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Should marketers be wary of AI?
28/09/2017

There are plenty of reasons to be excited about the possibilities of artificial intelligence (AI) and the way things are shaping up means that it’s going to play a big part within the world of marketing in the very near future.

According to a recent survey many B2B marketing executives believe that AI will have a significant impact on their role within the marketing industry within the next five years – even though most of them still don’t have a complete understanding of the technology and what can be achieved with it.

The research was carried out with 500 B2B marketing executives who work for firms that employ 250 or more employees and 80% of these marketing executives believe that AI will have revolutionized marketing by 2020.

On the flipside to this, only 26% of participants said they are confident in understanding how AI can be used in marketing and a further 10% believe their company is currently using AI as part of its marketing efforts.

There’s already been radical progression when it comes to AI in the past few years, in other industries and it’s interesting to see how they’ve been embedded into each one. When Google finally announced what RankBrain was and how it worked, people were shocked to hear that it had already been operating in the background for months without anyone noticing. 

If you don’t know what RankBrain is, it’s the first search engine algorithm update that has been designed to learn on its own and update itself. Instead of updating with manual coding, RankBrain updates itself and is also able to self-regulate and develop on its own. This advancement has helped make digital functions faster and less predictable.

The Turing test, developed by Alan Turing in 1950, is a test of a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. The Turing test has therefore become a key component of all things AI. 

Last year, it was revealed that the Associated Press had begun using advanced AI algorithms to produce custom, original news articles that passed the Turing test. Chances are you’ve probably read a few yourselves, and you didn’t even notice. For now, these articles are being limited to simplistic realms like sports and weather reports but they’ll likely grow to be sophisticated enough to cover more complex topics.

It seems like you can’t move these days without seeing advertisements for Digital Assistants. Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon are just some of the companies who have become embroiled in a heated race to develop the best digital virtual assistant. Thanks to this friendly competition, we’ve seen a dramatic evolution in assistant technology, from relatively simplistic features to something a lot more useful than we’ve ever seen before and users of these devices are much better off than ever before.

So why should marketers be concerned about the impact of AI on their day to day jobs? There’s no need for people to be worrying about Will Smith / I, Robot style robot takeover just yet but AI certainly does threaten to change the marketing industry in some complex ways. Some of which are pretty exciting and some which could end up being viewed as frightening.

For starters, just the sheer speed in which the technologies within artificial intelligence are developing and updating is a cause for concern for marketers. Once the technology itself learns to self-regulate, we’ll then see faster, more immediate developments taking hold. This will mean there’s less time to react in any meaningful way, leaving users more or less at the mercy of the AI technology.

Don’t forget that all of these advancements in technology and artificial intelligence will be in the hands of consumers, so this will have a dramatic impact on the interactions that digital consumers will be having on a day to day basis. This means that to keep up with customer interactions, companies that want to continue being successful in their chosen industry will have to learn to be able to shift their focus a lot quicker than ever before and learn not to invest in one specific strategy or plan of action too heavily as it could end up becoming redundant with AI changing customer focus.

The main worry for many people, in many different industries, is the long running theory that “the robots are going to replace humans” and you can certainly foresee marketing being massively effected by this. Data crunching, writing, ad design, and even high-level strategy planning will likely end up being handled by some form of machine in our lifetimes; so what does that mean for the skilled human marketer? How should marketers be preparing themselves for this?

These technologies are going to develop, whether people like it or not and the sooner people start adapting to them, and even using them to your advantage, the more you have to gain. But remember not to get too far ahead of yourself. 

If you attempt to predict too far into the future, you could end up burning yourself. AI technology is notorious for changing; developing and going down a different path than anyone initially expected, so don’t be caught out.

Another takeaway when it comes to all things AI related - don’t assume that your job will be relevant in even 5 to 10 years’ time. Start developing new skills, such as coding or other tech-related skills, this way you can begin to round out your CV and look to maximize your value in the changing industry.

As mentioned already, there are a ton of unknowns that remain to be explored in the wide world of AI technology but it’s without doubt an exciting time. By accepting and using these new technologies when you get the opportunity and by remaining as flexible as possible in the coming years you’ll be able to make sure you’re not caught out when the AI revolution finally arrives.

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