Following on from my colleague Jane Wilson’s blog on the up-and-coming use of AI in the travel industry in the form of travelbots, I wanted to use this blog to highlight another possible use of bots now that they are becoming more widely adopted. The BBC have recently released a ‘Happybot’ via Facebook Messenger – an innovation which neatly illustrates some of the key content principles I have been keen to encourage our clients to embrace for some time. Their bot provides the perfect opportunity for a case study from which we can draw some valuable pointers.

Lesson One: Start with a killer insight

In the case of the BBC Earth Happybot, the BBC commissioned original research with the University of California to examine how their key ‘product’ – in this case, nature documentaries – made their customers (viewers) feel. This uncovered a brilliant insight – that watching programmes about nature has a measurable impact on people’s mood, making them happier. Although this might seem like a simple thought to build an idea around, simplicity is often best due to the clarity it provides – leading to a definite creative route that’s easy for both users and the business itself to understand and to champion.

Lesson Two: Engaging content has no sell-by-date

Through the Happybot, the BBC are really getting every drop of value out of content that would have been expensive to create initially. Whilst I have frequently seen first-hand how tricky getting sign-off for an investment in content can be due to the perceived expense involved, remember that well-created content doesn’t just have to be used once and then discarded. Re-cut and re-served in different ways or via different channels, it’s possible to get more bang for your buck; delighting people who may not have seen it first time around or who are pleased to enjoy it when it’s delivered via a new medium they hadn’t seen the content appear on before (in this case, clips from TV programmes that are now shareable on social media) or in a more targeted, personal way. Which brings us to the third point…

Lesson Three: Engaging content is good; personalised content is great…

…And the combination of the two means you’re onto a winner. In the case of the Happybot, the user is asked three questions (which vary from day to day for repeat users) to establish their preferences and mood (separating the insect-lovers from those who prefer rather fluffier creatures, for instance) to deliver a video comprised of clips selected to deliver on what they’ve stated pleases them. This creates a highly personalised and engaging experience which uses existing content to effectively build the BBC Earth brand.

Lesson Four: Make it shareable

As a user, I’m sure you’ve experienced the feeling of ennui that comes with being poked or prodded to share something constantly, whatever you watch, read, or do online. But a subtle nudge to share content that has personally appealed to you can still be welcome, and organic sharing by your consumers is one of the most cost-effective ways to ensure your valuable content reaches the maximum possible audience. The Happybot hasn’t really cracked this experience, with the user prompted every time to subscribe and share, which can feel tedious – but they are likely to have weighed carefully the possible irritation to their user against the reward of receiving such great and tailored video, and decided that the benefit of widening their reach outweighs any niggling annoyance this causes their consumers. Testing different approaches to frequency of share/subscribe prompts to see which produces the most effective outcome would be a good idea for any organisation at this point in a user journey.

Lesson Five: Lastly, make it measurable

The final interaction that the Happybot has with a user is to ask them to rate how happy they feel now – the bot’s last question is simple and fun to answer, using emojis to gauge the viewer’s mood. This will be producing some great data for them around engagement – providing more insights to mine as more people use their bot which will allow them to tailor and develop it further as time goes on. The measurement method that they’ve chosen circles perfectly back to the original insight of the research, and will be helping them to assess the challenge that they’ve set themselves – ‘is our content making people happier?’ The importance of choosing the right goal to assess whether content is meeting your organisation’s individual objectives cannot be overstated, and in measuring emotions before and after viewing the content BBC Earth have really nailed this principle from a relevancy and usefulness-to-the-brand point of view.

In conclusion – don’t throw old content away. You never know how you might be able to reuse and repurpose it – whether that’s through an innovative bot, or by personalising emails to your customers in 6 months’ time when their situation has changed. Great content is a great investment, and the Happybot is just one example of why.


Jenni Gill

Senior Consultant

Jenni is a Senior Consultant for Comet’s UK Strategy and Insights Team and holds an MSc in Creative Advertising. She has led Customer Experience and Digital Strategy projects across a diverse range of industries, from media to travel to financial services, and past clients include the BBC, First Group, Lloyds Bank, Aegon and AXA. Comet projects include the implementation of decisioning in the B2B space at Standard Life and assisting Royal London with a testing strategy for the business. In her spare time, Jenni acts as a freelance writer and editor.