73 percent of marketers believe they will peacefully coexist with AI…Read the full report
Artificial intelligence has already become a major part of modern-day marketing. But what exactly can we expect from the burgeoning relationship between marketeers and AI applications as we move into 2018 and beyond into the great unknown of the information age?
With this research piece, we wanted to get to the bottom of two central questions concerning the rise of AI marketing:
1. To what extent will AI marketing take over/revolutionise marketing?
2. Should marketers be worried about losing their jobs to AI?
To get a complete picture of the current state of affairs, we interviewed 100 senior decision-making marketing professionals to find out how AI will (or already is) revolutionising their marketing practices.
For a more visual breakdown of a research, here’s a lovely infographic highlighting the real impact of AI on marketing and marketing jobs in 2018 and beyond.
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What is AI marketing?
When we talk about AI marketing, we’re mostly concerned with big data and the ways artificial intelligence can use this data in ways humans cannot.
With companies like Facebook and Google monopolising our information, big data already effects our lives on a day to day basis, and its influence will only continue to increase in the coming years.
The rise of AI in marketing is an inevitable part of this process.
Industry leaders like Thomas Power (board member at 9Spokes and major influencer in AI, emerging technology, and cryptocurrency), believe that the capacity of AI to hyper-personalise marketing communications is the only path forward for marketing communications in a world that is oversaturated with information.
“People don’t really answer messages anymore. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, WhatsApp, Email, Voicemail, SMS. There’s no responsibility to answer them.. there’s a sense that communication doesn’t matter anymore… People are overwhelmed with it, overwhelmed with messages… not just the messages but the notifications about the messages… so people have decided, ‘I’ll just answer what I can, when I can’
Suggesting, during our interview, that the level of personalisation that will be required (especially following the approaching GDPR deadline) will only be achievable using AI applications.
“Messages have to be so carefully chosen, and so carefully timed that it can’t be done by a human. Only a machine is capable of that.”
For Thomas Power – and other industry leaders – this insight leads them to believe that the role of the human marketeer will be extinct by 2025.
Is this type of statement based on real-world evidence from the marketing industry, or is it hyperbole?
That’s what we aimed to find out with our research.
A quick overview of our research
Overall, our research suggests the future of AI in marketing is still uncertain, so any futurist claims on the subject should be taken with a pinch of salt. However, we were able to identify several conflicting camps of thought concerning AI in marketing:
- Many marketeers are worried that their jobs may soon go extinct
- Many marketeers are unaware of the rising impact of AI in marketing
- And others are over-predicting the magnitude of AI’s influence on marketing in order to scaremonger
While in some ways our results point to a major AI revolution in marketing, they also suggest that the direct impact of AI applications on marketing jobs will be small (in the short term at least). The relationship between marketers and AI in 2020 will be very different from that of 2025 and 2030, but the next few years (and the following decade) offer a long time for marketers to adapt and change as the technology progresses.
In short, here’s what our results have to offer:
- Some reassurance to those who are unsure about the future of their careers
- A kick up the backside for those who are unaware of the developing role of AI in marketing
- A tug on the reigns for those who may be getting ahead of themselves
As mentioned, the pick-up of AI is divided. There are those going gung-ho, pedal to the metal, racing blinders down, and there are those who are clearly underestimating the inevitable impact of AI on the marketing industry.
Between these poles, there’s a large majority of senior marketers and companies who are aware of AI looming impact but are unsure what to expect or how to react. With this research piece, we hope to offer people in every camp more clarity on the current impact of AI on marketing and marketers in 2018 and beyond.
The real impact of AI on marketing and marketers in 2018
Will AI take marketing jobs?
With many saying that marketing jobs will soon be extinct, we wanted to find out the reality of the situation as move into 2018.
Our results show that more than half (55%) of senior marketing decision makers have either already begun implementing AI or are currently investigating the potential use cases of AI for their business.
While 18% of the surveyed stated that they were integrating artificial intelligence technology or initiatives wherever possible, 45% had no serious plans or intentions to get involved with AI. What then is the lesson we should be taking from current examples of artificial intelligence in marketing?
The disparity here suggests that a gap will form between those companies using AI wherever possible, and those unaware of (or choosing to avoid) the changes AI will bring to marketing practices.
The need for AI marketing obviously varies between types and sizes of business (who will understandably require different types of artificial intelligence support) and the quantities of data they have access to/can afford, but as results continue to show the value of AI marketing initiatives, it will be interesting to see how many more businesses get involved.
Which areas of marketing will benefit most from AI in marketing?
Our results show that ‘the personalisation of marketing communications’ (29%) and ‘data analysis’ (22%) will be the dominant areas for AI marketing.
This shouldn’t be surprising. The promise of AI to build on current marketing automation and CRM systems is huge, and this shouldn’t be downplayed.
Within these brackets are tasks that marketeers will be happy to see go. The new task will be learning out to use and interpret them.
Why are companies investing in artificial intelligence?
Looking more short term, we found that:
- 44% of companies said staying competitive is/would be their primary reason to invest in AI for their marketing team
- 15% stated that error reduction would be their main reason to invest in AI.
- While ‘driving revenue growth’ and ‘better nurturing existing clients’ ranked second and third for overall investment potential
With the GDPR deadline fast approaching, these reasons for investment are more than understandable. Yet while it’s clear that AI will benefit marketing in many areas, will AI benefit or burden marketeers?
AI in Marketing: Competition or companion?
With more than half of companies already investing in and implementing AI across their marketing, the obvious next question is whether this will leave marketeers competing against AI for their jobs, or learning how to use AI to peacefully coexist with this new tech.
Here’s what we found…
- 20% of senior marketers believe that AI will completely replace current marketing practices by 2025
- With a further 15% claiming that this upheaval of marketing practices will occur as soon as 2020
On the opposite side…
- 36% believe that AI will only change certain aspects of current marketing practices, never all
- With a further 23% stating that AI will only continue to supplement current marketing practices, it will never fully replace them
In which areas are companies looking to integrate AI in 2018?
The idea that marketing jobs will disappear overnight is pretty farfetched. The reality is that there will be a lengthy period of transition where some tasks are taken over by AI and other new tasks are born in support and in addition to the technology.
We wanted to find out which marketing tasks would be the first to land in the hands of AI bots.
Our results suggest that companies are looking to enhance many aspects of their marketing with AI capabilities.
Customer service functions (such as AI chat-bots) and content development were the primary areas of focus for companies investing in AI.
Companies were also looking at AI-powered CRMs (such as Salesforce Einstein), personalisation & profiling, and buyer journey optimisation as significant reasons to invest in AI.
Of considerable significance in the short term – 27% of interviewees were not looking to integrate AI in any of these areas in 2018.
Which of these applications of AI will help marketers overcome the challenges of GDPR?
Looking ahead to GDPR, we were curious to understand if/how companies would use AI marketing to overcome the challenges thrown up by the new privacy regulations coming into effect in May 2018.
This is what we found…
- Roughly 40% cited the analysis of marketing campaign data as the best use of AI in terms of GDPR preparation.
- With 24% citing collecting and collating audience insight as a primary use of AI in response to GDPR
GDPR will mean huge changes for companies all across the EU. Email lists will take a hit, and marketing practices will be forced to take a huge shift. For the individual, this will be a great thing, desaturating the information being sent your way and cutting out the spam.
For business, this need to be the moment marketing communications are reconsidered. The question is, will AI bots make marketing more human, or will the human touch remain in the hands of humans?
In what areas of marketing can humans outperform AI?
It seems there are quite a few areas of marketing where humans are considered to have the upper hand over their software counterparts.
Other than creative thinking (cited by 70% of interviewees), the following areas were said to be key strengths of human intelligence (HI) in comparison to AI:
- Strategic planning (42%)
- Client services (36%)
- Content creation (34%)
- Data interpretation (31%)
- Community building (27%)
We can see from this that hyper-personalisation may not necessarily be (or at least isn’t considered to be) the same thing as the real human touch. Human interaction is far more than seeing your name at the beginning of an email, or your ‘likes’ played back to you in a personalised video communication.
This is not to say that widespread AI won’t get to the point where it can mirror genuine and detailed human interactions on a business’s behalf. More than likely, this will be one of the uses of AI in years to come.. – full of the necessary and fallible individual personality. But it seems that we are further from this point that many might suggest.
Should marketers be worried about losing their jobs to AI applications in the near future?
In short, no. Here’s what our research told us.
We found that…
- 22% of business leaders in this area believe that marketers have no need to be worried about the impact of AI on their marketing job
- 15% of the business leaders we interviewed believed that marketeers should be very worried about their marketing jobs
Crucially, a whopping…
- 63% were unsure, stating that while marketers had a valid cause for concern about the future of their careers, new areas of marketing will open in support of the AI technology
Many of you reading this will be doing a job that didn’t exist when you were going through the what-do-I-want-to-do-when-I-grow-up phase. This will be even more true for the next generations as the rate of change continues to increase. Marketing, as with many other AI industries, will encounter huge changes and will be forced to adapt.
The introduction of GDPR is an early response to the way marketing is being forced to adapt to the omnipotence of big data, and those who control it. Many more changes will come as governments attempt to balance business interests with public demands for increased privacy. Readying yourself for change, and being ready to adapt to a changing professional environment is great advice for any individual or any business involved in industries dealing with emerging technology.
Things are going to change, and having adaptable skills will be valuable. Unlike GDPR, the rise of AI in marketing is not going to happen overnight. It has already started, this should now be common knowledge. But its impact will grow incrementally and alongside those who understand it and those who can interpret it and use it for the benefit of their business.
What is the most important skill for marketers to develop to successfully coexist with AI?
In order to work alongside and apply AI technology in the coming years, most marketing jobs will likely expand into new areas, becoming more all-encompassing job roles.
These are the most sought-after qualities:
While quite a broad skillset, critical thinking/problem solving was the most cited quality for marketeers to develop. In a rapidly changing marketing environment, limited by new regulations, intelligent problem solving will become more valuable than ever.
Creative skills are another area where marketeers can branch out into. Being able to understand the market, understand the information provided by the AI tech you are working with, and develop data-driven creative responses, is going to be a highly desirable skill set.
Being able to code AI would be useful for future marketeers, however, this is likely to take precedent and won’t necessarily be a skill that is split with marketing tasks.
Slightly surprisingly, pattern identification/trend spotting scored slightly lower in our results. While these skills will be useful for marketeers in the future, this is an area where AI will easily outperform HI. It will be more beneficial to develop skills which will be successful in conjunction with the types of artificial intelligence entering the marketing commonplace rather than those skill sets that will be quickly overtaken.
With many artificial intelligence applications in real-world use already, future marketeers will need to be all-rounders. Offering a little bit of everything, and being on the pulse as new skillsets become necessary for the success of a business in a rapidly changing marketplace.
Does the proliferation of AI spell the end of marketing as we know it?
To conclude our interviews, we asked each marketing leader this straightforward question.
As you can see, the results again show this disparity among modern business.
- 5% of senior marketers think AI spells the end for marketing
- 22% of senior marketers are categorically sure it does not
In between, we have…
- 25% of senior marketers believing that AI more than likely spells the end for marketing as we know it
- 48% believing that it is at least possible.
63% of senior marketers believe that AI can or will drastically change the way modern businesses market their services. Yet they are optimistic about the future of the industry, seeing the process of change and adaptation in the face of these new challenges as part of the fun.
So what have we learned?
To conclude, let’s return to our two central questions.
- To what extent will AI take over/revolutionise marketing?
Overall, it’s important to remember that the reality of the current situation is complex and largely uncertain.
While we found that many companies are investing heavily in AI technology to enhance their marketing efforts, to an equal extent, many companies remain either unconcerned or unaware of the potential impact of AI on their marketing practices.
AI is becoming increasingly involved in marketing. This is an inescapable fact. And its influence is only increasing. Yet many decision makers in the industry believe its influence will be limited, especially in comparison to some of the hype that is being created around the topic of AI.
Will AI revolutionise marketing? Definitely. Will a complete upheaval of marketeers happen anytime soon? Definitely not.
AI and ‘the role of the marketeer’ will grow up together. Happily holding hands as they realise who they are and find an answer to their question of what-will-I-be-when-I-grow-up?
The truth is, the future of Ai is uncertain. The best AI applications are unknown or undeveloped. AI marketing is still figuring itself out. The situation we find ourselves in in 2025 is anybody’s guess. Some are committed to the hype, others aren’t. Most are still figuring the situation out.
- In the short term, should marketeers be worried about losing their jobs to AI?
In the short term, our results suggest that marketing jobs are safe as they are. Looking further ahead, marketing practices and job roles as we know them may no longer exist, but there is huge scope for these roles to become something far more than what they currently entail. Far from being a scary thing, this challenge should be seen as an exciting next step, or series of next steps, as the modern marketing role evolves around AI’s advances.