Can your brand own the Super Bowl?

In the new world of marketing, AI can be an unusual ally

If you are in the marketing space and haven’t noticed the new reality about how you meet your target audience, I’d suggest you may need to get out more.

Billboards worked well during the heyday of suburban living but with more of us continually flocking to cities, their reach isn’t what it was. There was a time when a well-placed TV ad could be the talk of the water cooler the next day. That was at a time when there was only one TV in the house and we used to do things like sit around as a family glued to the machinations of Falcon Crest. I have a six year-old now and can’t remember the last time we watched the same show. Seriously.

So as marketers, where do we meet people now?

With 2.8 billion people actively using social media (up a startling 21% from the prior year), that’s not a bad place to start. But for brands, the straight pay-to-play model is a tricky proposition, especially as so many people turn to social media for direct interaction with other humans.

Which gets us back to our initial question: how can a brand own the Super Bowl? (This event still represents one of the few occasions left when massive numbers of US viewers will actually watch by appointment, even if is live-streamed onto a tablet or other device, rather than potato-couch it in front of the TV). As Fortune points out, throwing money at TV ads doesn’t bring the return it once did.

Enter the world of influencer marketing.

There are many advantages to having an internet big-shot represent you: it humanizes your brand, allowing you to show up with personality rather than as a monolithic entity (which is an issue, no matter how beautiful the kerning on your logo).

But let’s talk about that personality for a minute. If you get that wrong, it’s the equivalent of wearing a ball gown to to pick up your groceries. It creates impact, but perhaps not exactly the reaction you desired. So how exactly can we get the personality right? It’s not like that can be measured… or can it?

Influencer marketing organization Influential is using artificial intelligence to help brands find the right influencers based on personality traits. As CEO Ryan Detert points out,

“Utilizing IBM Watson has made a huge difference in the way that we identify the ideal influencers for a campaign. With IBM Watson, for the first time ever, we can now tap into psychographics to match influencers with brands and companies with a much higher level of precision.”

The result is this:

Psychology traits like gregariousness and cheerfulness help brands match beyond the usual metrics of demographics or age. And once influencers have been matched to a particular campaign, Influential will help the brand identify just the right campaign content for the influencer to share.

The results have been startling: Influential have noticed that by going so deep into the matching process, often the branded content the influencer shares gets much higher engagement than the content the influencer generates on their own. Consider that for a moment. It’s the equivalent of fast-forwarding the show you’re watching to get to the ads. As one example take a look at this fun creative project Rory Kramer put together for the Toyota RAV4:

Now there is one other thing to note on the topic of ‘personality’. If you’ve ever tried to get a Taylor Swift or Jimmy Kimmel for your campaign, you may have realized the expense and other factors such as union lock-ins which come in to play, can make the engagement prohibitive. Influential employs deep analytics to build a massive network of internet celebrities who aren’t well known on traditional media, upending the business model and taking the prima donna quota down a peg or two, while still helping marketers access the kind of niche segment that for too long has just been a dream.

It’s fascinating the degree to which artificial intelligence can transform how brands run their influencer marketing programs, and at the same time help nurture and fund a whole new breed of internet superstars.

There was an old adage in the social media world that having a million followers wouldn’t put dinner on your table and feed your kids. Influential is using AI to change that.

To see more on Influential, check out their latest campaign for Mazda at SXSW.