What Poe from Altered Carbon Can Teach You About Branding

Okay, let me be outright clear here. I don’t want you to attack your customers or blow off your enemies with machine guns. That’s a TV show and let the macabre parts stay there.

“It is not our enemies that defeat us. It is our fear. “

– Poe, the Artificial Intelligence owner of the Raven Hotel in Altered Carbon is an interesting character. Modeled after the acclaimed horror writer Edgar Allan Poe, Poe exhibits an eccentric demeanor, with a rapt fascination for humans.

Traditionally, science fiction cinema has portrayed Artificial Intelligence in an unwelcoming, misanthropic light. Whether it is Skynet from Terminator, HAL from 2001, A Space Odyssey, or the Architect from The Matrix, Artificial Intelligence usually inspires hatred, or fear.

Poe is an Artificial Intelligence with a firmer grasp on the human condition. His management of Hotel Raven is exemplary and efficient. Here are a few things Brands can learn from Poe:


Poe is an AI created for the sole purpose of managing the hotel. The hotel is his entire purpose of existence. In this conversations, Poe often states “ I am the Hotel.”

Poe’s identification with the hotel is absolute. He considers it an extension of himself, a part of his own body.

Brands need to cultivate a similar stance towards their products and services. As brands grow, they often lose focus from their core competency. It is easy for brands to dilute their message by focusing on social and political issues. For eg. Brands like Nike and Starbucks have taken a stand on Social Justice issues. As a result, their reputation among Conservative audience has taken a hit.

While such efforts may boost sales and brand efforts, they are often ineffective, and sometimes counterproductive. Brands should focus on their products and services for building brand value, and conduct their marketing efforts with the same in mind.

If brands treat their products and services like extensions of themselves, they will be able to deliver better results, and create more value in the long run.

Problem solving approach

A product or service exists only for one reason – to solve a problem for the consumer. The sole reason for a Brand’s existence is to provide solution to people’s problems.

Poe has his own way of solving problems for his customers. Though his methods are often violent, he solves his customer’s problems. To ensure Takeshi Kovacs safe stay, Poe assassinated Kovacs’ attackers, performs psychosurgery and helps Elliott’s daugher cope through her defrag.  As Winston Wolf from Pulp Fiction says –

“I solve problems”

Brands should aspire to become problem solvers for their customers.


“The study of humanity is my greatest aspiration.”  – Poe

The days of impersonal brands are over. Today’s consumers want their favorite brands to feel personal. They want the brands to care for them. They want the brands to be interested in their lives.

To achieve the above, brands need to take a genuine interest in their consumers. Brands need to personalize their content for consumers. Brands need to make sure their communication comes across as warm, personal and caring while handling customer complaints and while conducting customer satisfaction surveys. Brands need to reward their loyal customers with discounts, personalized offers, and promotions.

Creating massive value for customers

Today’s customers expect a lot from Brands. Customer service and support are baseline expectations. To woo customers, brands need to go above and beyond what is required. Brands need to move beyond customer service, and aim for customer success. They can figure out the requirement while handling customer complaints and by conducting customer satisfaction surveys.

Customer success may involve providing additional service/ products to your customers. It may mean recommending additional resources/content. It may even mean referring your customers to your competitor, if it genuinely helps them.

Poe doesn’t limit himself to being a hotelier. To please Takeshi Kovacs, Poe goes above and beyond the call of duty, and takes on the role of an assassin. While this is an extreme example. Brands can always do a little extra to make sure they are always helping their customers.

Also see: Taking Mixed Reality Marketing to Indian Farmers [Case Study]

Leveraging Technology

In the cyberpunk world of Altered Carbon, technology is ubiquitous – it is everywhere. Poe is a product of technology. Cortical Stacks and Sleeves are technology marvels, and immortality is the gift of technology.

Creative technology can deliver efficiency. Brands are using Marketing Management Systems for more efficient and profitable marketing.

Technology can deliver personalization. With Big Data, Analytics, Machine Learning, and Augmented Reality Technology brands are delivering customized, personalized, relevant offers to each consumer.

Technology can inspire curiosity. The Augmented Reality technology startup Magic Leap has leveraged the technology world’s curiosity to raise 1.4 Billion dollars. Using technological and artistic mediums like Mixed Reality, brands are making people curious about their products, building a community, reaching vast numbers of people and making a huge impact.

Don’t forget, it was curiosity that inspired people to visit the AI retreats in Altered Carbon, including Poe’s hotel, The Raven.


A cold blooded, eccentric Artificial Intelligence, modeled after a horror writer seems like the least likely candidate to offer insights into the human condition. Yet Poe does, and brands can learn from him – building brand value,  customer service, how to please their customers, how to delight their customers, how to have an obsessive focus on their products, hot to prioritize customer success, and ultimately, how to turn loyal customers into evangelists.

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