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­­­­Will AI change marketing?

Katerina Mutafchieva

Artificial intelligence (AI) has moved beyond science fiction—it’s now a very real technology, a technology that could even replace human jobs. Is your marketing role at risk? And should we, as marketers, be worried?

In reality, it’s unlikely we’ll all be left jobless, but businesses do need to start thinking about the future of marketing and the role of AI.

In recent years, AI has been one of the biggest trends in technology. Industry giants like Google, Facebook and Microsoft are setting up their own research teams and beginning to experiment with introducing AI into their products and services. However, AI isn’t just for the tech industry—practically each and every sector can gain great benefits from it. In fact, it might even help us become better marketers.

Hang on, what exactly is AI?

Before we go on, a short definition: Artificial Intelligence (AI) is intelligence demonstrated by machines—when machines perform functions similar to those of a human mind. AI can learn, reason, problem-solve, and plan.

 AI can recognize speech, images and language, interpret complex data, and even be programmed to move objects (used in robots and self-driving cars).

 AI in the real world

 In 2012, AI researchers created ImageNet, a vast database of images designed to accelerate the development of AI that can ‘see’. Examples of deep learning networks like this include Facebook’s ‘tagging’ function which recognizes faces, and Snapchat’s Face Swap.

 Recently, more advanced AI techniques such as machine learning have been used commercially to detect user patterns, trends and behaviours. For instance, Amazon uses predictive analytics to recommend purchases, whilst Google uses complicated algorithms to tailor its online ads.

 Online services such as Facebook, YouTube, Netflix use AI for content curation, e.g. for personalizing information based on previous search data. These services then attempt to predict what you’ll search for next. Supermarket chains like Tesco keep track of what its customers are buying and use it to tailor special offers and profile individual customers.

What might the future look like?

 If AI is a rocket, the engine is algorithms and the fuel is the database.’ – Matthew Grob, CTO, Qualcomm

For sure, there’s a huge opportunity to incorporate AI into real-world marketing activities. The real power of AI is in its ability to unite and analyze information from diverse data sets.

AI-automated processes may be able to eliminate tedious and time-consuming tasks from marketers’ day-to-day responsibilities, freeing up time to let them focus on the more strategic and creative parts of their job role.

Demandbase found that 80% of B2B marketers believe artificial intelligence will significantly impact the industry over the next five years. AI technologies in marketing may provide better insights into audiences and much more detailed campaign analysis. Email and CRM present plenty of opportunity for growth, as AI can be used to automatically customize emails and tailor content according to each consumer's individual behavior, profile, tastes and interests. The aim is to present new, real-time personalized offerings to maximize audience relevance.

A good example of where the future of marketing is going is a new AI marketing analyst system called Aiden, recently developed by a few bright young digital marketing experts. Aiden can assist digital marketers by providing them useful information through data analysis—marketers can ask about a website’s traffic or request information on the top performing social media platforms. This tool can visualize all the data a marketer needs into simple, easily-digestible graphics. We’ll be following Aiden’s progress very closely!

Accounting software giant Sage is taking similar steps forward with its Pegg chatbot, designed to help small businesses and the self-employed with tax and accounting issues. Pegg can be incorporated into Slack messenger to answer questions and send reminders. This is just the tip of the iceberg—imagine what will be possible 10-15 years from now.

Will AI make a difference to marketing roles?

 AI will soon be standard practice for all marketers. An article in Marketing Week asked whether robots will replace marketers in their jobs, and highlighted that ‘for a marketing professional, understanding how and when to use automation tools and managing these will be a big part of their role in the future.’

AI still needs people to guide it, so it’s unlikely our jobs will be replaced by robots. As AI progresses, it will—almost inevitably—affect our responsibilities at work. And we’ll have to change accordingly.

Change is always a scary, but AI presents a great opportunity for marketers and the industry in general to make the best use of this exciting technology.