Reimagining storytelling in the age of AI
Victor Leung
Executive Director, Pico Beijing

Storytelling in the age of artificial intelligence (AI) offers tremendous opportunities to enhance the emotional connection between consumers and brands. In today’s competitive market, where similar products abound, it is essential to recognise that marketing extends beyond the mere features of a product; the narrative and stories surrounding the brand capture consumers’ attention and engages their emotions. As a study from Kantar confirms, digital ads that elicit strong emotions are four times more likely to generate impact and drive long-term brand equity than those with weaker emotional connections.

Neuroscientific research has shown that our brains are wired to seek and interpret context to make sense of the world. AI-enabled storytelling could provide better context to create a product or brand that is relatable and meaningful. It establishes an emotional bond between the consumer and the brand, allowing for a deeper connection and increased brand loyalty.


A non-human touch

At its core, AI is an algorithm – a complex mathematical equation that tells computers how to perform certain functions. In storytelling, AI can be used to create a unique and compelling narrative experience. With algorithms, we can present metaphors, symbols and concepts that resonate meaningfully with audiences. These algorithms act as guides, mapping the brand’s identity and intertwining it with powerful ideas, cultural nuances, and significant events.

Case study: AI Love You by Lacta – AI generates personalised text

One innovative use of AI to evoke emotion was the ‘AI Love You’ love letter campaign by Lacta, a Greek chocolate brand. Users were invited to a dedicated website where they provided basic info such as the name, age and gender of a loved one. With a little help from AI, a love letter would be generated. Users could also provide extra details to produce a more "personal" and "intimate" letter. Recipients then scanned a Lacta chocolate bar with their phone to receive their tailor-made message.


Worth more than a thousand words

The result is a collection of captivating stories that serve as templates for online delivery. Rather than relying solely on traditional testing methods, AI algorithms could also analyse how well these stories align with the contextual landscape. They are capable of considering emotions evoked by the narratives and selecting appropriate visuals to accompany them. AI algorithms could even generate visual maps with images and graphics tailored specifically for online platforms.

Case study: ‘Create Real Magic’ campaign by Coca-Cola – AI for artistic expression

Combining the might of GPT-4 and DALL-E – popular AI tools that respectively produce human-like text and images based on text – the ‘Create Real Magic’ platform engages ‘artists’ around the world to generate creative digital artwork with Coca-Cola branded elements via AI-powered experimentation and creative iteration. Users can even submit their work for an opportunity to be featured on Coke’s digital billboards in New York’s Times Square and London’s Piccadilly Circus.

Case study: 2023 ZGC Forum’s exhibition – AI enriches the audience experience

Other than generating text and graphics, the usage of AI can extend to the facilitation of audience’s visual/audio experience. To further accentuate 2023 ZGC Forum exhibition’s high-tech nature, Pico created an online VR exhibition hall complete with AI virtual guides on top of activating the physical space. Using AI technology, the team converted exhibition content from text into lively explanations given by the hall’s AI virtual guides, making the visitor experience as immersive online as it was offline.


AI might well stand for ‘assiduous improvement’

In real-time, AI algorithms could employ analysis to identify the critical factors that make an impression effective. They can assess and adapt storytelling elements, ensuring the most impactful presentation and empowering brands to create compelling stories that resonate deeply with consumers. The storytelling role of AI transcends mere automation: it enables brands to leverage data-driven insights, cultural references, and emotional cues to explore a variety of perspectives and ideas, resulting in engaging and relevant narratives.

In conclusion, AI presents an opportunity to transform and reimagine storytelling. By harnessing the power of algorithms, brands can forge meaningful connections with consumers, presenting metaphors, symbols and concepts for stories that resonate on a deep emotional level. The continuous analysis and optimisation of AI algorithms allows for adaptive storytelling, ensuring the most impactful delivery. As we embrace the future of storytelling, AI is a powerful tool for crafting narratives that leave a lasting impression on audiences in an ever-evolving landscape.

This article by Victor Leung, Executive Director of Pico Beijing, was originally published in Marketing-Interactive on 03 October 2023.