How These 3 Brands Are Using Chatbots to Forge Stronger Relationships With Consumer

This emerging tech allows organizations to informally solve issues

a small robot surrounded by boxes of text and calendars
Chatbots that provide an actual use to consumers are helping move brands forward. Getty Images

It may seem like chatbots are designed to make us go crazy at times. But new research from Publicis Media shows that the ones that are genuinely helpful are moving the needle for brands in positive ways.

“When a brand gets a chatbot experience right—by making it easy to use, helpful and fun—it has the power to drive brand preferences in a way that isn’t true for mobile websites and apps,” said Vanessa Evans, svp, analytics and insights at Publicis. New research shows that friction-free chatbots drove a significant increase in the “likely to recommend” brand preference metric with an 8% lift versus mobile websites and apps.

That’s just one of several Publicis findings from implicit association testing (measuring unconscious or automatic associations) of 800 U.S. participants, conducted in association with Sentient Decision Science.

“The implicit association testing also helped us understand that chatbot experiences do lift emotional connections to brands by 19%,” Evans said. That is, when the experiences are friction free. “That was on par with mobile websites, which was around 16%, but it was behind apps, at 30%.”

Here are three examples of brands that are getting it right.


sidebar of info about chatbots

The Recording Academy has used chatbots during its awards season over the last two years.

“We wanted to create a more conversational experience with our users,” said Kali Weissman, managing director of digital product strategy and development at the organization.

The Grammys used an artist quote of the day and trivia quizzes to engage music fans on Facebook Messenger and Google Home.

“Trivia’s pretty sticky. Every week we changed out the questions. And there are a lot of returning users,” said Audrey Wu, vp of strategic partnerships at Haptik, who has worked on the Grammys’ bot experiences.

“For the 60th Grammy awards season, we saw over 300,000 AI interactions on chatbots and voice platforms. For the 61st Grammy awards season, that number increased to over 1.7 million,” said Weissman, speaking of the 2018 and 2019 seasons, respectively.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise  

Chatbots also have their use for b-to-b companies like Hewlett Packard Enterprise, which worked with Digitas to create its playful chatbot Hugo. It was designed to engage people “on a journey to purchase for something like $100 million worth of servers,” said Sean Mahoney, vp and group content director at Digitas.

“We were able to create a pretty robust map of the type of content and actions people take along this educational journey to purchase and effectively automate it,” Mahoney continued.

HPE debuted Hugo within a Quartz series of content called Machines With Brains, allowing users to dig deeper into the stories, with info on HPE technology and how it related to the topics covered.

“In the first three months, we generated 18,000 leads, and those are qualified leads,” said Mahoney. In the same period, 100,000 people used the bot, he added.

While HPE ended its run with Quartz in 2018, Hugo lives on. The company is now using it to bring a half dozen other bots to the same level of brainy intelligence.


Publicis’ Evans has a rosy view of floral delivery service 1-800-Flowers, which she considers a great example of friction-free chatbot experiences.

The company has paid close attention to when its computer bots can meet consumer needs and when humans need to step in and handle more complex or sensitive orders, said Amit Shah, the company’s CMO. The bots are learning over time how to be more personable in small and specific ways.

“When you come to buy something, ‘Hi Janet’ has a high customer satisfaction rate. But when you come for service, and you might be a little bit more anxious, addressing you formally as ‘Hello Janet’ has a higher cognitive acceptance rate,” Shah explained.

The company’s chatbots are available on Amazon Alexa, Apple Business Chat, Facebook Messenger, Google Assistant and Samsung Bixby.

While Shah wouldn’t share any data on how chatbot users have grown over time, he does say that internal surveys and focus groups show that the chatbot experience is “going in the direction we want to see it go.” 

This story first appeared in the Nov. 4, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Janet Stilson is a freelance writer for Adweek.