Every Friday I round up some of the sillier stories in digital and marketing, and last week I ridiculed Jamie Oliver's new chatbot.

I wrote that the 'most maddening headline of the week' was this effort from The Drum - "Jamie Oliver's new Facebook chatbot to offer recipes via emojis".

But perhaps I spoke too soon, because today I had a little play with the chatbot and though the opening message from Jamie (below) was a little intimidating I actually quite liked it. In this article I'll explain why.

jamie chatbot

Not a particularly promising start...

The functionality is very focused 

One of the problems with chatbots is that natural language processing isn't yet sophisticated enough to allow a bot to effortlessly respond to every user query. That means, as anyone who has ever created or managed a chatbot will know, your users will try to catch you out.

Lots of free-form messages aren't that much of an issue when the remit and functionality of the chatbot is well focused, but if users are getting frustrated, your bot may do more harm than good. Read our editor David Moth's summary of Econsultancy's own attempt at a chatbot – the bot's inability to answer simple questions did hinder the UX, despite the decision-tree format of the content.

That's why Jamie's emoji chatbot is really quite a good idea. Look at what happens when I attempt to write a free form message to Jamie below, asking him 'What is the best meat?' Yep, Jamie tells me to stick to emoji.

Emojis become a very useful way of shutting down any off-piste conversation, making the bot look more efficient, and not leaving the user confused as to what the bot can and can't do.

Of course, with a finite number of emojis, this method also makes the creation of bot content a lot easier.

trying to write to emoji chatbot

Jamie dodges the question

Here are a few examples of how emojis work really well to prompt recipes. First of all I predictably send both the beer emoji and the aubergine emoji (see both examples below).

In the beer example, Jamie skillfully offers me a non-alcoholic alternative, and I love ginger ale so much that my interest is immediately piqued (despite the fact I was simply testing this bot for work).

When Jamie sees my provocative aubergine, again he's rather skillful in his cheeky reaction and he doesn't mess about, serving me up an aubergine stew recipe.

ginger ale recipe aubergine emoji oi oi! 

The content served up is good

Jamie's recipes are nicely presented in a little overlay (below left) and I can genuinely imagine following along on my phone to make one of these simple dishes.

There's also video, a mainstay of digital cookery content. Below right you can see Jamie showing me how to prepare meatballs after I tapped a 'video' button.

 recipe jamie oliver chatbot jamie oliver chatbot

Jamie doesn't patronise you with the soft sell

This whole chatbot experience is admiringly straight to the point. Emoji, recipe, bang. And in that spirit, Jamie doesn't mess about when it comes to selling you his book.

Below (left) you can see that before I view any recipe I have to close a little advert for a competition where I can win a copy of the book if I offer up my details. Furthermore, whenever Jamie responds to offer me a recipe card (see below right), the not-so-subtle 'buy book' button appears.

There's nothing wrong with this, the chatbot is there to promote the book and if it can shift a few copies, too, why not?

jamie chatbot jamie oliver chatbot

In summary...

Chatbots get a lot of stick, but if you're building one for marketing or PR purposes, like Jamie here, all you have to do is ensure that the UX is tight and focused, and that the bot provides something useful or entertaining to the end user.

Jamie's content speaks for itself, even in this limited format – something which coincidentally aligns perfectly with Jamie's message of 'quick and easy' food.

More on chatbots:

Ben Davis

Published 26 September, 2017 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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