Have you ever watched a horror movie and desperately wanted to tell the characters not to hide in the closet, venture into the cabin in the woods, or not to split up? Well, now, you may be able to.
Movie studio Focus Films is promoting its new horror movie, Insidious: Chapter 3, using messaging app Kik to allow moviegoers to chat with a bot version of the movie’s protagonist, Quinn Brenner, as she’s stuck in bed recovering from two broken legs, eagerly wanting contact with the outside world.
The innovative user experience was built by marketing technology startup Massively, and targets Kik users with Promoted Chats, which allows users to opt into the movie’s marketing messages.
“We’ve been doing work with brands and also with movie studios about getting people excited about movie characters, and people are actually chatting with characters,” Russell Ward, SVP of marketing and business development at Massively’s parent company House of Cool, told AdWeek. “It feels natural. It’s not a real person but we try to make it as close as possible. You say whatever you want and she responds accordingly.”
“Bot marketing,” as it’s being called, is a growing phenomenon on messaging apps, like Kik, Tinder, and even Twitter, that allow brands to interact with thousands of consumers. Kik in particular represents a massive opportunity for bot marketing. It has already been downloaded more than 200 million times, but only a little more than 60 brands are currently using it to promote products.
“Bot usage isn’t just an interesting marketing tactic, it’s a rediscovered and growing way to engage the millennial in all of us,” says Tom Ajello, Founder and Creative Director, Makeable. “Many brands are taking advantage of it even for product innovation. In my opinion, product innovation in the form of bot based user experience is absolutely on the rise and underscores one of the most important parts of engaging your customer, which is the best UX is no UX.”
Part of the trouble with bot marketing, though, is that it sometimes becomes pretty obvious to consumers that they’re talking to a computer program, and not a real person, a problem Kik trying to solve.
“A huge part of the enjoyment is for brands to anticipate responses and answer in an appropriate way,” Kik product strategist Paul Gray told AdWeek.
However, bot marketing programs have also become increasingly more clever. At the SXSW Festival in Austin on March 14, the movie Ex Machina used Tinder as a platform for bot marketing, tricking a myriad of people into thinking that they were talking to an attractive 25-year-old named Ava.
While that strategy might seem sneaky at best, or invasive at worst, it contextually makes sense. In the movie, Ava is an artificial intelligence, so it makes sense that she’d be a bot, especially one who wants to know what it’s like to be human (again, given the context).
To check out bot marketing in action, Kik users can message “Insidious” and start chatting with Quinn. Fair warning though, conversations begin rather normal, but become increasingly dramatic as her situation dealing with a haunting becomes more and more intense.