Client: Alibaba Cloud

Agency: Wolff Olins


We’re on the brink of a new era, defined by Artificial Intelligence, and Chinese internet giant Alibaba is at the forefront of it. ET — its innovative AI platform — has transformative potential but first needed a way to go out into the world.

Our task was to create a visual, audio and behavioral language that would feel natural, friendly and human, whilst still feeling future-facing and exciting. We called this “Evolutionary Technology” — a technology that understands us, evolves with us and is for everybody.

I worked hand in hand with a Creative Director and with a distributed client across four time zones, to build a meaningful expression of this most abstract of technologies. We had a 6 week turnaround which not only included the visual assets, but also a behavioral language and even a physical character to be launched at the winter Olympics at the start of 2018.

The need to simplify the complex world of AI was not just limited to the consumer understanding - our creative team also needed to get to the heart of the mechanics behind the product in order to create a meaningful brand expression. As part of the strategic groundwork, I brought to life the fundamental computing principle of Input -> Computation -> Output which served both as grounding principle and creative inspiration for the team, around which this new brand was built.

The upshot of this work was an activation for the ET Brain which was more than just a brand, it was a living system – an intelligent, conscious entity, capable of human communication. Thus people could start to build affinity with what might otherwise be a distant, cold computing technology.

In the words of our client, Xirui Zyl, Brand and Communications Manager at Alibaba Cloud:

“ET was launched at a conference, and was successful and powerful. The
character is welcomed, and has fascinated our audience. People love it!”