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AI in marketing – game over?

by Andrew Henning, Chief Strategy Officer, 8 March 2017

Read Time: 10 minutes

Digital marketing is changing. It’s not a big-boom change but more a silent transformation. One that most on-the-ground marketing teams are unaware of within the true context of their role. In the extreme, marketing will no longer be the reserve of marketers. It will be run by scientists.

To use an analogy, if marketing was football (go with me on this), then you could compare the majority of today’s marketing departments with a tactical set up of 4-4-2. It’s a system that has been successful in the past and is still revered by traditionalists who embrace a squad where everyone has their set role. Goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and striker. Marketing also has silos, most notably; on and offline.

Screenshot from a football computer game

In addition, the impact of new channels over the last decade such as social, has also resulted in today’s marketers becoming less concerned with the final score and hence commitment to winning. Many seem to take satisfaction in the metrics of the number of fan ‘likes’ they get. Servicing a fickle ‘fair weather’ crowd with offers, free content and entertainment might be keeping them in their seats, but is ultimately missing the focus of the true prize – brand advocacy and customer retention.

And now we have AI and machine learning; the subject of this blog! It’s a revolution and in my analogy, the equivalent of 11 super star ’galacticos’ taking to the pitch. Our new players are not traditionalists and in comparison to today’s marketing teams, not upholding the spirit of the game. As demonstrated with the recent press on Cambridge Analytica.

‘New marketing’ FC have also got a backroom staff of data scientists, behavioural and quantitative analysts and an algorithm engineer with the kit bag! They are the Moneyball of the profession.

This new team will win on many levels. Firstly, they play 24-7-365. Being cloud-based super computers; they can deliver automated marketing, across customer experience and service, around the clock. This availability means they are still engaging and helping customers when the human team is in the dressing room. Bad news if the traditional marketing team’s customers are demanding more immediacy.

“Who cares if it’s a machine, they were helpful”, shouts a satisfied fan!

So back to this fictitious football game. Before kick-off, the coach of our super team has set out his game plan with countless engagement maps and measured actions. He’s done his homework on the home and away spectators, knowing their needs and desires. Fortunately, ’Old Marketing’ has as well; so it’s an even game for the first 5 mins…and then it happens.

New Marketing’s ‘machine learning’ players have adapted to the conditions with their engagement plans becoming more focused as play progresses. Totally against the rules (the ref’s not seeing it) the players and subs are swapping repeatedly to ensure the optimal 11 are selected.

In the stands the crowd’s sentiment is analysed in great depth. New Marketing decides to re-seat them into better segments to play a different game for each terrace. In truth, they could go all out and create a personalised game for each supporter, but prefer to use ‘personification’ as it makes more sense.

“We are all different but not that much”, sing a newly grouped set of supporters in Block E.

New Marketing FC have also started to increase the crowd by recognising the tell-tale signs of potential new supporters, through their knowledge of the current ones. It’s all looking very good.

This computing power and speed of decision has provided the tools to hone a customer experience that is highly efficient and in context to the people it is targeted at. Yes, it’s done by machines, but the skills of the backroom team have meant their play is equally as native, natural and intuitive -just what the crowd expect.

Old Marketing’s coach stands a forlorn figure on the touchline watching his struggling players and its game over… and time for an early bath.

OK, so there may be a touch of exaggeration to my story, but I doubt that AI driven marketing will have many boundaries. With data being collected at unimaginable volumes, only computers can harness the valuable trends and indicators it contains. If data holds the answers, then it must dictate the strategy.

New technology will not end marketing but deliver a huge advantage to the brands and organisations who recognise its impact and act upon it. In fact; many are already making the necessary changes.

We deliver strategy and technology implementation of automated marketing, machine learning and predictive recommendation platforms. We are a Sitecore Gold partner and our clients are across ecommerce, third sector, government and service organisations. With our proven experience we can help you and your organisation embrace new technology so you can serve your users when it’s convenient for them.


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