Gifter” bot asks questions about the person who will receive the gift. It then reaches out to the recipient and asks them a series of questions before coming back to the user with a recommended gift box from a L’Oréal brand. Not only does it capitalize on the increasing popularity of beauty boxes as gifts, it saves you from wondering if all the products inside the box are right for that special someone – or from ruining the surprise by asking yourself.