The importance of AI and technology to modern brand building.


In this episode, James and Paul talk about how technology and particularly AI have made consumer-led research and insights accessible to a wider range and size of business. 

In a world where consumers expect to be part of a brands DNA, it is important that businesses know how to access insights about their customers and how to then interpret this information to help grow and drive relevance with their audience. James and Paul unpack what different types of consumer intelligence can look like and ways to think about applying this data, even in the most simple of scenarios.


Dr James Piecowye: Hello, I’m James Piecowye.

Paul Kelly: I am Paul Kelly.

James: And this is ‘Know your audience’. I’ve got a dilemma here. And the dilemma is we have spoken a lot about artificial intelligence, we’ve spoken about sentiment, we’ve spoken about how this all works for larger companies. And, you know, we’ve talked about oils and butters and cars, and the list goes on and on. There are enormous number of people who are listening to this going, okay, but you know, I’ve got two shops that are selling some electronic goods, one of them’s in the Dubai Mall, all the other ones that Al Meziah. And how does this help me at all?

Paul: If you wind that back and look at, I guess what we’re talking about here, which is really AI enabled consumer intelligence or consumer research or consumer, whatever. And then, you know, we talk about that as an audience rather than an actual consumer. But if you look at the enablement and what that word means, and we’ve talked a lot about in other episodes, encourage people to go back about what AI means and how it is. But what it enables is consumer research to happen in ways that could never have been done before. And I’m talking here about panels and research and what people think or surveys, or smaller businesses….

James: So its getting very niche, it starts to get very drill down into very narrow areas. Is that what you’re ….

Paul: Yeah, what I’m saying is it brings scale to niches, okay, just like counterintuitive is as a phrase. 

James: Let’s pause for a second, when we say scaling, our research, what are we talking about?

Paul: Well, if you’re using your example of a two shop, electronic retailer, you’re everybody’s, let’s imagine that electronic retailer sells phones, everybody’s a customer, it would be possible at any point in the past, or, indeed right now to use traditional research methods about how people, what they’re into what, what features they liked the most about their phones, what apps they use, well, maybe what apps they use is available separately, but how they use their phones, what brands they love, in terms of perception, not necessarily their wallets, there’s usually a difference, right? Like, sometimes people just have different affordability points, all that sort of stuff. So product mix, right, all that sort of thing, you would only get that data either from a manufacturer, where that data will invariably be biased, or perhaps a wholesaler and telling you off the cuff, you know, these ones are selling great, but you don’t know that until you put them into his shelf, right. And there’s no other real way of getting so traditional research methods just wouldn’t be worth it, you know, you’d be paying a lot. Yeah, like, you’d be paying a lot. 

James: No one’s gonna pay that 

Paul: As a percentage of your revenue, right? 

James: No one’s paying that money 

Paul: No, why would you, it doesn’t make any sense. You know, your customer, you know, your customer, basically. And then you try and get some feedback through either talking to them, or maybe…

James: And talking to other retailers. And as you said, going back that full circle to the people who are distributing and talking to everyone. 

Paul: Or if you’re, let’s say, a two restaurant or three restaurants, you might be putting a customer survey with the bill, you know, those types of things, we try and force feedback. What this enables you to do is for a much smaller, like investment is to understand trends and things at a much bigger scale. So if you want to scale your business, in the sense of maybe you want to go from two to four shops, and to do that you really need to drive sales, it’s not just about you know, there’s a lot of other things, retail location, etc. You know, I’m not just talking about that, but perhaps you can hit a niche with your marketing that you know, can unlock more sales, more customers, more footfall, all that type of thing. If you can understand those consumers, what they thinking what they want, what they feel, you can perhaps tailor your message on your, even down to flyers and things like that a bit better. Or you can get your product mix, right, you can get your retail experience a bit more right to sort of encourage sales a lot more, you can train your people. Even as simple as that, you know, like if you’ve got people in the different shops. 

You can’t really do that unless you’ve got great information, right? And there would be no way possible that a two person store would be able to, for instance, get a survey of 7 billion people at all, that’s not gonna happen. 

But what AI does is enabled that. It enables us to analyse, say, 7 million people I mean, I’m using extreme exemption here obviously, but you might be enables us to examine what 7 million people’s attitudes towards mobile phones are. And those patterns stick things I talked about, like what’s trending what’s not what’s important, like what are people using their phone, like, you know, what length of videos are they shooting, therefore, what size you know, storage is important to them like 

What music apps are they using, you can get that elsewhere I guess from App any one of those, but like you can, through this kind of data, you can, you can at least analyze, within a click, or a couple of clicks, (let’s say a little bit of time), that kind of level of information for an outlay that isn’t anywhere near what a consumer service survey would be, you know, there’s off the shelf ready made stuff that you could survey, and we’ve talked in other episodes about language and all of that. But if you’re at that scale, that’s not important. 

So for, I don’t know, 40/50 bucks a month or something you can, you can buy a platform that will at least give you this basic level of you know what I mean, and that’s all being enabled by AI. And what it enables it means that in niches, you can expand your pool of your sample size to find out you know, and or define your niche a lot better, and your whitespace for your communications and all that sort of thing, and what people in other countries are doing, you know, and then as you grow, you can get more sophisticated and you can start to look at language, for example, we talked earlier, in another episode about language. 

And you can look at, for instance, in Arabic, for example, the dialects usually infers nationality. Usually, yeah, it’s not, it’s right, it’s a very much a ‘generalistism’. Sorry, that’s, I don’t want to be overly generalist about that statement. But it is true. To a certain extent, we get the percentage likelihood. But you can be pretty certain that if somebody’s making Egyptian dialect in Kuwait, that they’re likely to be probably Egyptian. 

And the same could be true for any other culture, then you can start to see what that group of people is? What are they really interested in? Right? What’s the barriers towards something? Or like I’m making the best Levantine cuisine in the Middle East? Or sorry, in Kuwait? I don’t have any customers. How can I get more? …. well, actually, the people who I thought were my customer who are from, let’s say, Lebanon, or Jordan, or, or Palestine, or somewhere, they’re not actually that they want to eat other foods? Right. Okay, because it could actually be the Kuwaitis or the Westerners that I’m going to attract, because this is the authentic taste of Lebanon or whatever. That’s just common sense. But you can take you get what I mean, you can pick that stuff up at scale with data for not a huge outlay, and allows you to (within a niche) to sort of then unlock the possibilities. And I think at that scale, not a lot of people know about this kind of technology.

James: I mean, I’m just thinking of an example who myself, I’m thinking, let’s use Dubai, yeah. And let’s use the metro line. And let’s use I’ve got a couple of shops set up, and I’m trying to figure out why people aren’t buying my tea. And, you know, it might be specific, yeah, that’s some fancy tea that I’m putting together. And I, you know, everyone’s gonna know, it’s like, oh, this is coming from whatever place, and everyone loves it, and everyone’s gonna buy it. And it’s not selling. Yeah. And so then by using these tools in this niche, I might be able to discover well hold on a second. Maybe it’s not they don’t like the tea, maybe it’s the packaging, maybe it’s who’s coming through. And there’s something with the name that I’ve used that ……

Paul:  Using something that yeah, the title of the show, ‘Know your audience’, but something we’ve talked a lot about in this series of audience intelligence, you can begin to build a profile of who that person is. So you can use my ideal customer? And then where are they? Yeah, not physically, but perhaps even just digitally? Where are they? And how do I reach them sorry?

Yeah, where can I find them? And where can I be where they are. And it might be like what you said, it’s about, you know, perhaps doing a smart piece of yoga, I’m gonna spend a very small amount of marketing, maybe the most effective way is to get my, that tea into those people’s hands, and you know, what, they’re at a certain market, or they’re at a certain…

James: They’re all getting off at the same stops there. So that’s, I’ve got a, 

Paul: Yeah, or they’ve got a particular office building, you know, like, and you can use this information to really unlock those kinds of insights. And then that scales all the way up. 

We’re talking, you know, we’ve been talking a lot in this series about big things like, fast moving consumer goods, right? Banks, all that sort of stuff, but it’s just as applicable, at a very small scale to, or even to a home business and selling online, that some of this stuff can really unlock. But you’ve got to know, you’ve got to know what you want, and how to use it, you know what I mean? Or otherwise, you got to be disappointed. And that’s a big barrier. And I’m not gonna lie, is that is not an accessible thing unless you sit down and learn how to use this stuff and how to infer data. 

So like we’ve talked about a lot, data isn’t an insight, insights are not data, you can’t conflate the two. And yeah, if you can sit down and understand that, which doesn’t take a lot, you know, there’s loads of stuff online about what an insight is, and if you start if you’re a business owner, or maybe you’ve got a small marketing role in one of these, I guess a smaller business, you can learn this stuff very easily. There’s loads of courses online that are next to free if not free about how and what an insight is, and how to get insight from data. And once you unlock that, with a basic foundational level of marketing knowledge, I think you can really start to connect very powerful things together, and it just gives you an ability to scale something just would never have been possible before.

James: I like the idea that I can skill something that might not have been possible before. But I can also be, as you said, running something out of my home. Yeah, yeah. And suddenly, I’ve got access to these tools that the other home business people might not be accessing. Exactly. I haven’t thought about it. 

Paul: Yeah, exactly. And it’s not necessarily going to like a very large software provider who does this stuff, because it will be out of your reach. But there are a number of tools that are kind of halfway tools, which you can search, for instance, like Google for social listening tools, and try and filter out the ones that fit your budget, then it’s about managing your expectations to the budget of what the capability is something that offers a trial is a great way. But then, before you embark on any of that, just learn what insight means. And how you can get that from data so that you’re not just looking at data and go, Wow, this is a trend. You know, it’s just it’s a natural, sometimes people look at social data and see something growing, but like, that’s an expected behavior, because platforms generally grow. Some stagnate and flatten and things like that. But if conversation of, I don’t know, what can we think of like, shoes? 

James: Sure, that sort of home businesses that, you know, home business is going to be making? Bags X,

Paul: Yes. Okay. That’s a great one. And so bags or apparel, that conversation, you might use one of these platforms and say it’s growing, it’s growing, and then this audience, it’s about you have to then step back and go, okay, is the total conversation growing anyway? And is the progression staying that actually the same? You can be misled by data? So you’ve got to, that’s where you,

James: Because data doesn’t give you answers? It just gives you things to (Paul: information points), it makes decisions. 

Paul: And then if you understand what the Insight actually is, is that, wow, as a total proportion, that’s actually shrinking a little bit because people are getting tired of you know, and then you start to analyse what people are saying, and they’re getting tired of fast fashion or something. And you’re offering something a little bit more bespoke, or something more interesting or something with a bit more genuine heritage or whatever that might be whatever that USP is, you’re able to go ‘Oh, wow’, so actually people on this platform, like, for instance, Twitter, or Instagram saying, are getting tired of, you know, fast fashion, for example, a big name retailer that’s just selling bags for 10 dirhams, or dollars or whatever. But you’ve got a really unique offering, maybe it’s double the price, but the unique offering is really tickets. It’sall made for men. 

James: It’s all made from recycled products. Yeah, I’m reusing stuff. And they’re a little more expensive. 

Paul: And you might think your message is what you’ve just said. But actually, what people are more interested in is perhaps the unique nature of it, right to get them in. So instead of it being on my messages, it’s made from recycled products and sustainable and it’s friendly, future friendly. Maybe people don’t actually care about what they’re caring about is standing out from everybody else. Yeah. Okay, I guess. 

So, your core message is ‘look different to everyone else’. And then your sub message is, ‘and to the planet’. So you’re making someone feel good about their choice. But that choice is being driven or sorry, their attention is being grabbed or stolen, or whatever you want to call by the fact that I could be really different in this one of a kind thing, but it’s only going to cost me 20 bucks. 

Because every one is different. Yeah, like one of those things. So you know, or leather goods is another one, which is a lot of the times they understand that it’s a natural, natural things. Always nothing looks the same. Yeah, like wood or leather. And they age differently. 

James: Bespoke artwork (Yeah) ,like earrings and a lot of metallurgists who are doing great stuff.

Paul: Yeah. And what you might be finding is instead of it being like, it’s bespoke, in that case, it might be actually the quality, it could be a quality, you know what I mean? Right? Yeah, unlock that. Because you think as a business person, that your USP is the recycling Earth, nature of your bag, or the bespoke metal designs. 

James; But you know where you see this happen all the time. And the failure of this happen all the time, is when you’ve got this Mom and Pop home idea. It’s kind of a hobby that we’re now going to try and make into, you know, a side hustle. And then you go to a market. And you know, there’s all sorts of, you know, maker markets out there, and you set up your stall and you’ve got everything done exactly what you’ve said, you’ve pitched it this way, and no one buys anything.

And you think …. why, are they buying anything? Well, you can access some data.

Paul: Yeah. Because people, fundamentally are irrational. And if you’re trying to put rationality into any person’s behavior, it doesn’t work like that, you know, like people are, it always gets back to marketing 101 – nobody’s ever in the market for any product, ever. Right? Like, it’s just what it is. 

So I think with energy drinks is a great example, I think, what is it like on average, the entire population, even though the penetration of energy drinks might be like, say, 80%, or 80% of people buy an energy drink. But they might only buy that frequency once a year. That’s the average. And then heavy users account for obviously, the most of the sales, but on average, somebody just buys one of them. And everyone’s so surprised about that. But then think about your own behavior about how often you might buy dishwashing soap, or, you know, anything

James: I’m just still caught on the energy drinks, because I never buy them.

Paul: No, no, ever, no, you know how to do it. And you’ll find a lot of people but you see, that’s where marketing comes into it, right? Because when you understand that, you need to understand that you need to be in as many places as possible, right to capture that. So it’s about, you know, and then you get into the foundations of this concept of physical mental availability. Small business can’t do that. You don’t have the infrastructure, nobody or the money. 

James: I’m too busy making the product. I don’t have time to be doing this. Yeah, but the data is available and accessible.

Paul: And when and if you’re not applying, if you’re applying rational thought to human behavior, what is generally irrational, which marketers or big companies get because they understand right, (James: and they’ve got a lot of people doing that)  and that certain data points, yeah, they’re selling like, you know, a lot of this stuff too real had (James; They’ve had a lot of failures to get to the point where they are). Exactly. 

And if you, you might just think, Well, that didn’t work. And then that’s it, right? Maybe that’s not what it is. Maybe it’s about beginning this process and saying, Well, you know, trying a few different platforms, and maybe you spend, I don’t know, $100 to $200, but like, the time that save you and just because you’ve invested time, like you don’t get time back, you know, you meant money you can get back the time you can never get back. So don’t give up. It might be the way something’s been sold.

James: It’s smart business. You’re doing it in a smart way. 

Paul: It still might not work. 

James: But at least you have an idea of some insight to guide you. 

Paul: It was never available before. And it’s available.  And it’s just crazy. Not crazy. It’s just we need to educate people that this technology is out there. That technology is available. Micro scales for low costs through to the huge software companies in the world bring build this stuff bespoke for, you know, like the SAPs and things of the world build this stuff bespoke for giant corporations and hundreds and millions of whatever. But at a small scale, you don’t need to, you know, think it’s too much. It’s not, it’s just like, if you’re inherently a maker or something like that, then you’re building something that you think people will like, they probably will, you’ve just got to find them. Here we go. And this is really interesting. Yeah, so small, big doesn’t matter. Do it? Do it. ‘Know your audience’ 

James: ‘Know your audience’. I’m James Piecowya. 

Paul: I’m Paul Kelly. 

James: And this is ‘Know your audience’.