Can AI generate emotionally driven brands?

sector - media & technology
Artificial intelligence is learning to read and copy human emotions, but while AI can mimic, it can't experience emotions firsthand.


Since generative AI’s centre-stage arrival in the public arena, there is industry-wide (and media-hyped) anxiety that it’s coming for our jobs as creative thinkers. As with other breakthrough technologies throughout history – electricity, the internet, the sewing machine – this is nothing new.

Conversations that explore all implications of new technology – and safeguard humans – are important, if often a few decades too late. Today there are countless articles debating what this next technological frontier means for job security in the creative industry. This isn’t one of them. I am neither a policymaker nor an engineer. I am a brand strategist. My role is to find insight in information, building ideas that have the potential to inspire imagination and stir emotions. Try explaining that to a grandparent.

Inter-generational differences aside, the question put to me was simple: how can AI enable more emotionally driven brands?

I’ll cut to the chase and give you my immediate answer: it can’t.

Why? The power to trigger the innately human experience of emotion lies in the equally human ability to empathise, interpret and reframe. Great brands move people. They tap into what hearts desire and invite people to imagine versions of themselves and the world that aren’t yet real. It’s curiosity, empathy and ingenuity that make us feel ecstatic, proud, hopeful, purposeful, excited and beautiful. Machines are learning to read and copy human emotions. The potential impact of this is incredible. But while they can mimic, machines cannot think. Let alone laterally. AI doesn’t have the ability to imagine, and it can’t connect to the zeitgeist in ways that feel entirely of the moment, because it doesn’t feel at all.

The more nuanced response to whether AI will lead to more emotionally driven brands lies in the question. Specifically, the word ‘enable’. AI is a tool.

Published by:

8 August 2023

Author: Camilla Hunt

Image: Volkswagen, Brazil


POST 2023 by Sander Coers explores the intersection of constructed memories and perceptions of masculinity in visual culture through the use of AI-generated imagery, The Netherlands

AI as a mirror

When we began to explore Generative AI, many of us experimented to find out what fictional brand strategies it might create - and were disappointed by the results. Sometimes that’s because prompt engineering is a new skill for most. To get insightful answers, we need to learn to ask the likes of ChatGPT and DALL-E the right questions. But if the responses are scraped from existing data, we have a bigger problem: we don’t like what we see in the AI-looking glass. Reflecting back at us is the homogeneity we’ve been putting out into the world in the name of creativity. Generative AI has brought us to the realisation that a lot of what we do plays into tropes and category cues, replicating patterns and perpetuating stereotypes. This is a gift.

Generative AI is a powerful tool that can challenge us to do better. It can serve the initial input that acts as a catalyst for ideas. It can be a collaborator, assisting in the creative process and freeing our minds. While its future role is still being defined, this is as far as it takes us for now.

Creativity is a precious resource, and it belongs to us. The ability to inspire and rouse emotion in ways that truly resonate remains inherently human. Our responsibility is to eradicate uniformity, push the boundaries of our imagination and make the leap from good to great.

‘Great brands move people. They tap into what hearts desire and invite people to imagine versions of themselves and the world that aren’t yet real.'
Camilla Hunt, senior strategist at FutureBrand

Want to read more?
Become a member today!

Get unlimited access to a hive of insights - from microtrends and macro trends to market reports, daily news, research across ten key industry sectors and much more.

Discover our membership

Already a member? Click here to login