AI: A lesson in self destruction?

"Disruptive technology should be framed as a marketing challenge, not a technological one"
- Clayton M. Christensen, The Innovator's Dilemma

Let’s talk about Digital Transformation. Better still let’s talk about AI as the future of digital transformation

Digital transformation is all about change. Changing behaviours. At the individual level, at the enterprise level and at the market level

Now change is best understood as 1 part technology and 9 parts culture

The AI trap is very simple

It assumes a future where change is 9 parts technology and 1 part culture

Let me explain

Over the past two decades we have been engaged in the commercialisation of an number AIaaS business models (e.g. Medical, Wealth Management, Accounting & Budgeting, Enterprise Risk, Operational Risk, eCommerce, Logistics, Cyber Risk Insurance, Captive Insurance, Venture Capital and Funds Management)

In each case the technology struggled to gain market traction


The simple answer is nothing scares a well paid professional more than the idea of their 'wealth of experience' sitting in somebody else's pocket

In each case the experts openly rejected the idea of their industry expertise being bundled into a best of breed software package

They rejected the idea of AI as a transformative digital solution in their industry


Truth is no one wants to be digitised

But everyone is happy to randomly access the expertise of others... for free


As a founder or product manager it is easy to make the fatal mistake of being more excited by the technology than the market.

The people who are destined to use it... and, yes, the vested interests of those who are destined to be disrupted by it

But the truth is the technology is ubiquitous. What is rare is the break through story. The story that changes the way people think about the technology

Be it Facebook’s database for friends or Snapchat’s mobile app for teenage sexting. Technology must have a cultural connection. A shared purpose. If is to be embraced

Which leads us to the real challenge of selling disruptive innovation… marketing and communications

To understand this we need to revisit the basics of Branding and then ask the question: How do we rethink Branding in the age of disruptive AI?

Arguably the only two books on Branding you’ll ever needed to read is Al Ries and Jack Trout’s 'The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing' and Naomi Klein’s 'NO LOGO'

Ries & Trout’s showed us the world of Branding and Marketing from inside the agency bubble

Klein’s effort basically popped the bubble from the outside

The Ries and Trout message was simple:

Marketing is a battle of perceptions, not facts. You need to be seen to be different

I guess you could say the message flow looked something like this…

Klein’s was all about how the Logos (the word) had grabbed centre stage. She provided her readers with the tools to deconstruct the cultural artefact that is the Brand

The core idea is Branding is a Singularity.

It is about owning a word, a phrase or concept in the audience’s mind that is exclusive to you and your product

Think: Just Do It, Google or the iPhone.

Own the word. Own the category.

But these ideas are now 30-50 years old. Yet fast forward and we discover today Branding is still about the Singularity

The difference is now it's about owning an experience that is exclusive to you and your product

Think: Wearing Nike or using the iPhone or going to Disneyland or McDonald's

Own the experience. Own the category.

Now, let’s try bundling up, and expressing, the AI experience

There is the Augmented Experience. AI as tool. Much the same as Excel or Word or Google is a tool

Arguably it already exists. In the future the experience will just be more… augmented

Talk with Google. Rather than type with Google. A sensory shift in behaviour… in how we communicate with machines

Then there is the transformative experience

AI the disruptor. The AI of creative destruction. The AI of cultural obsolescence and professional dystopia… The AI (i.e. the world’s best expert on everything) in your pocket

The promise of a future of digital transformation that changes everything… at least when it comes to how we have come to define our self worth in the knowledge economy

So how do you sell the idea of ‘Here’s a better doctor than you!’ to a doctor? Or, “Here’s a better risk manager than you!” to the CRO? Or, “Here’s a better VC than you!” to a VC?

Truth is you don’t. You don’t even try

As Ries and Trout would say… There is no better. Only different

But different... how?

Clayton Christensen, in his seminal work "The Disruptor's Dilemma", suggests disruptive innovation is not a transformative product but one that significantly reduces the cost of entry for the customer

Disruption is a function of price

Incumbents are disrupted by new entrants offering a discount solution

Seemingly "More for Less" is the new capitalist's moment

But, as I explained some years ago when Rethinking the Kodak Moment…

The question [of Digital Transformation] is no longer one of "creative destruction", at least within the context of disrupting oneself

Today it’s all about how can you take the profitable "cash cow" of a market leader and incorporate it into your digital product or service as a free "digital carrot" to quickly attract and dominate a niche market vertical across a global network

This then is what keeps the market savvy digital marketing manager awake at night in 2020

It’s not what is my competition doing to disrupt me?

But who is planning on giving my product or service away for free to consolidate or acquire a new market position?

And what highly profitable product or service should we be disrupting with a free digital offering?

You see the new paradigm isn't so much "More with Less" but "Everything for Nothing”.

So the disruptive narrative for AI isn’t about AI being the best "x" in your pocket

It's about being the "x" bundled in for 'free' to attract customers to a NEW Market or Category

How would that work for you?

Well maybe that’s a question for another day…

Further Reading
Rethinking the Kodak Moment
Change the story and you change the game
Putting the smartest person in the room to work
A database for friends

Originally Published Winter 2020. What are we talking about today? Follow us on Twitter

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