Slack creative chief touts humanity over AI when it comes to CX

Words bring it all together, says creative director of the business and collaboration tool

Words have never been more important to a brand, says Anna Pickard, creative director of business and collaboration tool, Slack.

And marketers might want to pay attention to this assertion, as words are where Slack is looking to differentiate itself from the pack, doggedly using them to offer a human element to its customers that can often be missing in a multi-channel, artificial intelligence-driven world.

Launched in 2014, Slack is a cloud-based set of proprietary team collaboration tools, apps, and services borne from a now defunct online game. It now exceeds 50,000 paid teams and two million paid users, including 43 per cent of Fortune 100 companies. Recently, the vendor achieved US$200 million in annual recurring revenue, more than double the previous year, nine million weekly active users, and more than six million daily active users in over 100 countries.

Pickard is credited with being the ‘editorial soul’ of Slack. The words she uses not only inform the company’s customer engagement efforts and staff training, but also everything else, including how the software is designed, updated and communicated.

While Pickard agrees authenticity, humanity and customer engagement are the main tools in the savvy marketer’s box, it is in striking the correct balance between humanity and service, playfulness and solutions that she believes most are falling down.

“Of course, at the moment everyone is doing ‘human voice’ in customer engagement,” Pickard tells CMO. “In a world of Alexa and Siri, people are getting used to speaking to their technology in a human voice and hearing responses back in a human voice. Nothing is impersonal anymore, and if it is, it really sticks out.

“So we’re all in the same space trying to ensure we are giving people an authentically human experience. That leads to people going way too far and injecting personality into literally every single experience. You don’t want personality injected into every single little thing, it’s about finding those touchpoints where you can really connect with people authentically." 

While bringing that personality in and being playful can be a great brand tactic, the danger is that it ends up being scattered everywhere, like too much salt, Pickard claims.

"Working out moderation when we are connecting with people, and ensuring we are connecting at the appropriate points, is increasingly differentiating us,” she says.

Customer experience is the key, and this has to occur from the ground up within any brand. “We have to make sure we retain a consistently strong voice so that people understand where it comes from; who we are as a company informs what we sound like,” Pickard continues.

“The words we use ensure we feel like one strong fabric. An increasing part of my job as we scale is making sure we sound clear, concise and human.” 

What this means for Slack on a daily basis is having a mature consideration of what it means to be at work, what communication means within work, connecting it all together, and ensuring the conversation is consistent across all channels and mediums.

“We often brainstorm about how we can more closely connect what people’s experience of work is and incorporate this into our brand experience," Pickard says. "So when we talk to people on customer service, they’re hearing the same voice as when they get on the website. And if the leg falls off, people know they’re hearing from Slack, they’re hearing from a real human. That is our unique selling point.”

Slack is tapping machine learning to help people find things better as well as learn how customers are using its solutions. This is then informing how features and functionality are designed and built.

"We use Slackbot, which is not an AI bot as there’s no natural language processes, but we are able to give people a platform to bring those ways of communicating and creating human bots in that space," Pickard explains. "It’s something we think about in the way we anticipate what people are looking for, or wanting to hear, without putting words in their mouths.

“Really, creating the brand experience for the whole company is very much the same skill as creating the persona for a bot. It’s about anticipating people’s needs and feelings, and what they’re looking for and hoping to find, and how they’re hoping to hear those answers. It’s a similar skill and I think we have a lot to learn from each other."

Related: Interview: Bill Macaitis, CMO, Slack

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook:, or check us out on 




Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

How can a brand remain human in a digital world?

Some commentators estimate that by 2020, 85 per cent of buyer-seller interactions will happen online through social media and video*. That’s only two years away, and pertinent for any marketer.

James Kyd

Global head of brand strategy and marketing, Xero

​Relevance and substance are the keys to marketing’s future

Marketing’s evolution and increased value-add to organisations is making headway in one essential direction: Driving brands to achieve maximum relevance in the heart and minds of customers.

Jean-Luc Ambrosi

Author, marketer

Why doing your job well is the key to innovation

The words ‘power company’ and ‘innovation’ probably don’t seem like a natural combination. In fact, when I first went for a marketing role with an electricity company, I semi-dreaded the work I thought I’d be doing.

Catherine Anderson

Head of marketing, Powershop Australia

When was this article posted?


Report Reveals the Channels That Really Influence Consumer Purchase Decisions

Read more

sorry, I did not see that my first attempt already posted.


5 ways Australian Unity is driving innovation

Read more

Examples of their "innovation": have had problems with them in their "innova...


5 ways Australian Unity is driving innovation

Read more

Examples of their "innovation": have had problems with them in other spheres.


5 ways Australian Unity is driving innovation

Read more

Examples of their "innovation":


5 ways Australian Unity is driving innovation

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in