In the late 1800s, Ivan Pavlov started ringing a bell every time he fed his dogs, theorizing that he could manually condition a recurring response with a simple stimulus. After only a few days, the sound of any bell in town had Pavlov’s dogs salivating in anticipation of a tasty meal. Thus the concept of classical conditioning was born.
Today, digital versions of his theory are constantly shaping our behaviors.
The concept of “above the fold” across the web was a sacred one for the better part of a decade. Web visitors, we were convinced, could not be troubled to scroll more than absolutely necessary. That is, until Facebook and the rise of smartphones together started conditioning us to favor the scroll over the click, upending UX principles and digital ad buying alike.
It is not easy to change long-ingrained behaviors such as flipping a light switch, but when it happens, there is no turning back.
From smarter routing of Uber and Lyft to predictive B2B lead scoring, our everyday experiences are quickly becoming more insightful, personal, and proactive. When technology is able to anticipate our needs without our asking, we experience what is called a “cognitive moment.”
What is interesting about cognitive moments is that quite often on the surface, it can appear as though little has changed.
The user interface is not vastly different. The information delivered does not appear vastly more insightful. The brand does not necessarily announce, “Hey! We’re using AI here.” But the next time we are served irrelevant or unhelpful content, a brand asks us to complete a tedious, repetitive task, or we sit in unnecessarily traffic when a better route was available, our desire for more frequent cognitive moments will lead us in search of new brands and new experiences.
Many will point out that today’s conversational devices and digital agents have not yet lived up to the hype, but that conversation is missing the larger Pavlovian reality underway.
Innovators and early adopters have brought into the home Conversational Trojan Horses, 20+ million Alexas/Google Homes and counting, and in one fell swoop, have exposed the early majority, late majority, and yes, even the laggards, to the power of voice. The result: Monkey speak, monkey do.
The coming year will see a resurgence of Augmented Reality (AR) as firms such as Apple democratize
The next evolution of classical conditioning is well underway as technologies reshape the way we interact with our world at large.
When making innovation bets, brands should focus not solely on the potential of the device or channel today, but also on the expectations it creates for tomorrow. The longer-term, yet fundamentally critical, nature of these bets require a unique investment model, set of KPIs and ultimate definition of success.