Talk to Miss Piggy: Chatbots Take Over Brand Promotion

Techcrunch’s Drew Olanoff broke the news a week ago that Miss Piggy of the Muppets was holding live one-on-one chat sessions with anyone on Facebook Messenger. That’s right. Miss Piggy! What’s it like to chat with the Muppets diva extraordinaire?  Well, I didn’t get to experience it firsthand.

Miss PiggyChatting with Miss Piggy was only available for a limited time as a promotion for The Muppets show that airs weekly on ABC. But based on examples in the Techcrunch article, Miss Piggy’s conversation was indicative of her infamous narcissism and over-appreciation of her high school French: along the lines of “Bonjour! This is such an honor… for you. How are vous?”

The Miss Piggy chat was driven by Imperson, a company enabling “bi-directional communication” with fictional characters. Olanoff also cites Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media Labs as participants in the technology, though I’m not exactly sure of their relationship with Imperson.

On their website, Imperson lists both movie release campaigns and immersive brand experiences as use cases that benefit from chat sessions with fictional characters. Potential fans of an upcoming movie can chat with superheroes or creepy zombies and get a little thrill from the authenticity of the interaction. Imperson employs interactive script writers who design dialog that reflects a character’s fictional persona and stays entertaining..

I’ve written in the recent past about the growing popularity of chat as the new customer engagement channel. Not too long ago I wrote about work that Pandorabots is doing with the 2nd largest advertising agency in Japan to enable chat-based surveys on messaging service Line. Japanese brands want to engage consumers on the platform that they like best, which is text-based messaging. Like Imperson, Pandorabots helps to script the dialog that makes those conversations with chatbots fun and engaging.

Christopher Mims coined the term chatvertising in his WSJ article of July 2014. Mims was looking specifically at services on UK’s messaging app Kik that enabled young consumers to interact with branded characters. Mims suggested that messaging apps, and the conversations that occur there, are the future of social media and even of interactive marketing. It seems his observation wasn’t off base.

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