Friday, July 12, 2019

The Other AI: How Aesthetic Intelligence Can Transform Your Brand

When you see or hear the word AI, we guess you believe it's synonymous with artificial intelligence.

Naturally, it does.

But the first thing that comes to mind when we believe about AI is not artificial intelligence.

AI also relates to aesthetic intelligence for us.

We call it the other AI – aesthetic intelligence.

Let's explore aesthetic intelligence — what it is, why it is essential to your company, how it can offer you an advantage over your competitors and examples of businesses with highly aesthetic IQ

What is Aesthetic Intelligence?

Let us begin with what aesthetic intelligence is not because the term aesthetic is loaded with pre-confined connotations.

While the design is essential, we're not talking about design. We also don't talk about beauty, because aesthetics can sometimes be less than lovely, at least in the standard definition of beauty, but still absolutely convincing, interesting, and pleasurable.

Aesthetics is the joy we derive through our senses from the perception of an item or experience.

It may include visual beauty, but it also appeals to our other senses— like cashmere's plush texture, an alto's sonorous timbre, a scrumptious meal, or an aromatic perfume.

The capacity to produce beauty is not necessarily aesthetic intelligence, because it would refer to art or creativity.

Aesthetic intelligence is our capacity to comprehend, interpret, and articulate emotions elicited by an item or experience in specific.

Essentially, the formation of "taste" is aesthetic intelligence— the capacity to discern what is desirable and why and how to achieve it.

Things begin to get really interesting when you apply aesthetic intelligence to commerce.

Aesthetic Intelligence and Commerce

It requires a lot of empathy to apply aesthetics to a product or service and to obtain the correct emotional indications so that customers are interested in purchasing.

You need to consider not just what arguments you can make — or what phrases you can use to convince shoppers to purchase your product or service— but what you can do to communicate on a human level with them.

We have to remember that the vast majority of products and services are purchased by individuals, not machines. People are emotional and make choices based mainly on how they feel that product or service.

In many cases, connecting with them on an emotional level requires more than just a digital forum.

The cosmetics industry knows this very well.

Many of the finest cosmetic brands grew by providing free samples to shoppers because they knew that their claims to offer excellent goods were only validated once customers had the chance to experience them firsthand— their feeling, their smell, their impact on the skin.

Whether offering a gift in a department store with purchases or even providing testers through magazine sense strips, individuals reacted to their products sensorily rather than logically.

Many people became loyal customers during this process.

If you want to distinguish yourself from your e commerce competitors, you need to begin thinking about ways to incorporate more senses into your own digital business proposal, because the digital environment only touches one and a half of the five senses: powerful graphics and modest sound.

Sound doesn't even get a complete vote of confidence in e commerce because the sound quality is poor on many appliances compared to listening to state-of – the-art Bose speakers, for instance, so the audible experience of engaging with an internet brand is still diluted.

But imagine the distinction it would create if in the shopping experience of your clients you appealed to just one more sense — if your competitors were armed with only sights and sounds, but you could also provide a tactile experience.

The playing field would be tipped in your favour

Applying aesthetic intelligence to your brand can be a real game-changer, but it needs a concerted and intentional effort to cultivate and elevate it.

The first step in creating aesthetic intelligence is reconnecting with your senses and unblocking some of the stuff we tend to block for survival purposes.

Once you begin to receive and experience these inputs again, the second step is to start deciphering and developing a point of view— just as you do in other areas of your lives about how distinct components can come together.

Then you have to edit and curate these aesthetic inputs, which is similarly essential, or the experience will be overwhelming and muddled.

The idea of aesthetic intelligence can become really difficult when you add e commerce to the equation because the objective is not just to provide an excellent experience for clients at the time.

The objective is to create anticipation for a good experience and leave excellent memories of the experience to clients. We refer to this as “the halo effect” of great aesthetics. (What is the halo effect? “The halo effect is a type of immediate judgement discrepancy, or cognitive bias, where a person making an initial assessment of another person, place, or thing will assume ambiguous information based upon concrete information – Wikipedia”).

Where e commerce Companies Go Wrong

Not only must your brand interactions be outstanding and aesthetically pleasing; they must also be continuously outstanding throughout the trip of clients.

There's a lot of e commerce businesses going wrong here.

Many businesses are so focused on the transaction as to how to get a shopper from homepage to checkout.

The brand experience is over as quickly as the client checks out.

But obviously, there shouldn't end the connection.

The truth is that most individuals recall a brand — and why they come back — because the experience emotionally resonated.

Brands that master aesthetic intelligence have a profound emotional connection with customers to the point that they would not consider shopping for that product or service anywhere else.

Leadership and Aesthetic Intelligence

We believe that aesthetic intelligence begins at the top.

Do not outsource aesthetics to the creative team. CEOs also need to have aesthetic skills.

Fewer and fewer businesses can get away with treating their products or services as commodities, just as very few CEOs would get away with stating, "Well, I'm just going to outsource all the economic and strategic procedures to the CFO." A CEO has to own the output and demonstrate true expertise in all critical areas. A good CEO also needs to have a taste, which doesn't mean he or she needs to be able to perform aesthetic decisions.

Execution may fall into the hands of a creative department or other functional or artistic talent, but being able to understand what quality is — in a manner that Steve Jobs did and still does Howard Schultz — is an enormous differentiator for a business and it has to begin with the leader.

If the CEO and other business leaders don't have the empathy to think about how a customer will feel when experiencing their product, they won't have a lot of market benefit.

In reality, a robot will eventually overtake them.

It's really a human benefit to have excellent aesthetics and it's innate.

But as we go through life, partly because we compartmentalize and partly because we’re overcome with so much sensory input in our daily lives, we often become numb to it.

One of the key responsibilities of a CEO is to clearly communicate how every employee, regardless of role, can contribute to making the brand more aesthetically exciting and valuable to customers.

Let’s look at a few examples of aesthetically intelligent businesses.

1. Airbnb.

Airbnb is one of the best examples we’ve seen of a company differentiating itself online through really good aesthetic decision-making and application of aesthetic intelligence.

Airbnb didn’t invent the model of renting out homes and other spaces.

That really started 20 years earlier with Craigslist, but Craigslist’s problem was that it was a fairly low-cost option and not one that people would choose for a rich experience when they were travelling.

People went to Craigslist because it was a quick and easy way to reserve a bed for the night.

Airbnb was founded by two graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design.

Rather than coming from the technology space, they came out of a design mentality and took the industry by storm.

They cracked the code on building engaging websites for short-term lodging rentals. In addition to generally being user-friendly, Airbnb masterfully creates a sense of delight and desire for exploration. From the images they select to their font choices to the way users navigate through the system, Airbnb stimulates people’s imaginations.

2. Disney.

Disney is a learning organization. Their R&D centre, which they call Imagineering, is constantly coming up with new ways to delight customers.

Disney spends a lot of money to have a couple of thousand people working in a lab-like environment because they know that if they didn’t continue to create new ways to delight customers, people wouldn’t go back to Disneyland or Disney World or even watch a Disney movie.

It’s the reason the company has been able to keep the magic going for more than 70 years after Walt Disney passed away. Disney does an excellent job of consistently delivering on the actual experience but also, just as importantly, on the anticipation and memory of it.

Half of the fun of going to Disneyland or Disney World is what happens when you’re in the park and you’re waiting to get on the next roller-coaster. But the other half is what happens weeks before you even get on the plane—when you’re thinking about going on the trip and you see how excited the kids are.

There’s a huge build-up before you even get to Orlando or Anaheim, and the memories you make aren’t just relived the day after you’ve left the park. The memories remain for years—indeed, often for a lifetime.

Companies need to follow Disney’s lead and be much more mindful about keeping memories alive.

They need to think about ways to get people to not only be excited about the experience, but so excited that they want to come back.

3. Gucci.

Millennials are spending more on experiences than they are on just individual commodity products, and this shift has been especially evident in the luxury industry.

The fastest growing segments in the luxury market are not products, like handbags and shoes, but experiences like fine dining and travel.

Gucci, the famous luxury brand in the fashion world, is bucking this trend by actually selling an experience.

The reason consumers are currently compelled to shop at Gucci isn’t that their bags are capable of carrying a different number of items than a Louis Vuitton or Balenciaga bag.

It’s the emotional connection customers have with Gucci and the experience of shopping with the brand, which is just as essential as the bag they’re buying.

Sell an Experience, Not a Commodity

These three brands are just a few of the many examples of organizations leveraging extraordinary aesthetics to consistently delight customers and keep them coming back.

Through their focus on aesthetics, innovation, and connecting with people on an emotional level, they’ve transformed their business in ways that make them indispensable to their customers.

They know that people rarely buy products and services for logical reasons. There’s always an emotional impulse behind it, and good marketing and branding tap into that.

Regardless of the business, you’re in, always bring as much of yourself into the equation as possible.

That’s your differentiator and what makes your business intriguing to shoppers.

It’s your voice, your belief system, your commitment, and your general reason for being, so never let anyone tell you it has to be reserved for the “personal” part of your life. The business should be personal as well.

And remember to focus on selling an experience—not just a product—that is informed by rich aesthetics. If you do it right, customers will reward you with their business and their loyalty.

Source Credit: Pauline Brown, Author/Lecturer/Advisor

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