Disclosure: This blog post was written by humans.
It’s fair to say that AI has sucked the oxygen out of the room amongst consumer insights professionals. A year ago the metaverse was all the rage. Before that it was platforms; everything in platforms! But since the launch of ChatGPT, it seems the world cannot move fast enough to explore the new frontier of AI. As with all new technology, we know the promises are hyperbole, the initial hype will fade and the reality will be less than what was promoted. Some even predict the AI bubble will burst (hello, cryptocurrency). Only time will tell.
What we know for sure is that AI is here to stay for good and for bad, and for the insights industry we can begin to imagine some of the long term consequences that non-human intelligence will have on the ability to develop consumer insights for brands.
Perhaps the most important aspect for insights and for marketing is authenticity. To make impactful connections with consumers, brands need real authentic insights, not made-up stuff. Everyone knows that consumer insight is only as good as the data from which it is developed. If it’s garbage in, it will be garbage out. For the past 100 years, market research has relied on two basic techniques when it comes to data collection: making observations and asking questions. In the age of AI, some anticipate we may very well forgo the consumer and let generative AI do the job. Why ask consumers when you can just as well ask AI and get answers quickly.
The inconvenient truth that no one wants to hear is that the answers you get from AI are sourced from a hodgepodge of data, some good and some bad. The case in point is NY lawyer Steven A. Schwartz’ unfortunate use of ChatGPT in a real legal brief for a case in Federal District Court, only to be outed by the false judicial opinions and legal citations generated by the platform (https://www.nytimes.com/2023/06/08/nyregion/lawyer-chatgpt-sanctions.html). Mr. Schwartz provides an epic cautionary tale.
When examining the answers AI provides, it’s practically impossible to distinguish the good data from the bad data so it’s hard to separate impactful insights from nonsense. What further complicates matters is that data made up by bots may have little or no connection to human truths at all. The real risk is if we let AI be the answering machine to our marketing decisions, we’ll end up with mediocre regurgitated insights that provide little value to business. There is probably no faster way to make the insights function obsolete and shut down.
Savvy organizations understand the limitations of AI and recognize that it is an aid that enhances our ability to understand consumers and their motivations. But it does not replace the need to bring consumers along the research journey, uncovering their lived experiences and hearing their authentic consumer voice.
The good news about AI is that it vastly improves our ability to gather meaningful data and capture authentic consumer stories when deployed as an aid to the capable researcher. AI further enables market researchers to quickly understand vast amounts of authentic consumer stories in ways that were unimaginable only a few years ago.
Protobrand has demonstrated that with the use of AI we can go further and go faster with real consumers providing their authentic voices at the very center of insights development. This elevation of authentic consumer voice transforms a brand’s ability to make meaningful and impactful connections with consumers.