17th July 2017

How marketers are using chatbots to transform their campaigns

Mike Jongbloet
Head of Design and UX

Think back a year and conversational interfaces were beginning to gain traction and the hype was building, but ultimately the technology was still rather underwhelming. It promised a lot and didn’t deliver on the promise.

Early uses of the tech were more frustrating than engaging to use. As with many new technologies the tech was still catching up to the hype, marketers hadn’t truly understood the purpose of it and early adopters rushed to market with partially executed solutions.

Fast forward a year and it’s a completely different landscape. Facebook, WhatsApp, Kik and the majority of the large players in the instant messaging game have dramatically grown their support for chatbots. The technology has matured enough, and more importantly its limitations are much better understood. The constraints and boundaries of the tech are clear which means it’s now about the experience you design within those constraints. 

The number of adverts we see every day has grown exponentially over the last 30 years and will continue to do so. Chatbots provide an opportunity for marketers to engage users in new and innovative ways.

Different experiences.

Whilst each has its own nuances and different applications, there are three primary ways I’ve seen brands and organisations successfully using chatbot technology. As you think about your overall marketing strategy it’s important to consider where a chatbot might fit within the overall mix of tactics.

To tell a story...

Telling stories is a compelling way to engage users in your campaign. Storytelling is a powerful tool that brands have been using for many, many years. Chatbots provide a great platform for marketers to create narratives to tell their brand story or support a wider marketing campaign.

They provide the opportunity to tell your story individually to thousands of users at once and build awareness, engagement and encourage action.

The narrative for story-led bots can be tightly controlled, leading users down one or more paths with points of interaction to keep the experience engaging. This means we don’t need to overly rely on Natural Language Processing technology to create a compelling experience. 

The outcome of a storytelling bot is a product of the narrative design, not of the technology.

Humans (Channel 4)

Channel 4 devised a smart marketing campaign ahead of the debut of the second series of it’s drama “Humans”. It included branded lorries, pop-up shops, newspaper adverts and a chatbot. The chatbot had users engaging in conversation with a prosthetic human. It was a short conversation, only 30 minutes or so, but it was extremely engaging and left you curious to explore more.

Humans Facebook Messenger

Image credit: creativereview.co.uk

Yeshi (charity:water)

charity:water worked in partnership with Lokai to create the fictional character Yeshi. Yeshi is a chatbot which embodies a young Ethiopian girl. 

Over the course of around two and a half hours Yeshi explains the long walk she takes to get water for her family. Users are encouraged to engage with it whilst themselves walking for two and a half hours. The chat includes video, images and interaction points with the user.

The experience is designed to create empathy from potential donors and thus encourage donation and support. 

To provide extra value...

Building awareness and building 1:1 rapport with potential or existing customers can add real value to brands. For consumers these services can add value to their day-to-day lives.

Typical examples of value that bots can add to consumers are providing tips, offering helpdesk style support and giving helpful suggestions. The success of a value-add bot is providing enough value that it receives repeat engagements from users, eventually becoming a go-to tool. 

American Express

American Express offers a concierge service delivered through a chatbot. Users can link up their American Express card and the bot will offers on-the-go recommendations such as loyalty scheme benefits, restaurant suggestions and reminders that you can access the airport lounge for free!


Make-up brand Sephora has launched a number of supporting services revolving around their main service of selling high quality make-up products. They have one bot which offers application tips and product suggestions based on interactions with a user. Another feature allows users to upload any image and the bot will accurately estimate the lipstick shade in the photo and provide color match suggestions from their product range.

To complete a specific transaction...

Ultimately what you want users to do is transact with your brand whether that means purchasing a product, donating to your cause or sharing your message. Transactional bots make these tasks quicker, simpler and easier for users to complete thus increasing their chances of happening.

They require far less conversation and engagement – their purpose is to be efficient and simple.


Dominos has launched ‘Dom the Pizza Bot’ which allows users to quickly and easily order a pizza through Facebook Messenger. Rather than phoning or ordering online, customers can message Dom and request food to be delivered. The onboarding for this one needs a bit of work for it to become useful to a wider audience but the idea is there. Pizza Hut has followed up by launching a similar service of their own.


Uber have continued their disruption of the private transport sector by making it even easier to order, track and share journeys over Messenger. Users can now send a message to request an Uber over Facebook Messenger using the in-built GPS to send location. Not only can you order rides from Messenger, you can also easily share them with friends. Running late for that dinner reservation? Share your journey with your friends so they know you are en route and when you’ll arrive! 

How does a chatbot fit your needs?

“Chatbot”, “artificial intelligence” and “machine learning” are all phrases that have a lot of hype surrounding them at the moment. Everyone is talking about them and we’re starting to see some great examples of their use to add real value to marketing. 

I absolutely believe chatbots can add huge value to marketers. That said, it is important not to jump on the bandwagon and rush to market because it is new, shiny tech. Instead take a considered view on how you can take advantage of this technology and how it fits into your overall experience strategy.

Find out how our chatbot and applied artificial intelligence services could help your organisation.