When analysts and executives discuss the implications of artificial intelligence technology, many still envision the futuristic world portrayed in Steven Spielberg’s “A.I. Artificial Intelligence.” Yet, while the film serves as a contemporary retelling of the Pinocchio story—Haley Joel Osment’s robotic character longs to become a “real” boy—the feature only addresses the moral ramifications of said tools, not the practical applications.
For modern marketers, AI looms precariously, taunting these present leaders with the possibility of future obsolescence. Many emerging tools promise to streamline tasks that marketers currently command. Much like Osment’s David strives to remain the object of his mother’s affection, today’s marketers wish for sustained relevance in the midst of this impending technological revolution.
But, as Rob Norman, former CEO and chief digital officer of GroupM North America, emphasizes, artificial intelligence doesn’t pose a threat to marketers. Instead, it’s an evolutionary opportunity.
“Because as machines do more work for consumers, the need to invest in brand relevance, equity, and familiarity only increases,” he writes in an article for Google. “In other words, the work marketers do is becoming more important, not less.”
Norman also notes that, while marketers were considered information workers 30 years ago, they quickly evolved into intelligence workers. As artificial intelligence and machine learning become more commonplace, marketers will soon slip into their new role: imagination workers.
“With new tools and technology, we evolved our skills and adapted, and now we have the opportunity to do so again, as machine learning innovations launch us into the next battleground for customer attention: assistance,” he explains.
Consumers are increasingly accustomed to the presence and convenience of digital assistance in myriad forms. With the introduction of voice-controlled AI systems, such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, this desire for on-demand assistance now thrives on immediacy. Thus, as end-users across industries acquaint themselves with these mainstream tools, they will become more eager to embrace and adopt such tools across the spectrum—both personally and professionally. Therefore, brands and, by extension, marketers must prepare themselves for this inevitable shift.
Marketers are going to need to tap into what drives consumers to do business with one company over another: familiarity. To establish and sustain familiarity, they must cultivate trust by focusing on shared beliefs and values above all else. While machines can deflect and absorb some of the strain that comes along with standard marketing tasks, these technologies cannot replace the connections formed via the personalization and engagement strategies designed to achieve the desired dynamic. Technology might make business easier, but relationships remain the backbone of any successful partnership.
Therefore, moving forward, marketers will need to get creative. They will need to tap into the very imaginations that have grown somewhat stale in the shadow of Big Data and other buzzwords that have dominated the executive agenda in recent years. They will need to follow in the footsteps of advertisers to keep their approach fresh and appealing, but they’ll also need to take cues from those on the service side of the equation to ensure that the customer experience remains optimal at all times.
After all, no matter how reliable AI and ML technology becomes, they will only ever be able to augment the relationships between marketers and customers, as the consumer will always opt for real support over “real” support when it comes to achieving their greatest business goals.