Cognitive Technology: From Principle To Practice

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Alexa, Google Home, Nest, Spotify, Netflix. AI, machine learning, deep learning. Cognitive technology in all its forms is all around us. Businesses have a conceptual and theoretical understanding of how powerful cognitive technology could be – they see the why. What’s less understood is how it should be used in the world of marketing and communications.

There are compelling reasons to delve into the cogtech space. Marketers now have the opportunity to glean real-time insights from vast amounts of unstructured data, provide natural and personalized customer experiences and automate labor-intensive tasks currently performed by humans; all while exponentially improving at an unprecedented scale.

However, at this stage in cogtech’s nascency, there is a myopic view of how it’s applied – often it’s relegated to tactical executions. Marketers need to start focusing deeper on the uses of the tech, rather than the tech itself. Many brands fall victim to ‘shiny object syndrome,’ using AI to make some cool new novelty. Conversely, they need to start using cognitive technology to augment how they are approaching all elements of their marketing and customer interactions.

We’ve developed a fictional case study to illustrate how this can be realized today.


2501 Footwear is an up-and-coming sneaker manufacturer and retailer. They have taken the leap and are powering all facets of their marketing with cognitive technology. The following case illustrates how they brought a new sneaker to market by leveraging this approach.

Where to Place a Bet?

The sneaker market is a crowded and competitive place whose customer base is notoriously finicky but also highly impressionable. Being a trend leader is critical. Placing a winning bet on your next product launch can be a life or death move for an up and comer. The brands that can uncover dark groundswells and consumer “wants” have the advantage. To identify where to prioritize their design efforts, 2501 utilized a machine vision API to analyze hundreds of thousands of sneakerhead Instagram feeds to identify unforeseen trends and patterns from their photos. They found hype and white space around military inspired fashion, neon color tones and dissatisfaction with the current speed trainer market. They leveraged these insights and developed a modern speed trainer with tactical fabrics and created a limited run with neon soles.  

Who (Really) Is The Customer?

To get a more authentic profile of who their customer really is, 2501 used natural language processing to sift through articles, comments and forum posts of contemporary culture blogs to surface unforeseen preferences, attitudes and consumption habits to identify common tastes in music, dialect, food, artists, politics and brand affiliations.

Staking Your Claim

There is a tremendous synergy when cognitive technology and people work together. The brand explored the intersection of the cultural groundswells and the customer profile they uncovered, and identified fresh creative territory to pursue for the campaign to launch their new speed trainers.  

Maximum Impact Media

Rather than waste time and money trying to create the perfect media plan in a vacuum with a litany of assets to support, cognitive technology does the work. The planning and buying process is executed and modified in real time and gets smarter and more effective with every interaction. Cognitive technology also understands the essence of a story. A long-form video is created to serve as the master content source for all video assets, text ads, still imagery, and motion graphics. Versioning, editing and assembly of these materials gets dynamically generated in real time from the master video as different media assets are needed.


2501 understands that no two customers are the same…or shop the same way. To address this they’ve brought natural voice and text interfaces to the forefront of their ecommerce experience and replaced static page templates with fluid containers that are assembled, populated and rendered on the fly. This is all based on what the system anticipates, as well as the actions of the user. From user experience to content, they have transformed their website from a fixed ecommerce experience to a hyper-personalized, hyper-natural shopping platform that gets smarter with every click and serves the unique needs of each user every step of the way.

Dynamic In-Store

Many brick and mortar locations are struggling in the era of ecommerce. However 2501 is taking advantage of this decline to expand the brand. Rather than lock in long-term capital in expensive leases, they built a cognitive search and analytics engine to discover low-cost pop-up shop locations using unstructured census, real estate and news data. The stores also offer an automated personal shopper experience. Mirrors take voice and visual direction from customers to make recommendations and assist them through their shopping journey. Machine vision is used to analyze foot traffic from camera footage to influence merchandise placement. They are also using machine vision to create a scale visual profile of the customers based on what they wear to the store, how they wear it and other shopping behaviors.

As this case illustrates, a broader application of cognitive technology can improve the effectiveness of any business. The results ultimately are greater than the sum of its parts. The more your cognitive ecosystem scales, the bigger the virtuous loop becomes between the larger system and its components.

Leaders with this awareness need be proactive and create a cognitive technology roadmap for their business. Those who purposely disrupt today will ride the wave and see real bottom-line results tomorrow. Because the brutal truth is, latecomers will quickly fall behind and run the risk of being rendered irrelevant.

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