Why Chatbot Design is the Next Branding Frontier
The chatbot industry is revolutionising many aspects of our society, from customer service to online dating.
In this article, I want to focus on a specific aspect of the revolution that influences every business looking into chatbots today and for the years to come: branding.
We believe chatbot design is fundamentally changing the way businesses will show their brand off to the world. Let's see why this shift is happening and how you can plan a chatbot that follows your company's brand.
A fundamental shift in branding
When you think of branding, what do you see?
Chances are, if you are a 'businessy' type of person, when you think of branding you think of branding in terms of company mission ('what are we trying to achieve?') and brand identity ('who are we?').
If you are a designer, you most likely think of branding in terms of visuals, logo, fonts, etc.
If you are a marketer, you probably think of branding as a mixture of both of the above; somewhere between customer persona (identity/mission) and brand consistency (visuals, colours, tone).
What's new with chatbot design, then?
Chatbots are bringing a completely new aspect of branding into the mix: at scale conversations.
As you develop and release a chatbot that represents your brand, you must think of the ways it will interact with its users (your customers), one on one, at scale.
How will your chatbot reflect your brand?
You've got a logo; check. Visual is taken care of.
You've got a website; check. Visual, colour palettes, and tone of voice are taken care of.
You've got a glossy PR-esque branding document; check. Mission statements, motto, and company vision are taken care of.
You have played with a DIY chatbot builder and are ready to release a custom chatbot made by real professionals.
How do you tell them to incorporate all of the elements above inside this completely new channel that is going to represent your brand and directly interact with your audience?
You, right now.
Fear not, let's walk you through this.
The good news is you have something to work from. As a business, you usually have one or several of the branding elements already in place, so you are not starting entirely from scratch.
Now you need to ask yourself: how do we talk?
While your brand's tone of voice helps you write copy on a website, actually talking through a chatbot is quite a different exercise.
Does your brand chat in a quick succession of short messages (like most humans do)?
Yes, this is the way I chat on Messenger. How does your audience chat?
Does your brand use emojis? If yes, which ones? The poop emoji might fit the interactive AI chatbot of a lifestyle coach but not the FAQ chatbot of a law firm; while the thumbs-up emoji might fit both.
Are you fun and approachable or professional and distant? Does your chatbot have its own little name, fun character, and talks using its users' first names?
What words do you use? Are you more of a 'Welcome to our chatbot, how may we help?' or more of a 'Sup Alex?' type of brand? Do you say 'please' or 'pls'?
As you can see, there is a lot to figure out and for a very good reason: your chatbot will become an extension of your brand.
Good news! Everyone is still figuring it out
This all sounds like a lot of work, so I have good news for you. Actually, I have a few pieces of good news for you.
The first is the obvious one: every single company looking into chatbots right now is trying to figure this out. You are not the only one trying to translate your company branding into a perfect chatbot design.
By reading this article, you are getting a head start on the process. Yay us!
The second, your chatbot design, branding, and conversational UX are not set in stone. They can and should evolve over time.
You may start by releasing a small chatbot that focuses on a very specific aspect of your business with very little interactions. Then, over time, you may expand and add more features, and thus more room for the real branding behind your company to shine.
Finally, there are people out there to help, whether that is us or your PR / web agency. When we take on a new chatbot client, we religiously go through this process with them. We don't give them the answer, but we try to drive the conversation. As a chatbot building company, we need to know how the chatbots we build need to come across.
All of this is an essential part of planning your chatbot. So, how will yours speak?