Artificial Intelligence and Marketing

Stephen DeAngelis

July 24, 2019

Marketing is one field where professionals must change with the times. At first marketers were sign painters, then print specialists, then radio and television experts, and they are currently mastering digital advertising with the help of artificial intelligence (AI). Pradyut V. Hande (@HandesUp), a Senior Growth Marketer & Product Evangelist at Smartech, reports, “[A] PwC study [found] 72% of the marketers interviewed consider AI as a ‘business advantage’.”[1] Nevertheless, he notes, “When actionable data is considered the fulcrum for growth, the modern marketer barely utilizes 5% of the customer-centric data — that often exists in straitjacketed silos — at his disposal. This is where Artificial Intelligence Marketing comes into the picture. It is the calibrated use of customer data — from online and offline sources — and computational concepts such as Machine Learning to predict customers’ digital actions or in actions (on web or mobile app platforms), enabling businesses to intelligently target the right customers with the right content across the right channel, and at just the right time.” While some marketers are raising concerns about the future role of humans in marketing, Thomas Husson (@Thomas_Husson), a Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester, believes AI will spark a renaissance in marketing. He writes, “The reality is that AI will scale existing data-driven marketing approaches and give modern CMOs the ability to personalize branded experiences in real time at scale. AI is opening up new marketing use cases and will lead to a marketing renaissance, enabling CMOs to focus their energy on core marketing activities: customer understanding, brand strategy, and brand experience.”[2]


The benefits of AI marketing


It’s no coincidence the rise of artificial intelligence followed closely on the heels of the emergence of big data. AI requires a lot of data to work effectively. Marketers have a lot of data at their disposal, but, according to Tom Benton, Chief Executive Officer at the Data & Marketing Association, they are not taking full advantage of that data. He explains, “Data is a horizontal that cuts across all of marketing, yet to date many organizations (some very large organizations) are not yet data-driven.”[3] He goes on to note, “They are realizing that today’s technology and processing power enables organizations to use data informed techniques to enhance customer experience. They’re realizing that to be competitive they must pivot toward data-driven marketing techniques including data-informed design and messaging to personalize offers that resonate with individual customers based on their individual needs and interests.” To help marketers understand why they should embrace AI marketing, Hande identifies four benefits it can provide, namely: content optimization; send-time optimization; increased cross-sell and up-sell opportunities; and improved customer experience.


Content Optimization: “If the customer is king,” Hande writes, “content is your anointed messenger to influence decision-making. AI allows marketers to adopt a data-driven approach with the objective of making predictive sense of their digital customers’ diverse behaviors across channels and devices. By analyzing historical browsing and transactional patterns, marketers can identify relevant customer segments.”


Send-Time Optimization: According to Hande, “Marketers need to target the right audiences at the right time. AI allows marketers to identify customer segments that respond to a particular campaign at specific times based on historical behavior. Over a period of time, the system establishes a degree of predictability around the customers’ reactions and this learning input is fed back into campaign intelligence.”


Increased Cross-Sell and Up-Sell Opportunities: Using AI-powered recommendation engines, marketers can expose consumers to products in which they might be interested. Hande explains, “Whether it is travel, food delivery, online fashion, or media OTT, today, AI can help marketers make the most relevant product or content suggestions based on their past browsing, purchase, or viewing activity. This ensures that only those customers that have displayed an inclination towards a particular product category are targeted with relevant or correlated recommendations at just the right time. This opens up multiple cross-sell and up-sell opportunities, while helping marketers boost per session length and platform stickiness.”


Improved Customer Experience: Hande believes AI-powered Chatbots provide a new way for marketers to improve customer experience. He explains, “A Chatbot is an AI-fueled software that can interact with humans through a live chat interface. Although at a nascent stage of adoption, the rapid rise of conversational marketing means that over 80% of brands are looking to use Chatbots by 2020. When programmed to handle standardized queries, these virtual agents extend a high degree of personalization across web or mobile platforms. The added element of AI enables marketers to customize bucketed responses based on historical interactions with customers, accurately responding to queries, providing suggestions, and redirecting customers through relevant deeplinks.”


Greg Hansen, Chief Technology Officer at RevTrax, agrees with Hande and Benton that marketers have yet to tap fully the data they have available or take advantage of AI-powered marketing. “Most marketers,” he asserts, “have only scratched the surface of the potential applications of this technology. In the U.S. alone, there are over 300 million potential consumers. Multiply that by the number of possible branded products in a given category, considering all different variants and configurations that are available for purchase. Then, think about how those purchase decisions are affected by previous brand interactions, time of day, weather, type of device, personal preferences, language, sentiment and more. There is no way a person could access all of these variables, integrate them into actionable insights and roll out any activity in real-time. For this, marketers rely on big data analysis to connect the dots. And for real-time, targeted, efficient activities, marketers rely on AI and machine learning.”[4]


What about human marketers?


Ellie Mirman (@ellieeille), Chief Marketing Officer at Crayon, asks, “How many times in the last year have you heard the question, ‘Is artificial intelligence going to take over our jobs?'”[5] This concern is reflected in many marketers’ perspectives about AI-powered marketing. Entrepreneur Rupa Ganatra reports a survey published by Resulticks in early 2018 found, “Almost half [of the 300 marketers surveyed] thought artificial intelligence was an overhyped industry buzzword and 40% felt skeptical when they saw or heard the term. The survey also found that 47% of marketers believed AI was more fantasy than reality.”[6] Mirman believes concerned marketers should chill out. She writes, “I’m here to tell you that robots are our marketing friends. … We are just at the start of tapping into artificial intelligence for marketing, but there are already a number of great ways that this technology is improving our jobs, not killing them. AI, in fact, has the potential to do the jobs we don’t want and the jobs we can’t do, and to ultimately help us do the jobs we already do, better.” Her opinion is mirrored by the former CEO of GroupM North America, Rob Norman. He writes, “I don’t see reason to fear — I see opportunity. … To my peers and friends who are still worried that their jobs may be replaced by machines, I’d offer this: 30 years ago we were information workers, then machines beat us at processing. So, for the last decade, we’ve adapted to become intelligence workers. Now it’s time to adapt again. And in this new age of assistance, I believe we’re called to be imagination workers.”[7]


Concluding thoughts


Marketers’ goals include maximizing return on investment for marketing spend. Hansen believes AI-powered marketing can help achieve that goal. He explains, “Data collected in the machine learning process can give marketers an accurate measurement of ROI, which can be used to maximize the effectiveness of marketing spend.” Benton admits AI isn’t a silver bullet marketing solution. He notes a few daunting challenges remain, including: “IoT, big data, attribution woes, and integrating online and offline touchpoints, identity across platforms, channels and devices, emerging technology and techniques.” Nevertheless, he believes marketers will rise to those challenges. He concludes, “We all know that knowledge drives the competitive edge!” And cognitive technologies, like the Enterra Shopper Marketing and Consumer Insights Intelligence System™, can increase that knowledge.


[1] Pradyut V. Hande, “What is Artificial Intelligence marketing?Economic Times, 18 November 2018.
[2] Thomas Husson, “Beyond The Hype, AI Will Spark A Marketing Renaissance,” Forrester, 30 August 2018.
[3] Tom Benton, “How data analytics will reshape marketing strategies in 2018,” Information Management, 19 January 2018.
[4] Greg Hansen, “Marketing Benefits of AI and Machine Learning,” Chief Marketer, 11 June 2019.
[5] Ellie Mirman, “Robots Are Our Friends — How Artificial Intelligence Is Leveling-Up Marketing,” Entrepreneur, 27 June 2018.
[6] Rupa Ganatra, “Is Artificial Intelligence In Marketing Overhyped?Forbes, 4 March 2018.
[7] Rob Norman, “AI and machine learning have many wondering about marketers’ future role. GroupM’s Rob Norman says ‘fear not’,” Think with Google, March 2018.