The W(ai)ld West

Apr 18, 2024

Brand Mascots in the era of AI.

by Bill Frohlich

I won’t be the first, or the last person to tell you that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is upending industries. No one is safe, least of all brands. And brands with mascots, watch your back! No longer confined to traditional ads thanks to the last technological revolution (social media), these characters are emerging as increasingly dynamic and strategic marketing tools, able to adapt to evolving consumer preferences. Their level of interactivity and responsiveness will soon enable them to move at the speed of culture — the speed of memes and viral trends.

KNOCK! KNOCK! That sound is AI banging on the doors of marketing teams the world over — figuratively speaking for the time being (fingers crossed). Advances in technology, particularly in AI and virtual reality, will present brands and their mascots with once unimaginable opportunities to become more immersive and more personalized. Interactive chats could soon bring mascots to life in real-time conversations, enhancing customer engagement and satisfaction. 

One day soon, even brands with sizable marketing budgets or expert personnel will pale in comparison to AI’s ability to capture the cultural zeitgeist. This critical shift could have mascots transcending their original roles and achieving relevance never before seen.

At the start of this year, popular Sesame Street character Elmo innocently asked the internet, “How is everyone doing?” Cue the avalanche of online catharsis! The post quickly went viral with millions of views and tens of thousands of replies to an unsuspecting Elmo. It was giving all the feels! The range of respondents were vast — everyone from The United Nations and President Biden to beloved consumer brands like Oreo and AriZona Iced Tea. Now, fast forward and imagine this same scenario a few years from now, with brand mascots powered by AI chiming in. Let the hilarity, viral moments and brand building opportunities ensue. 

Moreover, the integration of augmented reality (AR) offers exciting possibilities for consumer interaction with mascots in physical spaces. We could soon “meet” our favorite mascots in a retail environment or through a mobile app, creating unique and memorable brand experiences.

The era of AI is ushering in a new chapter for brands & their marketing teams, marked by adaptability, interactivity and a focus on engagement. But also, uncertainty. Will this new era be as transformative as the internet? Will it open up brands to unforeseen risks? The future remains, through time eternal, a big unknown. But as technology continues to advance, I’m confident it will be a wild ride.

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