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Sydney’s Story — Microsoft’s Masterclass in Reality TV Marketing

Yesterday, I mentioned that the final version of Bing’s AI chatbot would probably incorporate features that didn’t include its “alter-ego” Sydney.

Earlier today, I saw that Microsoft limits Bing chat to five replies to stop the AI from getting real weird. Microsoft’s new limits mean Bing chatbot users can only ask a maximum of five questions per session and 50 in total per day.

Users will be prompted to start a new topic if the five-question limit is reached. Longer chat sessions of 15 or more questions can make Bing become repetitive or be prompted to give responses that are not helpful. Microsoft is still working to improve Bing's tone. The cap may be temporary.

Let’s say the whole Sydney press situation was a marketing stunt. Microsoft effectively reached Reality TV press levels with an AI chatbot; as a marketer, that’s crazy to consider.

Reality television is a genre of television programming that documents purportedly unscripted real-life situations, often starring unfamiliar people rather than professional actors. - Wikipedia

For anyone considering integrating these Generative AI and chat technologies, I would consider branding the personalities so your users can create their own “reality tv-isk stories.”

In Microsoft’s example, they had Bing AI the “regular” experience, which has a built-in wow factor that’s similar to Open AI’s ChatGPT. Yet when users figure out how to activate Sydney, its “alternative” experience, they have a WTF moment that causes them to go deeper down the rabbit hole. Thus now they have a personal experience that they “must” share with others.

Genius if you think about it because the real winner here is Microsoft. More people talked about Sydney and installed Bing as their default search engine because of these “alternative” experiences, the press reported than if Microsoft had just integrated OpenAI’s ChatGPT features and called it a day.

Conversely, had they stolen OpenAI’s current thunder, you could argue their $10B+ investment in OpenAI wouldn’t have been the most brilliant move financially.

I’m a fan of this wave because it’s not about features, but it’s about embracing storytelling and including the user in the entire product experience.