Prairie Dog

AI and Keeping It Real

Note: For this edition of The Burrow, we welcome the thoughts of Kurt Bartolich of BrandCertain. Kurt is a frequent Prairie Dog partner on our market research efforts. Enjoy.

In 2023, AI barreled into the business mainstream faster than a runaway locomotive. It left us wondering how to reconcile the rapid adoption of artificial intelligence and consumers’ demands for more humanity. Recent cases, like Sports Illustrated trying to pass off AI-generated content as journalism, and Apple’s credit card algorithm creating significant gender bias, show us that it isn’t going to be easy and there’s much to learn.

So we endeavored to get some of the answers from business leaders when we launched our first “Current Attitudes of Business Leaders: AI, Market Research and Brand” national study.

Here’s a snapshot of what we learned:

  • Half of the business leaders see AI as a priority, 55% noted it will be important to the future success of their businesses, 80% feel it’s mostly an advantage for them, and 2 in 5 are already using it often or always for brand and marketing functions.
  • Within those functions, customer engagement, social media content, competitive intelligence, marketing strategies and market research are the top ways AI is being used, and leaders anticipate it will be much of the same in the future, though market research jumps to the top of the list and brand strategy works its way into the mix.
  • Three of the attributes consumers most want in brands – honest, authentic, and genuine – are among the top ways business leaders see their brands, indicating some alignment on the human front. However, rank order doesn’t tell the entire story. There is a large disparity in the percentages across all three attributes, revealing a sizeable chasm between what consumers desire and what companies are doing.

The outcomes lead us to conclude that companies are investing heavily in artificial intelligence but not enough in relating to consumers on a more human level. This paradox can have major repercussions on brand reputation and Wall Street. The SI and Apple examples should be cautionary tales about the potential pitfalls at the intersection of AI and brand, and prompt the need for more thoughtful consideration, positioning and expression.

About Kurt Bartolich. He is the founder of BrandCertain, a brand research and positioning firm. Since opening its doors in 2009, BrandCertain has delivered meaningful insights and brand positioning for national, regional, and local clients in healthcare, biomedical research, technology, banking, higher education, dairy, alcoholic beverages, home improvement, construction and engineering, and media categories. Kurt has delivered several keynote addresses, spoken at dozens of conferences, and presented at hundreds of companies and organizations. He is also the author of the book You Can’t Ride Two Horses With One Ass, released in 2016. You can reach him at 913-232-6048 or