Image Source: Google

Last year, I blogged about how businesses need to design products that build emotional trust. In a November post, I wrote, “As products become smarter, designers need to learn how to build products that forge not only functional trust but emotional trust. Businesses like Amazon have unleashed devices such as voice assistants that are exciting people with their potential but also scaring people. I quoted Tristan Greene’s article in The Next Web, “Amazon’s roadmap for Alexa is scarier than anything Facebook or Twitter is doing,” in which he wrote, “The idea of Alexa being an omnipresent companion looking to orchestrate your life should probably alarm you.”

I thought about Tristan Greene’s article during Super Bowl LIV. Why? Because Google ran an advertisement that spoke precisely to the need to build emotional trust with smart products. In the ad “Loretta,” Google told the story of an elderly widower and the life he once shared with his beloved Loretta, including their favorite movie, a memorable Alaska vacation, and moments from their wedding anniversaries. The ad, produced in-house by Google, was significant not only because it was a great story but also because of the way the details about Loretta unfolded: through a series of questions that the man asked Google Assistant.

“Hey Google, show me photos of me and Loretta,” he asked. At one point he laughed, ““Remember? Loretta hated my moustache.” The ad felt so natural and real probably because it was: the narrator was the grandfather of an actual Google employee, and the ad was based on his own memories.

Why “Loretta” Matters

The “Loretta” ad was a viral sensation online. Why did it resonate with people? Allow me to refer back to my earlier blog post to answer that. We live at a time of consumer distrust. Consumers don’t trust big technology companies to respect our privacy. With the advent of artificial intelligence, businesses need to build not only functional trust with people but also emotional trust with people. AI raises the stakes. It’s like a super powerful Infinity Stone from the Marvel universe, capable of doing great good and evil – or at least that’s how people perceive it. AI requires us to trust machines to teach our children, help doctors perform life-or-death surgeries, and drive our cars for us. AI wants to be part of our very existence in the home, on the road, and everywhere else. At the same time, AI inspires a widespread fear that robots might take our jobs and take over our lives.

The “Loretta” ad assured us of something else: an AI-powered voice assistant can inspire good feelings. Memories. Connections with our loved ones, present and past. It’s as if someone at Google read Tristan Greene’s The Next Web article and decided, “Let’s respond to those fears with a Super Bowl ad.”

Throughout 2020, I expect the Googles, Amazons, Apples, and Microsofts of the world to inject more humanity into the design of voice-based products. In that context, “Loretta” is really a statement of intent; it’s Google’s way of saying, “We’re listening and responding. We know we have a long way to go before we build emotional trust with devices.”

That’s why the Google “Loretta” ad matters. Google is setting up a promise. By evolving the way we design products to be warmer and more approachable, businesses and designers can collaborate to deliver. For more insight on we can do so, check out my posts:

Now let’s get to work and design a better way forward. At Moonshot, we are constantly watching the evolution of design and adapting as needed. Contact Moonshot to learn more about our Minimum Lovable Product workshop and how to bring designing for relationships to your product development process.

Amish Desai

Amish Desai

Head of Experiences