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Is a state of quasi hypnosis influencing our decision-making abilities?

Oxford Dictionaries’ international word for 2016, which is post-truth actually sums up on how we all have begun to take decisions. Decisions that might be instigated by fake news and influenced by artificial intelligence (AI), but also impact our actual reality.

I remember reading a riveting piece on post-Brexit and US elections about how 2017 is expected to be the year when both marketers and media would focus on rebuilding trust. Core to every brand, unfortunately, is getting challenged and defended virtually every hour these days on social media.

One tweet, one rant, one share… and we all jump right in. Some influenced by fake news, others to fact check, but most to feel like the crusaders and activists. It’s a phenomenon that compels you to think – are brands and its marketers become so vulnerable? Or are we too caught up in the technology spell that was invented to make marketing more intuitive?

Whatever be the cause, the effect is ironically the same as the ‘post-truth’: Circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion, but rather it’s the emotion and personal belief.

Are smartphones making us dumb?

Plus, whether we like it or not smartphones have become our reality. Our news feeds define our point of views and opinions about the world we are living in. Thanks to AI, today it is far easier to ‘make believe’ perceptions, beliefs and actions.

A state of quasi hypnosis is influencing our decision-making abilities, something no brand health or trusted brand study would track.

It’s a phenomenon that celebrated futurists such as Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates warned the Silicon Valley against. As Elon Musk famously quoted “We are summoning the devil.”

True enough, as corporations and marketers ride high on the possibilities that AI brings, in accelerating their business growth, be it understanding or influencing customer emotions, perceptions or opinions – thanks to the nifty bots in play, we are running the risk of losing out on what is the good old (un)common sense of building the foundation of trust.

Sure, the sophisticated AI, virtual reality and algorithms would help harness the post-truth marketing phenomenon for your business growth, but:

Building on trust is something we still can’t rely on technology to do.

As seasoned marketers, we all know that building brand trust requires a multi-dimensional approach that surely can be enhanced by leveraging technology but fundamentally cannot be replaced by our collective acumen and experience.

Trust in the era of post-truth marketing

Speaking from observations and experience,post-truth phenomenon has by far reaching impact on both the emotive and personal belief system of people. It’s a behavior we’ve seen thrown up, for example, rather surprising election results across the world in recent times.

So as hard facts are losing out to softer aspects of emotions and personal belief system, a study published by American Marketing Association on neuroscience marketing has claimed to have found a ‘switch’ in our brains that can ‘turn’ on ‘trust’. Scientifically speaking, it is the release of oxytocin, a neurochemical that emotionally connects us to others by enhancing empathy, which is why it is sometimes called the ‘love hormone’ (think brand love).

Hence, underscoring the power of dialing up on emotions and personal belief systems, something successful brands have been on course with their respective brand truths, sticking by it. Thus, demonstrating a brand’s emotional intelligence would continue to be preferred over its AI.

In addition, walking the talk on one’s brand purpose and truth has never been more in importance than today when during times of uncertainty, consumers inevitably are turning to brands, companies and people they can trust.

Eventually proving the point as quoted by HBR recently: The rise of AI makes emotional intelligence even more important for all of us, as AI has its limitations in replicating – understanding, motivating and interacting with human beings, something a must to build the trust in post-truth era.

The writer is Sailesh Wadhwa, strategy planning director of MullenLowe Malaysia.

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