Throughout the past decade, the world has witnessed an AI revolution. Machine learning has been reshaping industries, ranging from tech, energy, and even agriculture; and marketing is no different!
The pros and cons of AI in marketing
Thanks to AI-driven technologies, marketers can now analyse large datasets in seconds, craft highly personalised content with just a click, and offer lightning-fast customer service. As a result, the marketing world welcomes a new era of automated tasks, improved SEO, and cost reductions across the industry.
However, like with any new innovations, there are various pitfalls which raise concerns. Although these handy automated assistants provide ease, efficiency, and effectiveness, their revolutionary abilities have left 64% of marketers scared that their jobs will be stolen. Alongside this, 56% believe that AI negatively impacts branding. Anxieties are arising as customers fear that their favourite brands are losing personality and their data privacy is being breached.
Real life examples: Learning from Netflix and Microsoft
Machine learning is here to stay and, with all these new tools at their disposal, marketers are left with one question: how can we effectively incorporate AI into our marketing strategies? Before diving into this complex question, it’s best we take a step back and explore how brands have previously navigated such unfamiliar terrain.
Netflix: A Case Study in Successful AI Integration
On the hunt for a great example of effectively using AI in marketing? Look no further than streaming giant Netflix! With a whopping 238 million monthly users worldwide, the company relies on automated processes to keep their brand purpose of “entertaining the world” alive. Their AI-driven recommendation system, a core component of driving this mission, is a feature that gives users a seamless experience that tailors browsing by targeting specific interests (and saving hours of arguing over what movie to watch!). No homepage is the same, and, by understanding that their audience wants this personalisation, AI remains a cornerstone of Netflix’s marketing efforts. Through automation and close monitoring, the company uses their large datasets to provide certain services to boost customer engagement and remain on top of the video streaming game. As a result, they have saved a jaw-dropping $1 billion annually by reducing churn and retaining loyal subscribers. Netflix highlights that AI, when working alongside humans, can produce remarkable results.
Microsoft Missteps: Lessons from the Tay Inciedent
However, AI’s capabilities are still unexplored and using these automated assistants with little experience can cause problems. Microsoft’s AI-powered chatbot, dubbed “Tay”, was created to observe how machines interact and learn from human behaviours. Yet, its legacy serves as a reminder that using AI unwisely can negatively impact brand reputation and marketing operations. Within 24 hours of its launch on Twitter, “Tay” began tweeting extremely offensive comments after interference from internet trolls and was swiftly shut down. A lack of content filtering, inability to adapt, and insufficient supervision were blamed for the failure. What hoped to showcase Microsoft’s position at the forefront of the technological revolution, ultimately ended in embarrassment. Such oversight ultimately damaged their marketing strategies and brand reputation. In a statement about the incident, Microsoft apologised for their mistakes and explained plans moving forward when facing “difficult – and yet exciting – research challenges in AI design” in the future. While machine learning can produce outstanding results, Microsoft’s marketing nightmare shows why AI has not been fully embraced yet.
Practical Tips for Incorporating AI in Marketing Strategies
So we’ve discussed both the positives and negatives of AI, but how can these lessons be put into practice? Here’s our top tips on using AI effectively in marketing strategy:
- Understand your goals
Marketers must start with one important question: why do we need AI in our marketing strategy? Having a purpose-led AI initiative provides foundations for success as its effectiveness ultimately depends on alignment with brand purpose. Netflix highlights this as, through optimising AI efforts alongside core values, they have retained loyal customers and a wealthy portion of market share. Whether that be to increase conversion rates, generating leads, or improving SEO, AI evidently thrives when in harmony with company vision.
- Research, start small, and continuously monitor
There are countless AI tools available, and this number is rapidly growing daily as, in the UK alone, there are over 1,500 AI companies (a 688% increase from a decade ago!). It is therefore crucial that marketers thoroughly research and decide which ones are best suited for strategies moving forward. After doing so, start with manageable tasks and consistently monitor how AI is working with marketing efforts; if we’ve learned something from Microsoft, it’s that leaving machine learning unsupervised can be disastrous. Also remember to stay flexible, your marketing strategies are constantly changing so ensure that incorporation of AI remains adaptable.
- Automate and personalise
We’ve talked about various negatives of AI, but machine learning undoubtedly excels in areas of automation and personalisation. Bored of repetitive tasks like sorting data? No worries, your automated assistant can provide instantaneous results and let you focus on using these insights to guide marketing campaigns. Whether it’s complex like Netflix’s recommendation system or simply email marketing, AI is also your best friend for tailoring content and providing personalised experiences that customers love!
- Let AI work alongside you, not for you
If there’s one thing to take away from this blog, it’s that you cannot let AI do all the work for you. It is here to stay, and with it comes a double-edged sword. While it creates ideas, gathers insights, and sparks creativity to ignite marketing campaigns, these benefits must be incorporated into a strategy led by human decision making. This makes all the difference between major victories like Netflix and setbacks like Microsoft. By striking a balance between automated benefits and human interaction, we can truly optimise marketing plans that reap all the technological benefits.
For better or worse, the marketing world has truly been revolutionised with the introduction of artificial intelligence. Newfound abilities are at the tips of our fingers and learning from past triumphs and mistakes helps shine light on unfamiliar technological terrain. However, marketers must stay ahead of the curve. While this blog has covered tips to help brands begin incorporating AI into their strategy, it may become outdated very quickly. We must always expect the unexpected in these daunting – yet incredibly exciting – times.