Idea in Brief

The Challenge

Now that people are interacting meaningfully with AI and automated technologies, it’s time to switch our focus from what we think about these technologies to how they make us feel about ourselves.

Why It Matters

Those feelings can affect a variety of business success factors, including sales, customer loyalty, word-of-mouth referrals, employee satisfaction, and work performance.

The New Mindset

To make the most of AI and automation, companies will need to design processes, products, and communications that strategically take into account how these new technologies affect the self-image of customers and employees alike.

If you ever took a marketing course, you may remember the famous case from the 1950s about General Mills’ launch of Betty Crocker cake mixes, which called for simply adding water, mixing, and baking. Despite the product’s excellent performance, sales were initially disappointing. That was puzzling until managers figured out the problem: The mix made baking too easy, and buyers felt they were somehow cheating when they used it. On the basis of that insight, the company removed egg powder from the ingredients and asked customers to crack an egg and beat it into the mix. That small change made those bakers feel better about themselves and so boosted sales. Today, 70 years later, most cake mixes still require users to add an egg.

A version of this article appeared in the September–October 2023 issue of Harvard Business Review.