Brian Berner is an advertising media and technology executive with over 15 years of experience.
In many industries, there are fears that AI will replace workers. At the same time, those concerns are often rebutted by the argument that AI technology will support workers rather than replace them. With that being said, how will the marketing sector be affected by AI? What processes will the technology take over and what will remain in human hands?
At its core, the objective of AI in marketing is the same as any other technology: to improve the customer experience. In addition, marketers and brands are always looking for ways to boost ROI, to become more efficient in their strategies, and to understand their customers better.
AI can help accomplish all these goals in a variety of ways. For instance, with parsing through large data sets. Collecting and analyzing customer data is instrumental in finding out the best ways to appeal to your target audiences, and it’s a much more arduous process than it might sound. Data analysts must find the most relevant data points and draw accurate conclusions that allow marketers to make the most out of that information. AI can perform this task on a much greater scale -- it can sort through more data, reach more accurate conclusions, and ultimately give businesses more knowledge about individual customers and how to draw their attention.
At present, you might hear that data analysis is often used in conjunction with market segmentation. As marketers draw conclusions from their data, they create strategies based on certain groups within their customer base and cater directly to those groups. After all, it would be impossible for marketers to create strategies for every single customer they have. But with AI, personalization becomes easier. Strategies will likely still be formulated around customer segments, but appealing to individuals will become a reality. Consider Amazon recommendations, which are intuitively based on your own purchase and viewing history. Such personalization could be the future of marketing.
In addition, AI will give marketers the ability to automate more in-depth processes as the technology continues to develop. It can assist with content generation, generating templates for blogs or videos that can cut the time marketers spend on it. It can also help fine-tune content. For example, AI might recommend certain tweaks to email subject lines, greetings, follow-ups and more (Salesforce’s AI engine, Einstein, does exactly this). AI can also perform tasks like managing pay-per-click ad campaigns, designing websites, or performing media selections and buys.
Another big way that AI is changing marketing is through chatbots, which allow brands to make themselves available to consumers at any time to answer questions or provide more information about their products and services.
So while it seems like AI’s role in marketing begins with handling and interpreting data, we are starting to see AI develop the capability to follow through on the insights it produces and to work on other parts of the marketing process.
While using AI to perform data analysis may be a more widely accepted change, it seems that not all marketers are eager to bring AI into the fold. According to a survey by Advertiser Perceptions, approximately half of advertisers have no plans to use AI in their marketing. One of the primary reasons for this negative reception is that there is often no central authority within these organizations to oversee the tech and ensure that it is being properly and effectively used.
Another report by Bynder also reveals that 77 percent of marketers are concerned about how AI and automation will affect branding, saying that it will stifle creativity and lead to more homogenized strategies.
Of course, that’s not to say that marketers are completely writing off AI as an aid to their work. Marketers in Advertiser Perceptions’ survey expected media selection and buying to be the top use of AI by 2022, along with advanced customer segmentation, augmented marketing analytics and more.
The negative perceptions of AI reveal that marketing, perhaps unlike fields such as finance, is far more creatively-based than AI can account for. When it comes to targeting customer segments or discovering the best channels for a campaign, AI can dramatically improve a brand’s marketing in that sense. But while AI can definitely be a help in the more creative areas of marketing, it cannot truly replace the human creativity and connectivity that makes an advertisement or a marketing campaign compelling to consumers.
And it seems that is likely what will happen for marketing: automation will make more room for human ingenuity, rather than attempt to replace it. Marketers and brands that embrace AI as an equal partner will be able to gain a significant advantage over other businesses that are struggling to reconcile AI tech with their current marketing processes.