The biggest buzzword in marketing recently is AI. Artificial intelligence, in its most basic sense, can provide a computer or other device with the ability to learn without being programmed. It’s the technology that allows computers to learn and make their own decisions, but it’s still not as widely used in marketing as it could be.
We’ve seen some basic examples of AI in our daily lives—for instance, when you ask your phone a question, it gives an answer based on your search history or previously spoken words. More advanced forms of AI are increasingly being used by businesses to help them make smarter decisions about their marketing strategies.
In fact, McKinsey predicts that while AI is being applied to business problems globally across economic sectors, the effects of AI will be felt most in marketing and sales. While there are many uses for AI in marketing, there are also some serious challenges to overcome before you can use this technology effectively. Not all artificial intelligence is created equal. In fact, most of it isn’t even close to being independently intelligent. But when used correctly, AI can be a valuable tool for digital campaigns, improving customer service, and increasing revenue.
So let’s dive right into it. Here are Zen Media’s pros and cons of AI in marketing:
The Pros of AI in Marketing
Cost and Time Savings
AI is good at automating repetitive tasks, which means that you don’t need to waste time on laborious admin tasks. If you’re a marketing manager who’s already running on fumes from working late into the night every day of the week, then you will be happy to know that AI can help streamline your workflows by doing much of the heavy lifting for you.
In a world where marketers need to be “on” all the time, AI can be used to automate tedious tasks, freeing up more time for other important things (like interacting with stakeholders…and, you know, sleeping). Servion Global Solutions projects that more than 95% of customer interactions will be managed without a human by 2025.
By having an assistant (aka an algorithm and AI) handle basic business functions like scheduling meetings or organizing tracking codes for emails sent out, marketers have more room in their schedules for creative thinking.
Clear Data Insights
It’s no secret that businesses are addicted to data these days—but many people don’t realize how much untapped potential is out there just waiting to be put into action. With AI tools helping with everything from customer segmentation based on purchasing habits down to personalizing emails based on user interactions within an app/website, companies can now leverage insights derived from their existing datasets with greater ease than ever before.
Thanks to machine learning algorithms like neural networks, which learn by analyzing huge amounts of data over time—you can use all this information for your marketing efforts to better reach and serve your customers and prospects. Just imagine how much more effective your B2B email marketing campaigns would be if they were based on real customer behavior instead of assumptions or guesswork.
Having clear insights without the need to sift through data manually can help marketers identify new trends and forthcoming patterns, allowing them to focus on more creative pursuits. (Do you see the pattern here?)
AI gives marketers accurate data on what their buyers actually want, enabling them to improve marketing, so it caters more specifically to their audience. AI-powered automation will enable marketers to hyper-personalize their marketing tactics for each customer based on various factors, such as geographic location, past purchases, and browsing history. AI can be used to personalize both marketing and product development based on what people are saying about the company in real-time, enabling your company to always have relevant content ready when customers need it.
As a result, marketers will no longer need to rely on generic messaging across channels; instead, they can deliver highly relevant messages at precisely the right moment in real-time (i.e., when individual customers are most receptive). The ability to do this automatically means that businesses will be able to respond faster than ever before—saving both time and money!
Streamlined Marketing Efforts
AI can help streamline efforts across teams within organizations by providing insights into which strategies work best for specific audiences and segments. Some PR tech tools, like Cision Impact and Onclusive, even promise to link sales outcomes to earned media coverage if, for example, a prospective buyer reads an article about you and then takes action (like downloading a whitepaper, forking over contact information, or making a purchase). While this tech is in its infancy, it could mean big things for the future of projecting and calculating more accurate ROIs.
Other tools—like those developed to carry out an advanced sentiment analysis on social media posts and translation of audio and text files into multiple languages—will help expedite turnaround times on content creation and broaden your brand’s reach.
The Cons of AI in Marketing
Necessary Human Intervention
As we’ve already discussed, AI is not yet self-evolved (or even self-aware). It requires programmers who understand how it functions before it can be implemented. This means that you may need to hire new employees or consultants who specialize in this kind of technology—or train your existing staff (and give them raises) to learn a whole new skill set that heightens their value to your team.
AI designed to do uniquely human tasks, like writing, still desperately needs human intervention. Through natural language processing (NLP), AI can write about practically anything. And while these can be helpful tools to get a rough draft of a simple product-driven blog, they won’t match up to the capabilities of a human. The more nuanced your topic, the more you’ll need human sensibilities to ensure high-quality writing, clear messaging, and easy readability.
C-3P(N)O: Humans don’t love chatting with robots.
Even though chatbots are engineered to be as human-like as possible, they’re still programmed by humans and can only take you so far in conversation. This means that customers looking for more personalized experiences will find themselves frustrated when they’re forced into a roundabout way of requesting assistance or information—especially if all they want is the answer to a specific question—one that doesn’t have a programmed response. (We’ve all been there, clicking through three menus only to speak to a robot and wanting to throw the phone across the room.)
It’s also important to note that while AI has made it easier for marketers to scale their business processes and develop solutions, there’s no replacing human creativity and ingenuity when it comes to getting new ideas off the ground and putting them into action.
Attack of the Clones
AI can create an overreliance on quantitative metrics and analytics when making decisions about your marketing campaigns. Because algorithms lend themselves so well to measurable results like clicks and conversions, marketers often emphasize these metrics when planning their campaigns rather than taking time to consider qualitative factors like customer satisfaction or brand loyalty. While these are essential aspects to consider when planning out your strategies, they don’t tell you everything about how effective they will ultimately be—and if all you pay attention to are these numbers alone, then there’s no room left for creativity or intuition.
That kind of tunnel vision can potentially lead companies down unproductive paths that might not benefit them overall—such as spending money on an ad campaign without considering how effective it will be at actually selling products or services (or even whether people want those products or services). Overreliance on analytics, quantitative metrics, and virtuosic technical execution at the expense of qualitative variables like creativity, novelty, and strategic risk-taking result in formulaic brand identities and campaigns—”clones”—that lack market differentiation.
Yes, even algorithms have their flaws. Like any technology, AI can be exploited to do harm by malicious actors. This has happened before: in 2016, Microsoft had to shut down its Tay chatbot after Twitter users taught it to make racist and sexist statements. While the company will likely be more careful with future projects, there’s always a chance that something like this could happen again if they aren’t careful enough.
Despite what some people may think, AI is not yet as good at human intelligence. (We haven’t quite hit R.U.R. times yet.) As one example of how far we have yet to go: only one artificial neural network has been able to pass a Turing test (a test designed by Alan Turing in 1950). The current best score is 33% (with a 30% passing score) by Eugene Goostman in 2014 using NLP technology rather than the deep-learning algorithms used today.
We’ve looked at the benefits and drawbacks of AI in marketing. Overall, there are some significant upsides to using AI in your marketing—but it’s not a panacea. It may be helpful to consider it another tool in your arsenal that can give you an edge over competitors who don’t use it (or don’t use it effectively). We love Grammarly, so we’ve agreed that AI can improve our writing. But we know it can make mistakes, so we rely on our knowledge and judgement in the end.
The key takeaway here? The future is bright for AI-assisted marketing—and the present is already pretty good! Want to take advantage of AI in your marketing and B2B PR but not sure where to start? Reach out. We’d love to be your guide to this brave, new virtual world.