Grant McDougall is the CEO and Co-Founder of BlueOcean, an AI brand strategy platform that helps companies outmaneuver the competition.
We live in a world of torrential data flows that outstrip our limited human ability to comprehend and act on this information. Today, marketers must monitor customer interactions with brands across dozens of platforms, devices and media formats. You must track quantifiable metrics like how many times a post is shared as well as qualitative metrics like the sentiments of customers when you share a post. You must understand how a customer interacts with your brand and how that customer interacts with other brands—especially competitors—and other customers. And now, with increasing economic pressures, it is more imperative than ever for you to make timely decisions with what information you have to optimize brand performance and achieve the business outcomes for which you are accountable.
It’s dizzying to even think about.
The internet has connected brands and consumers in ways that are both strange and beautiful, but the cost of this connection is complexity. There is now so much data from these interactions that marketers don’t know what to do with it all. This is precisely the type of challenge that artificial intelligence is built to overcome. Intelligent algorithms grow smarter the more data they ingest, which increases the value they provide to users by distilling mounds of data into grokkable insights.
AI unlocks new marketing potential.
While many chief marketing officers and other decision makers have embraced the promise of AI, many marketers still seem to be wary—if not downright spooked—of the integration of machine intelligence into their workflows. Their concerns are the same as workers in every industry where automation is on the rise: What if AI makes my job obsolete?
These fears are natural but no more warranted than the paranoia of the Luddites who smashed textile machines at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Rather than replacing humans, the introduction of machine manufacturing unlocked the full potential of the workers and allowed each factory employee to produce the same amount of goods that would take dozens or hundreds of people to make without machine assistance. At the same time, the cost of these goods fell precipitously, and their quality surged, which enabled a meaningfully improved quality of life for the average consumer.
We can already see a similar dynamic unfolding from the introduction of AI into marketing. The use cases for AI in marketing are incredibly diverse and tailored to the needs of a given brand. There are well-known applications like programmatic ad buying and novel and increasingly sophisticated practices like sentiment analysis and content generation. And with marketing budgets facing continued cuts, technology like AI can help marketers get more from every investment.
AI is a collaborator, not a replacement.
Regardless of the specific implementation, AI consistently drives value to marketing teams along a few key vectors. It can automate repetitive and tedious tasks and analyze large amounts of heterogeneous data to give a comprehensive picture of a brand in the wild. It also can enable real-time personalized marketing efforts at scale and leverage predictive analytics to produce actionable recommendations for future campaigns.
These AI applications have important implications for both marketers and your audiences. For marketers, it unlocks new and creative ways of engaging with customers while accelerating your ability to learn and adapt to the swift changes in digital culture. It’s like hiring an assistant that allows you to focus on areas you’re passionate about and uniquely equipped to handle. For consumers, these AI-driven marketing techniques result in more relevant and personalized interactions with brands on a scale that could never be achieved by even the best legion of human brand specialists.
I’m sure we can all agree that AI has permanently transformed digital marketing by reducing the risk of human error and streamlining even the most complex marketing campaigns. In fact, integrating AI-powered software, such as predictive analytics, into your martech stack has become table stakes for remaining competitive. To truly connect with customers, though, you’ll still need human perspective—especially concerning emotional and relational elements like storytelling, compassion and empathy. Therefore, realizing the fullest potential of human-machine partnerships requires close attention to both automating processes and developing human potential.
It’s critical that marketers recognize that AI is a salve for data overload, not a silver bullet. Marketing will always need the human touch. AI is just a tool to help you achieve superhuman results in what actually matters: engaging your customers with meaningful interactions wherever they happen to be.