How AI Will Alter the Digital Marketing Landscape

Opinion: Alignment with emerging tech can keep your brand one step ahead

Omnichannel, growth hacking, attribution, automation, micro-moments, gamification, agile and key performance indicators. There is no shortage of marketing buzzwords with short-term industry hype. When I first heard about the intersection of AI and marketing, while working with a machine-learning startup out of the Bay Area, I assumed the use of bots in marketing would follow suit as a buzzworthy concept that would quickly run its course. Fast-forward five years, and it’s evident that AI and its related technologies will run parallel to nearly all marketing tactics in the future.

But how? Here are three unexpected ways that the adoption of AI is currently shifting and will continue to accelerate the evolution of the marketing landscape over the next three to five years.

Reducing employees’ cognitive load

Perhaps the greatest potential benefit of AI within the context of marketing, sales, customer support and business in general is the capacity for it to reduce what is known to psychologists as “cognitive load.” Cognitive load is the amount of effort being used in your working memory or the effort associated with the task at hand and can differ from individual to individual, even when performing the same task, depending upon unique skills and abilities. For instance, some employees are naturally big-picture thinkers, but their position still requires some detail-oriented tasks that add to their cognitive load. It’s so often that we tie productivity and effort to time in the office, but the more valid evaluation of professional contribution is related to the degree of cognitive load that an employee experiences on a daily basis. The bottom line is: The mind has limitations.

What does this have to do with AI and marketing? At its core, AI is the use of machines and their ability to continuously learn and solve problems as effectively as humans can. Tasks that are easily handed off to AI technology generally require less context and usually has a clearly defined output. Because employees have cognitive limitations, a high volume of repetitive tasks will lead to higher levels of burnout, especially for an employee who might not naturally be task- or detail-oriented.

It’s evident that AI and its related technologies will run parallel to nearly all marketing tactics in the future.

Let’s take ad copy creation, for instance. The associated tasks are something that could easily be executed by bots, especially with the application of sophisticated natural language processing and the ability of machines to solve for user intent. In this example, employees simply provide keywords and character limits to a bot, then rubber-stamp bot-generated ad copy, which can then be applied in the digital advertising space programmatically. This augmentation not only creates efficiency but also means potentially more satisfying work for the employee due to a reduction of cognitive load. The only task that is required of an employee in this example is one that taps into higher levels of cognition.

Overall, such augmentation with AI can free up time for higher-level strategic work that will most likely lead to greater levels of employee happiness and professional development—not to mention business results.

Changing hiring profiles

Based on a potential shift in cognitive load and the ability to offload repetitive tasks to bots, hiring profiles, as well as employee training and development initiatives, will be elevated across marketing departments. New hires will naturally need to be better planners, more proactive and moderately strategic. Entry-level positions will look more like mid-level positions do today, requiring more creativity, decision-making and delegation (to a bot). While some skeptics may argue that bots could make marketing messaging and content too predictable, the flip side is that marketers will have more cognitive load available to iterate on what bots produce, which means they will have the capacity to add creative touches and outside-the-box campaign ideas to the bot’s automated foundation.

Similarly, some positions that required deep analysis in the past might be replaced completely by bots. Take a product marketing analyst position in which an employee was charged with studying and strategically responding to pricing trends. Today, an algorithm can provide not only the metrics needed but also data-driven recommendations to respond to the market depending on a company’s risk profile, goals, seasonality and unique sales history. While a human being will still need to have the leadership skills to make those changes come to life, creatively apply them in the wild and pivot tactics within a broader strategy, the hiring profiles for your standard marketing department positions will continue to evolve as we effectively augment tasks with AI.

Shifting advertising perceptions

Over the past decade, we have slowly begun to see brand identities that are driven by consumers/clients as much as by the organizations themselves. Bots will continue to build upon this trend by providing highly curated content that is helpful to the recipient rather than past advertising, which was perceived as interruptive and disconnected. Marvin Chow, vp of marketing at Google, best summed up the ultimate benefit of AI and machine learning as helping marketers reach one of their most sought-after goals: “relevance at scale.”

As marketing, fueled by AI, evolves, it continues to more effectively solve user pain points and address complex user intent—and it does so in micro-moments—by responding to customer interests in the format, app and/or channel that the user prefers. Consumers will start to use highly curated advertising more willingly as bots respond conversationally to their specific, unique needs, perhaps even before the consumer knows they are a need. If you have ever had the Amazon sidebar suggest you buy more dishwasher detergent gel packs just when you were getting low, you’ve experienced a simple benefit of AI and the customer-centric shift from advertising as a nuance to advertising as a service.

Fueled by big data, AI-driven mar tech has the potential to revolutionize marketing like no other technology of the past. It will continue to make the customer experience (due to rising customer expectations) the driving factor of success. Effective marketing is a never-ending puzzle to solve, and in the classic words of Albert Einstein, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” Marketing leaders willing to prioritize the effective adoption of AI over the next decade will quickly differentiate themselves from the status quo, and their business success will inevitably follow.