Bots are a raging success. Brands such as Kayak, NBA, Fandango, Sephora, Barclay, and CNN collectively brought hundreds of bots into the world, spanning many different industries, from travel and entertainment to shopping and banking.

Suddenly, bots capable of rudimentary customer journeys were all the rage. These types of bots offered a wide range of services for consumers — from shopping assistance and banking alerts to real-time news updates — through a linear, menu-based messaging experience. Today, utility bots continue to garner much attention from consumers and businesses alike.

Yet with the quick explosion of utility bots, many people have overlooked the inherent possibilities of a dynamic two-way messaging experience offered by what we call “conversational bots.” Unlike their utility-driven counterparts, conversational bots focus more on leveraging personality and brand voice to deliver an authentic and highly engaging one-on-one experience.

This personality-first approach was the primary driver and the magic behind the immensely popular Zootopia’s Judy Hopps Facebook Messenger bot from Disney, because she spoke directly with each fan in a conversational way.

Over the course of a 16-day Facebook Messenger campaign, the Judy Hopps bot exchanged millions of unique messages with fans, with each conversation lasting several minutes on average. By channeling the success and popularity of Zootopia into the Judy Hopps bot, we were able to seamlessly integrate the content from the movie into a next-generation digital experience. Fans returned to the bot multiple times, eager to ask for clues to solve any of four mysteries as a part of the messaging campaign.

An overwhelming majority of people who engaged with the bot shared positive, enjoyable experiences, which inspired many fans to return and solve more cases.

Creating such a complex bot experience required both advanced A.I. technologies that go beyond traditional chatbot capabilities and content that accurately captures the character’s traits and the movie’s storyline. We started by taking a deep dive into character development to infuse the virtual character with authentic personality. We then integrated our natural language processing (NLP) capabilities and deep context understanding, which allowed the bot to respond to a wide range of user input.

The final layer added was our relationship management, which gave the bot the ability to recall user information, activity, and preferences from past conversations to personalize each interaction.

Beyond the core technology and the character’s personality, there were also other variables that lent to the experience being such a hit with fans.

1. Awareness helps

Zootopia quickly became a blockbuster film after raking in $73.7 million on opening weekend and exceeding $1 billion in global sales three months later. Deadline reported that Zootopia is the No. 1 animated film of the year and the No. 2 movie of 2016. With this level of awareness, the movie’s fierce, determined, and universally appealing star, Officer Judy Hopps, became the perfect candidate for engaging with fans through a conversational messaging experience driven by AI. Additionally, her primary role as a police officer presented an easily adaptable storyline for the messaging-based campaign itself.

2. Gamification must be linked to social sharing

With the Judy Hopps conversational bot, we wanted to create an experience that would be as social and sharable as it was engaging and delightful. To do this, we added a gamified element into the conversation experience, where participants would receive Zootopia Police Department badges customized with their names for every case they successfully solved with Judy’s help. This part of the experience helped deliver an overwhelmingly strong viral effect as fans posted and shared their badges and experiences across social media, helping to amplify the overall awareness among their peers.

3. Focus on content integration

The four different cases that were offered as part of the experience allowed us to create multiple storylines with content and characters that were natural extensions from the movie. Each time a fan engaged with Judy and worked on one of the cases, they were able to discover something new about the world of Zootopia in a fun, interactive manner. This experience was designed to prompt fans to either go back to rewatch the movie or learn more about its characters online, both of which encourage fans to further immerse themselves in the world of Zootopia.

By creating a conversational bot bursting with personality and relevant to the moment, the Judy Hopps Messenger campaign drove overwhelmingly positive results. After witnessing how passionate fans were about the Judy Hopps experience, our conclusion is that an interactive, one-on-one touchpoint with each customer will soon become the preferred and most effective medium for engaging.