3 Reasons Why It’s Crucial for Brands to Introduce Machine Learning Into Their Marketing

AI is a 'smart pill' CMOs can't afford not to take

The reality is AI will complement marketing rather than replace it.
Illustration: Getty Images

Every so often, a story ripples through the media along the lines of “Scientists say a ‘smart pill’ is just over the horizon to make us immediately more intelligent.” While there is no telling when we will actually see such a pill, there’s a metaphorical “smart pill” available to marketers now, and it comes in the form of artificial intelligence, or AI.

AI is rapidly transforming the enterprise—and that includes the marketing department. According to a recent Gartner survey, 85 percent of customer interactions will be managed without a human by 2020.

Cheryl Chavez
Headshot: Alex Fine

Essentially, AI leverages machine learning to maximize the effectiveness of marketing efforts by predicting the best next customer interaction based on what it has learned through previous interactions. The more data AI has to work with, the better job it does identifying patterns of customer behavior and engaging them in more meaningful and authentic ways.

In today’s digitally connected world, customers are demanding brand experiences that resonate with them on the channels they prefer. And if they don’t feel as though a brand is being authentic, they’ll disengage. AI is the partner to the marketing team, helping it deliver the right message at the right time.

Moving past the anxiety about AI’s impact, Here are three reasons why CMOs should tell their teams to cheer—not fear—the power of AI:

Enables more precision

Marketers are awash in data. New technologies and channels are creating billions of customer interactions, yet marketing teams alone are not equipped to consume or mine all this data to target and engage each customer at the speed and scale required today. With the help of AI, marketers have the ability to optimize campaigns, including selecting the appropriate content, at the right cadence, across all channels, and to select segmentations. And AI can uncover opportunities that are inaccessible without its “brainpower.”

Encourage a test of personalized messages, pitting messages created in a traditional fashion against those devised by an AI solution.

Marketers’ fear of AI is due to a lack of understanding. The reality is AI will complement marketing rather than replace it. What’s more, AI will amplify their marketing efforts at a time when we are all forced to do more in less and less time.

Delivers better data insights

As data explodes even further in volume, velocity and complexity, AI can illuminate potential new customer journeys and new audience segments that were not obvious before.

Here’s an example: I’m a pharmaceutical company and I target doctors with a specific medical specialization. AI can help by uncovering insights in my data that indicate that I should be targeting a micro-segment of doctors based on current prescriptions written, geography, etc. This kind of
data-driven foresight is an invaluable advantage that companies cannot afford to ignore.

Uncovers new opportunities for the customer

Think Amazon, where AI powers the recommendations that are seen when we log in to our account such as the movies we should watch or the groceries we should buy. Increasingly, Amazon will be selling you things you didn’t even know you needed because it has learned what you like and are most inclined to buy.

But to drive true transformation, you need to do more than simply illustrate how AI can help. CMOs need to empower their teams to give AI a try. Here are three steps a CMO can take to encourage her team to bake AI into the marketing mix:

Test, then perfect. Marketers love testing messages. Encourage a test of personalized messages, pitting messages created in a traditional fashion against those devised by an AI solution. Sit back and see which did the best. Quite likely you’ll want more and more of your messages to be based on AI going forward.

This story first appeared in the Aug. 7, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.