Presented by YouGov

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Even as AI takes center stage in daily consumer life, sentiments about the technology are tremendously divided. Separating the hype from the reality is a chore even for business leaders in the thick of it. On top of that, the moral and ethical questions that the technology raises as it comes into the spotlight are tremendously provocative.

YouGov, a global consumer opinion and data analytics firm, stepped into the intersection between the tech and consumer life to uncover areas where sentiment is charged, and where companies can make strides in communication and education around how AI is used.

“True or false, consumers make decisions based on beliefs at least as much, if not more than, they make decisions based on facts,” says Evan Williams, chief product officer at YouGov. “If companies want to increase adoption, then education to address any negative belief systems becomes crucial.”

For instance, among consumers who said they weren’t informed about AI, only 20% thought AI would have a positive impact on society. That number shoots up to 50% percent among those who feel they have a handle on the technology.

“The more consumers are informed, the better organizations do at focusing on educating people and improving belief systems, the more likely people will respond positively and go for the ride,” Williams says. “Sometimes tech companies can get pretty enamored with their own tech and forget that there’s more to it than just features. You need to take people on that emotional journey.”

The adoption challenges across industries

Generally speaking, survey data suggests that there are widely varying levels of challenge for adoption across industries. To start, when asked which industries should be automated and which should be human-led, 60-70% responded that applications like smart homes, manufacturing, online shopping, and some elements of transportation should be AI-led. On the other hand, in industries like education, government, and medical consultation, only 20-30% preferred them to be automation-led, even if there’s a clear and rational application for the technology.

Across the 15 industries the survey covered, trends emerge. In industries where the technology is less visible, such as manufacturing, distribution, and logistics, consumer sentiment is positive. Where it impacts personal, one-to-one relationships, whether that’s medical consultation or teaching, consumers report greater aversion.

For other applications, such as predictive algorithms that can improve travel planning, AI-boosted financial planning and investment advice, and interest in AI improving news and media, sentiment is mixed, with a nearly 50/50 split whether they should be human-led or automated

“Undoubtedly we will have to work through all the different combinations of ethical concerns on both sides of that equation, whether it’s human or automated,” Williams says.

AI sentiment around the globe

The YouGov study looked at 17 markets globally and found a significant difference between eastern and western markets. For example, when asked about their outlook on the impact of AI on society, 54% of respondents in eastern markets said they had a net positive emotional reaction to AI, as opposed to only 36% in the west. It also found that some eastern societies and emerging economies have greater trust in their government institutions and tech companies in their applications of AI.

In Indonesia, which has experienced a great boost to its economy via tech innovation, 70% of consumers surveyed said they trust big tech using AI. That same level of trust also occurs in emerging markets where technology is playing a major role in strengthening their economies, like Mexico, the UAE, and Poland.

Improving education and addressing existing concerns about AI is imperative at this time in its evolution.  Across all the geographies, only 10% of those surveyed claimed that they were well-informed on AI and the possibilities that AI presents to society – and coupled with grim media depictions of robot-dominated futures, as seen in the series Black Mirror, or the Terminator and Blade Runner movies, it’s not particularly surprising that 52% said that they’re worried about the implications of AI.

Changing consumer perceptions

Brand and product marketers can work to influence and educate their customers’ perception of AI in a number of ways, Williams says. “The same rules of consumer behavior that apply to messaging for a brand or a product can also be applied to people’s perceptions of AI,” he explains. “Think about it as a mega- brand.”

Consistent, always-on messaging. Consumers deal with the impact of AI on their lives every day, and so they need to be offered a sustained, clear, consistent, and memorable message to make sure it’s both heard and understood — and often. When a brand successfully drives a point home, it not only becomes more memorable, but also more believable.

Consider the emotive nature of the message. Strong emotions build memory structures, and positive emotive messages work as well as, if not better than, negative emotions.

“I would always advise marketers and product people to stay on the positive aspect of this, such as demonstrating how the technology can be used to help people prevail over personal obstacles.  People love the story of human triumph over unfathomable challenges,” Williams says.

Aim for big audiences, not niche ones. Sometimes tech companies have a tendency to focus on small, but highly engaged audiences. Those people tend to respond favorably, so the company gets the mistaken impression that they’re doing everything great. However, the real market for growth is the unadopted and the less engaged. While these audiences are harder to convert, if you want to scale at a societal level, you have to go to the masses.

“If you take that less engaged segment on the journey, what you’re working on for them often works for the entire population, including these small and engaged places,” Williams says.

To learn more about the big trends in consumer sentiment, how brands can change customer perceptions, and why it matters, don’t miss this VB Live event!

Registration is free here.

You’ll learn about:

  • Global consumer sentiment around AI and automation – and how it varies by market
  • The belief systems growing up around AI and automation, and why they matter
  • Consumer perception of how industries will be impacted
  • Where consumer trust lies in how AI is developed and used
  • The future of consumer awareness, and how brands can make an impact


  • Ashish Atreja, Chief Information and Digital Health Officer, UC Davis Health
  • Evan Williams, Chief Product Officer, Data Products, YouGov
  • Seth Colaner, Moderator, VentureBeat