What is artificial intelligence (AI)?
Artificial intelligence (AI) technology is transforming how businesses market their products and services. Like a brain, AI is based on neural networks that have the ability to learn patterns and provide insights by predicting future occurrences based on previous data patterns they were trained on.
AI uses computers and machines to solve problems and mimic decision-making capabilities of the human mind. These powerful AI models spark creativity and lower barriers to learning, but can lead to downsides where AI creates marketing disinformation at scale.
This article explores the current AI landscape, the types of AI, the benefits and downsides of AI, whether digital marketing professionals should embrace AI to spend time on more strategic initiatives or whether they should view AI as a threat to their employment.
Strong AI vs Weak AI
There are two types of AI: Strong AI and Weak AI.
Weak AI focuses on automating specific tasks and can outperform humans on specific tasks but operates with more constraints than basic human intelligence.
On the other hand, strong AI learns and thinks like humans do. Although strong AI does not exist yet, the space is rapidly innovating, with further AI theories on artificial superintelligence (ASI), super intelligence, or Super AI.
Examples of Weak AI
- Smart assistants like Siri and Alexa
- Chatbots like ChatGPT
- Email SPAM filters
- Spotify shuffle
- Google Maps
- Self-driving cars
- Apple Autocorrect
The AI revolution
AI is revolutionising the way companies develop digital marketing strategies and content creation.
In fact, OpenAI’s ChatGPT-4 language model is a state-of-the-art chatbot that makes it feel like you are communicating with a person rather than a machine. It has the ability to understand intent and fulfill user's needs and is making waves in the technology industry. ChatGPT-4 recently passed the bar exam with a 40% improvement in its score since the previous ChatGPT 3.5 model took the exam. Not only did it pass, but it also beat 90% of lawyers to land in the top 10 percentile of all results (OpenAI, 2023).
This is an exponential revolutionary improvement compared to other AI technology we’ve seen over the past century. However, AI must be more regulated to better address social and business needs due to its power to create digital content across any industry.
Benefits of applying AI to digital marketing
There are many benefits to AI-enabled digital marketing.
Both weak and strong AI have clear benefits. These smart algorithms are capable of “processing previously unimaginable quantities of data”, which allow far more accurate information to be generated than by traditional non-AI models. AI benefits include creating new opportunities by progressing on critical issues in various industries, such as supporting the delivery of effective and personalised healthcare and education campaigns and reaching new customers.
Below are some key benefits that AI possesses for effective digital marketing:
- AI automates and personalises digital marketing activities such as Google Pay-Pay-Click (PPC) ads, search engine optimisation (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), conversion rate optimisation (CRO), social media marketing and keyword research.
AI predicts customer behaviour
- AI defines marketing behaviour based on previous data patterns.
- AI also analyses customer patterns and behaviour to create digital marketing strategies.
Measures customer engagement
- AI tracks cost per customer acquisition.
Targets specific online audiences
- AI pairs information with the relevant audiences, using predictive consumer segmentation, virtual assistants and chatbots.
- AI can uncover new audiences that have not yet been identified or targeted.
Social media sentiment and lead generation
- AI tracks consumer discussions on social media channels to better understand its audiences.
- AI generates more qualified leads through targeted channels using predictive analytics to see which leads are most likely to convert, based on behaviour, demographics and previous interactions.
Robust content marketing campaigns
- Identify content topics likely to attract a target audience by presenting insightful and snackable content they enjoy and understand.
Improving customer relationship management (CRM) systems
- Gain real-time insights into customer interactions.
- Assign issues to customer service and support teams.
- Add chatbots to give customers information on general services.
Monitoring customer data on websites
- Track customer preferences to show what promotions or content to keep using to build brand loyalty.
Case study: RedBalloon uses AI to reach new customers
A prime example of using AI to reach new customers is online Australian gift retailer RedBalloon, which used “Albert” to automate their marketing campaigns. Albert was an AI-powered digital marketing platform that targeted audiences, bought media, ran campaigns, measured performance and applied insights. Albert helped RedBalloon by reducing customer acquisition costs by 25% in less than one month. Manual and process-driven tasks like researching keywords or changing social media audiences were also reduced, enabling the marketing team to redirect their time to more strategic activities such as targeting ‘niche, high value’ audiences uncovered by Albert. AI at RedBalloon helped find untapped audiences and generated more effective campaigns.
The downsides to AI
In most cases, AI-enabled digital marketing may perform tasks more efficiently than humans.
As with any technology, there are downsides to using AI in digital marketing. Privacy is one of the biggest concerns. As AI algorithms collect more data on customers, businesses must be transparent about how their data is collected, used and applied for digital marketing and business needs.
Another concern is a loss of personal human touch due to ‘too much’ automation. AI can provide value insights and automate mundane tasks. However, AI can also automate and optimise for incorrect assets such as objectives, audiences and keywords. AI works best when balanced with human contributions and real data inputs.
For example, if AI does not receive consistent data about marketing qualified leads, or does not convert to customers, the AI isn’t going to run at its optimum rate. Even so, there will still be instances where humans will notice trends or cues before AI does. So, it's important for businesses to balance AI with human interactions and to ensure that data is optimised and input from customers, employees and employers is also valued and heard.
But since AI unleashes enormous growth and opportunities, it never really stops. Like a car without brakes, AI is prone to frictionless instability. Once it’s in motion, it’s hard to stop. AI offers a fantastic way to reach vast numbers of people with personalised messaging, but over-communication can be a consumer’s nightmare.
An opportunity for growth, not a threat
Today, AI still generates a certain degree of fear. However, where some see the threat of machines, others see an ocean of opportunities — the new revolution to better address social and business needs.
AI should be seen as anything but a threat. Not only does AI yield a competitive advantage and competitiveness growth based on its algorithms, it also has integrated mathematical models capable of providing specific answers while also learning from their interactions, thereby increasing the accuracy of their predictions.
AI is about perspective
As we are still in the early adoption process of applying AI to digital marketing, we must consider ethical questions and ramifications. Like RedBalloon, the ability of AI to automate marketing activities raises an issue. Will digital marketing professionals embrace AI to free them from mundane tasks and allow them to spend time on higher value activities, or will they view AI as a threat to their employment? It all depends on perspective and the future power of AI.
As long as businesses recognise AI’s value and benefits for tasks, and that it does not replace true human interaction and connection and respect for privacy, then AI should be leveraged to transform the world of digital marketing, ways of working and ways of gaining a competitive advantage. Ultimately, marketers must understand the value of AI and its potential future to support marketing campaigns and advance the world.
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