To start with, the term “Artificial Intelligence” may be a bit of a misnomer and might better be phrased as “Anthropic Computing”. Since all AI does at this juncture, is to substitute for human processes. But Artificial Intelligence has turned out to be an excellent marketing term for big tech companies selling their wares and startups to raise capital. And of course, Hollywood to sell blockbuster movies. So what does AI really mean for marketers who hope it is the Holy Grail of the personalized relationship with the consumer?
The 1:1 Relationship is Impossible
I’ve been a marketer for over 20 years, launching a number of different technologies from hardware to software into global markets. Over the past several years, I’ve spent a lot of time around Big Data and Artificial Intelligence developments.
It would be truly awesome for a major brand to find a way to engage in a deeper, more personal relationship with each and every customer. While technologies such as chatbots and AI will enable better customer engagement, a truly 1:1 is impossible. For two reasons; 1) the way in which humans relate to technology and 2) the difficulty of scale from minimal to maximum.
A technology like AI is, for the foreseeable future, simply a process automation tool. AI can only perform processes better it cannot address emotional variations at scale of humans, nor can it make ethical or values-based decisions. That fact in itself, negates the ability to form a truly 1:1 connection with a customer. Humans use technologies to perform jobs. As management guru Clayton Christensen has said, products and services perform jobs.
Then there is the issue of delivering at scale. The sheer processing, storage, computing and energy costs to engage thousands or millions of customers individually is incredibly expensive and right now, not profitable.
So Will Artificial Intelligence Be Useful?
Absolutely. AI can and will be, highly valuable to marketers. It’s greatest values will be tied to learning consumer behaviours in the purchase process, identifying niche market opportunities and trends to capitalize on. AI will improve the customer journey and the processes that underly the customer journey. Mix AI in with Big Data analytics and market research and you’ve got some powerful technologies that will fundamentally shift marketing and how brands engage with customers.
Marketers Need to Be Pragmatic
There are so many new technologies coming at marketers just as there are so many ways to measure ROI and engagement and so many channels to engage across from traditional to digital. What CMO’s and senior marketing management will need to do, is take a more pragmatic approach to the technologies they use. As marketers, we understand how to make appealing shiny objects sell. But we’re often seduced by those very same tactics. It has ever been that conundrum for marketers.
Artificial Intelligence can and will be very useful for marketers, but they need to understand it is still an early technology with a long way to go and that it has limitations. Expecting AI to be that Holy Grail of personalized relationships is, at least for now, unreasonable and could be a very costly mistake. If you’re considering AI as part of your MarTech strategy, be pragmatic and research what AI really is, which for now, is simply anthropic computing.
What are your thoughts?