How will AI technology affect the future of marketing?

24 Sep 2018

While AI will definitely become more common, marketing is an industry that requires human intuition. Image: Little Pig Studio/Shutterstock

What will happen when AI enters the marketing industry? asked Brody Clemmer, digital product manager of Richardson and board member of educational non-profit Marketing EDGE, about what might transpire once evolved AI technology becomes available to marketers.

Will AI technology affect the marketing industry?

It’s a fascinating question because everyone is framing it as though AI will affect marketing but really, it’s marketing that will drastically affect AI. Marketing is around the emotional and psychological aspect of a consumer’s experience, and what AI does not do well currently is cognitive processing.

Together with marketing, AI will provide more predictive strategies than our current prescriptive strategies from machine learning. That being said, it’s up to us as an industry to determine the inputs for AI to learn from, and that’s where the industry must be united.

How can marketing departments adapt to the introduction of AI technology to the industry?

This is where all marketing professionals need to be careful and truly reflect on the industry and the way they enact their strategies. There’s been a huge push for socially minded marketing and responsible marketing but, with the implementation of AI, it’s crucial that we are facilitating ethical and responsible inputs into the technology.

There’s a plethora of ways to adapt your marketing strategies to AI and, truthfully, most departments already have in some way (even if they haven’t consciously done it), but the real adaptation is thinking about all of the potential outputs that could happen with your inputs. Make them clean, make them ethical and make them work for your customers, not just for your business.

How can education and adaptation play a role?

I believe that the key to the future of marketing (which is seemingly contradictory to the industry) is less about how to execute on the different technologies, but more around why those technologies exist, and the core of how they were built.

Many educational institutions are looking at teaching social media in their marketing courses, but why teach social media if they don’t understand the base principles of interaction and sociology? In a world of fast-paced, ever-changing technologies, we must ensure we are focused on teaching what humans do best: reflect, innovate and experience.

In your view, what will AI technology’s most likely future role be?

This is really up to us as a society, and I’m afraid to say that our current trajectory is bleak. As an industry, I continue to see the trend of building and implementing ‘stuff’. A wonderful information architect, Abby Covert, once said that she “would much rather build systems than stuff”, and that statement has never left me.

What I would like to see personally is something that Marketing EDGE took to heart during our incredible opportunity to partner with IBM as part of their Impact Grant programme: to reimagine the way we implement technology throughout our organisation.

A resounding theme that came out of it? Technology is a tool, not a solution. As we enter a world of unknowns over the next two or three decades, I hope our education system adapts and starts to teach that technology should be used merely as a facilitator to enhance and enrich our ideas and processes, not as the solution to our challenges.

Will human intelligence be required for some time to come?

Human intelligence will be required as long as humans are alive. In his book Homo Deus, Yuval Noah Harari states: “Happiness does not really depend on objective conditions of either wealth, health or even community. Rather, it depends on the correlation between objective conditions and subjective expectations.”

Because marketing is really centred around the idea that consumers can be ‘happier’ if they use their product or think like them, it takes a level of subjective expectation-setting that technology will not be able to achieve for quite some time, or ever. Never forget that technology and information are not feelings and, as an industry, we need to adapt our future to being better at feelings and intuition, instead of constantly focusing on allowing data to be the driving force of our decisions.

Why is human intelligence particularly important in a marketing context?

I want to be clear and reiterate here that humans have done an incredible job at engineering intelligence, but there has been almost no development of creating conscious computing to date. That said, I want to go back to the old cliché of conscious marketing. When we analyse the four Ps (product, price, promotion, place), we can easily see that these will inevitably be guided by AI. However, the idea of conscious marketing adds the fifth P of purpose, and I believe that’s where human intelligence will continue to be the driver of a new age of marketing.

The philosophical aspect of consumerism, and the idea or expectation of an experience, is something that only humans have the ability to conceive – and that’s where human intelligence will be most effective and important in marketing.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects