How to boost marketing effectiveness with AI + Neurodata technology

Share this post:

It’s time for brands to get real. People are demanding authenticity today as they want brands to serve a greater purpose beyond the bottom line. This is increasingly how brands are seeking to set themselves apart and the ability to tell emotionally informed, purpose driven stories has never been more important.

Centiment is a leading AI + neurodata company to remove bias from algorithms to power a brand’s emotional intelligence. We define emotional intelligence as a brand’s ability to manage the emotions it invokes in people to shape optimal outcomes. We collect and analyze neurodata to better understand how people feel about a brand and how to best affect these emotions. We like to think of ourselves as a brand’s emotional GPS.

Can AI play a role in human creativity?

The first time I thought deeply about AI in marketing was at the IBM Amplify 2017 conference as a new IBM Futurist, before I joined As the founder of storytelling firm, BRANDthropologie, I was deeply invested in the creative side of marketing. And as I listened to the conversations that week, I was puzzled. There seemed to be no overlap between my work and all the AI talk buzzing throughout the conference.

Don’t get me wrong—it seemed clear enough how AI could improve the data side of marketing. But in my mind, there was a disconnect when it came to the creative process. I was at the conference as a marketing influencer but, to be candid, I struggled to understand how I could put any of the technology to use.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that puzzled feeling was the start of some big ideas.

Piecing together a new approach to marketing

I was fascinated about using AI to infuse empathy into the storytelling process. It was starting to feel like a real possibility that a machine could offer valuable insight into the human condition.

One big influence on my thinking was a piece by The Atlantic titled “The Six Main Arcs in Storytelling, as Identified by an A.I.,” which details a master’s thesis by a young Kurt Vonnegut—the idea that machines might be able to identify the shape of stories, no differently than geometric shapes. The article explains how researchers, attempting to explore this theory decades later, were recently able to train a machine to recognize the six basic emotional arcs in any story, drawing an emotional through line between Cinderella and the Old Testament.

If a machine can understand human stories, I thought, then surely it could help with brand storytelling. This inspired us at BRANDthropologie to enter a short film in the IBM Storytellers with Watson competition at the Tribeca Film Festival. It must have inspired others to envision marketing and storytelling in new ways because it earned us a lot of attention.

In fact, this is when we met with the visionary CEO of, Micah Brown, and found we were working toward the same goals, from complementary angles. Ultimately, we merged our firms together. Our biggest motivating factor was realizing how much potential there was in joining the power of purpose-driven storytelling with Centiment’s neurodata sentiment technology. Our goal today is to help brands harness emotion as a true currency of business, ultimately marrying creativity and technology to imagine the best possible future for our clients.

Understanding customers as people, not data points

Today, at, we’ve fleshed out those early ideas in a technology solution designed to help usher in a new era of marketing and advertising—one that’s informed by human emotion, free from bias and driven by a larger purpose.

We’ve combined our own neurodata sentiment tools with IBM Watson technology, which allows us to better understand the way people feel about a brand and how to best influence those emotions. At Centiment, we view emotion as data, too.

Building on the learnings from the renowned Huth study done at UC Berkley, we built a neural network of 100 brands to determine how clusters of voxels allow for a high degree of predictability into how a person’s emotions will move and where, based on the introduction of new language. The result of our research created a living database of replicable neurodata.

We also use IBM’s 120 social channels, IBM Watson Tone Analyzer and IBM Watson Personality Insights, to power Centiment’s array of tools.

Our technology can identify 35 different emotions on any given topic—far more nuanced than the positive/negative/neutral analysis that most sentiment tools produce. These insights are key to core marketing processes like segmentation, positioning and customer insights message delivery, as well as the entire creative process.

AI helps us rediscover the human touch

What’s really exciting is that, by joining forces with Watson, we increase the likelihood of reaching a desired outcome with customers by 50 percent. That’s an incredible boost in the effectiveness of marketing and advertising.

But it makes sense, doesn’t it? A purposeful brand making meaningful connections with people, building trust based on genuine emotion and human values—that’s an algorithm for success.


Watch Billee Howard talk about combining neurodata sentiment tools with Watson technology:


President and Chief Strategy Officer, Inc.

More AI/Watson stories

How to find new football stars with AI technology

For football (or soccer, for American) fans, talent on the field is a thing of beauty. Names like Messi, Ronaldo, Pelé and Zidane evoke images of unparalleled grace and athleticism. As we saw in this year’s World Cup, new stars are emerging all the time. But have you ever wondered how new talent rises to […]

Continue reading

How AI technology is helping Lufthansa soar to new heights

Digital transformation of the travel experience is a priority for the airline industry, in part because of changes outside the industry. We compete with other airlines, of course, but also with the major internet companies that have raised the bar for customer expectations. At the Lufthansa Group, where I’m responsible for the data generated by […]

Continue reading

How a brilliant teen uses high-tech AI to help others

I’m passionate about AI and deep learning. And I’m fascinated with combining AI and deep learning frameworks. AI isn’t just artificial intelligence anymore. It’s intelligence, augmented. Intelligence amplified. It’s taking what only humans can do and doing it even better. And when we combine AI with deep learning and neural networks, we humans can solve […]

Continue reading