Let's start with the basics.
An algorithm is a series of preprogrammed steps that are executed in a sequence. Some algorithms follow those steps and deliver an outcome while others can also learn and improve.
While AI research has come far, most AI available today falls in the 'weak AI' bucket, as opposed to Artificial General Intelligence, where a machine can make decisions like a human.
The good news is that we don't need to achieve singularity to make a perfect coffee cup.
The most common form of AI used in most tools is Machine Learning, and the output of these algorithms depends on the data being used to train them.
The idea of optimisation through testing and learning isn't new in the business, but ML has given it a scale never possible before.
Entrepreneurs who understand the rules of running AI-powered businesses have already created new markets and disrupted industries. In fact, 'weak AI' is already impacting billions of people's lives through services offered by Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft.
Data is the life-force of our algorithm-dependant world.
But gathering volumes of data alone doesn't make a good algorithm.
Most organisations today don't have a common method for gathering, processing and using data.
Add to this the further complexity of data privacy. We're pushing ourselves closer to the walled gardens of tools, and platforms that already control so much of our marketing budgets.
Over-reliance on data without accountability is already causing problems with AI.
Here's some career advice: as a marketer, learning to think critically about data and the tools available for extracting value from data, can be both professionally and financially very rewarding.
5 real-world examples of AI for marketing
1) Facebook's AI lifestyle assistant learns your tastes and simplifies the shopping experience.
Facebook is using AI to transform the way people shop. GrokNet uses state-of-the-art image recognition to recommend products based on representing your personal tastes obtained by analysing items that you already own.
By generating a virtual replica, you can see yourself wearing the clothes and accessories you're considering. Maybe soon we can kiss fitting rooms goodbye?
The model has been deployed on the Facebook Marketplace and is already reinventing the shopping experience.
2) Dell is using AI to improve marketing copy
Declining engagement with their copy had significant downstream effects on revenue. Hence, their marketing team needed a data-driven solution to supercharge response rates and display why certain words and phrases outperform others.
Dell partnered with Persado, a technology provider for AI-generated marketing creative, to harness the power of words in their email channel and garner data-driven analytics for each of their key audiences.
They now use AI to create personalised ad copy and creatives in their promotional and lifecycle emails, Facebook ads, display banners, direct mail, and even radio content.
3) You feed the Google AI daily
How much do you use Google? Probably every day, right? Whether you realise it or not, you're constantly interacting with their AI.
Outside of autosuggestions and Google knowing what you’re searching for before you do, their algorithm update RankBrain is the epitome of AI in marketing. It weighs user experience metrics like bounce rate, click-through rate, and average time spent on-page ranking websites.
These metrics speak volume about how humans interact with a website. Because if a high number of users bounce and don't stay for long, your website is probably irrelevant to them, or the quality needs improvement.
As businesses publish more content and users interact with it, Google uses this data to become smarter and offer better search results for everyone.
4) Air BnB uses AI to optimise pricing in real-time
Airbnb uses machine learning to include things like the building’s features, location, and other traits while comparing it to nearby places, and help AirBnB users find the best price for their stay while getting renters more customers.
Their AI can decrease prices to fill rooms if it believes they will remain empty and increase prices as demand rises near holidays and events.
5) Nestlé uses AI to predict hidden consumer demand
Their AI scans songs and popular media in the public domain to uncover trends around food consumption.
Surprisingly, they discovered that there were at least 50 instances of ice-cream linked to breakfast. Additional market research revealed that sweet products were proving to be a popular breakfast item in the US.
Led by these insights, Nestlé launched its “Breakfast for Dessert” product series, which became an industry standard.
How to champion the move to AI in your organisation
Data-Analytical Thinking isn't going to replace creativity anytime soon.
In fact, the more algorithm-driven we become, the more there's a need to establish a human context behind what we say and how we say it.
This might sound counterintuitive to some since data, especially in marketing, is often used to counter the rampant and misguided use of intuition.
The future of marketing is driven by tools that will take over most of our responsibilities that require manual input. We've already seen that happen with Google Ads and Amazon.
And that's just the start.
Big tech companies (Google, Amazon, Apple, IBM etc.) have already developed technology that enables AI algorithms to run directly from phones and other consumer devices without needing to interact with cloud services – which would traditionally be required in the absence of powerful computing hardware.
This tech, which has been dubbed 'tiny AI', results from researchers shrinking the size of existing AI models via a process known as 'knowledge distillation'.
And without losing any of the original algorithm's capabilities or performance speed, I might add.
Tiny AI has zero latency (no communication between the device and the cloud) and fewer privacy issues.
This shows that as technology improves, it will only become more prevalent in marketing and how consumers connect to products.
One day soon, we'll be wondering how we ever lived a life without it.
It doesn't matter where you are in your journey towards evolving from being a software-driven organisation to becoming an AI-driven one, here are the 5 things to champion the future:
- Make benefitting from AI possible for everyone instead of a select group of people.
- Kill silos by unifying how your organisation gathers, manages and utilises data.
- Invest in educating and training your team.
- Increase Data and AI literacy among decision-makers.
- Instead of thinking in terms of standalone tools, start thinking in terms of digitalisation roadmaps.