Why Text-to-Image AI Requires a New Branding Mindset

Brand managers need to stop guarding and start enabling in the generative AI age. Use these lessons to safely cocreate with consumers.

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In the world of marketing, brand identity is the castle that guards a company’s reputation, with a moat that keeps the competition at bay. One doesn’t need to look any further than T-Mobile’s signature magenta hue (226 red, 0 green, 116 blue) to realize how fiercely this castle is protected. Use a similar shade, and you might find a cease-and-desist letter in your mailbox.1

But what if the very ramparts that have protected brands could hinder their future in the age of generative AI?

In one notable advertising campaign, Heinz turned to OpenAI’s DALL-E generator to create ketchup-inspired images. The images weren’t perfect in terms of the dimensions or colors, but they were undeniably Heinz.2 This shows that even AI models recognize that the Heinz brand has top-of-mind awareness. An old-school brand purist might have raised an eyebrow at the way the brand was represented, but the campaign created undeniable buzz, with 850 million earned impressions around the world.

We’ve experienced the transformative potential of generative AI on branding in our own classrooms. Generative AI breathed life into King’s College London’s mascot, a fiery-red lion named Reggie, as part of the school’s centennial celebration. Thanks to AI tools, the mascot became more than just a static brand symbol: In classroom sessions, Reggie became animated and “alive,” leading some discussions and even sorting through clothes and adjusting prices as we discussed merchandise management. The result: Bland stock images gave way to a beloved mascot that resonated with our students and elicited overwhelmingly positive reactions. But this is just the beginning of these tools’ potential for brands.

Creativity Versus Control: Choose Wisely

Brands ready to shake off the old, protective mindset will find that generative AI opens new doors to cocreation. Text-to-image AI models, such as OpenAI’s DALL-E, eliminate the barriers for everyday consumers to generate visual designs, allowing unprecedented levels of personal connection and customization.

In Coca-Cola’s groundbreaking initiative “Create Real Magic,” consumers were invited to unleash their creativity by designing advertisements using ChatGPT and DALL-E.3 The winning entries won’t merely be lauded; they will soon light up the billboards of some of the world’s most iconic advertising stages, including New York’s Times Square and London’s Piccadilly Circus.



1. D. Rafieyan, “T-Mobile Has a Trademark on Magenta, Demands an Insurance Company Stop Using It,” NPR, Nov. 25, 2019, www.npr.org.

2. P. Kulp, “Heinz Taps State-of-the-Art AI to Design Its Next Ad Campaign,” Adweek, Aug. 1, 2022, www.adweek.com.

3.Coca‑Cola Invites Digital Artists to ‘Create Real Magic’ Using New AI Platform,” Coca-Cola, March 20, 2023, www.coca-colacompany.com.

4. O.A. Acar, D.W. Dahl, C. Fuchs, et al., “The Signal Value of Crowdfunded Products,” Journal of Marketing Research 58, no. 4 (August 2021): 644-661; and D.W. Dahl, C. Fuchs, and M. Schreier, “Why and When Consumers Prefer Products of User-Driven Firms: A Social Identification Account,” Management Science 61, no. 8 (August 2015): 1978-1988.

5. A. Kemp, “U.S. Ad of the Day: GoFundMe Paints the Power of Donating in ‘The Bigger Picture,’” The Drum, Dec. 21, 2022, www.thedrum.com.

6.Bain & Company Announces Services Alliance With OpenAI to Help Enterprise Clients Identify and Realize the Full Potential and Maximum Value of AI,” Bain & Company, Feb. 21, 2023, www.bain.com.

7. S. Escalante-De Mattei, “Artists Are Suing Artificial Intelligence Companies and the Lawsuit Could Upend Legal Precedents Around Art,” Art in America, May 5, 2023, www.artnews.com.

8. M. Sparkes, “Shutterstock Will Sell AI-Generated Art and ‘Compensate’ Human Artists,” New Scientist, Oct. 25, 2022, www.newscientist.com.

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