A week doesn’t go by without some kind of headline telling us ‘the robots are taking over’. Regardless of how you view it, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is now an integrated part of everyday life and even more so when working in marketing communications. AI isn’t new. It has actually been around for over forty years, but the speed with which it has developed in recent years is phenomenal.

In Marketing, AI is making our jobs a lot more efficient. Data from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis show that the amount of technology used per unit of production doubled between 2001 and 2015. Brands that are out performing competitors are cleverly adopting AI technology to simulate human interaction, and more recently, humanising these interactions. The sheer volume of branded content out there means that any agency worth their weight in gold is using AI to give them a competitive edge.

Consumers have changed

Consumers now EXPECT a seamless experience from brands across multiple touchpoints. Not only that, they want it to be personalised. Brands that harness AI effectively provide a much better customer experience because they know how to ensure marketing, business and tech are linked more closely.

Brands should be looking at the examples set by companies such as North Face who used IBM Watson to see the benefits of mechanised ad delivery. Brands need to embrace automation and not run from it. If brands actually care about how consumers interact with them then they should be cognisant of the fact that AI can simplify the personalisation process, saving creatives hours of time that they can devote back into actual creative-thinking which we’re pretty sure Bots haven’t mastered…yet!
Personalised customer journey

The sheer volume of digital content is overwhelming and marketers are constantly evaluating what resonates with customers across platforms. AI can help in this process by identifying the content with the most popular subject matter/tone/sentiment etc. Maria Winnans from IBM believes that “the intersection of content and cognitive is also a big area of opportunity”. It will essentially create more effective content in terms of content variations, dynamically assemble content, help figure out what type of content and how much content needs to be created in the first place.

IBM have done a superb job in this area with IBM Watson. Watson has “cognitive capabilities” which enhance a marketers experience, not replace it. Cognitive capabilities help with personalisation and provide customer insights for segmentation.

Salesforce have harnessed similar technology with the Einstein platform which helps predict customer outcomes by pulling customer insights, and Amazon is developing three AI tools – Amazon Lex, Amazon Polly and Amazon Rekognition.

Tech solutions should meet customer needs

True value in this area will come when the technology-driven solution meets a customer need. When you know what works with your audience in terms of topic, sentiment, emotional appeal, it’s tagged and easy to find, it’s much easier to create highly targets and personalised messaging. It also creates a much deeper engagement with customers when you know what content resonates, why it resonates and then you can optimise in the future. This is known as content intelligence.

What does the future look like?

You can’t employ a ‘set it and forget it’ attitude when it comes to AI – it needs to constantly evolve and ensure that it’s a rolling strategy that’s customer centric. The positive outcome will likely be that as brands work with AI they will have more time to focus on advanced tasks such as problem-solving, strategising and thinking creatively. These are uniquely human tasks. Regardless of how smart computers become, humans will have a comparative advantage in performing them.


By Sara-Louise Martin