How AI is Changing the Marketing Landscape

Posted by Jessica OʼBrien on January 16, 2023 at 11:01 AM     Strategy
How AI is Changing the Marketing Landscape

News about artificial intelligence (AI) is popping up everywhere lately. But what is it, and how can you use it in your marketing?

What is Artificial Intelligence? 

It’s not just robots: AI refers to the ability of machines (like computers) to learn and perform functions that humans normally would do. 

AI functions with a set of algorithms that tells the machine what to do or what to learn. With the new knowledge, AI can start creating its own algorithms, which can unlock unlimited learning potential. 

It’s created by training machines on a set of inputs - like images or words on the Internet. From there, the machine “learns” and can respond to prompts from humans, which are called inputs.

AI can be trained to perform nearly any task with minimal direction and usually at much faster speeds than humans are capable of. While it may seem like something out of a sci-fi movie, you’re likely encountering AI each day without realizing it, such as: 

  • When services like Spotify or Netflix suggest new songs or movies you might like based on your past activities.
  • On social media, when suggestions appear for other pages or posts you may be interested in.
  • When composing an email or text and suggested responses appear based on the context of the current conversation.

So it’s not that artificial intelligence is a new idea, but that more than ever before, humans are able to train machines on increasingly advanced concepts and outputs. AI can work and think much faster than humans - bringing efficiency and speed to everyday tasks. 

How can AI be used for marketing?

AI uses can range from basic to advanced. Many types of software that you use every day likely have AI functionalities already baked in. 

For example, your email marketing tool may suggest send times based on past email performance. Or if you use a tool like PhotoShop, new abilities like neural filters allow you to edit images at the touch of a button.

AI has also been in the news quite a bit recently - for a variety of reasons - and some of those stories have to do with new advances in text and image output. 

ChatGPT was one such tool. Released in November 2022, it’s a chat-based system that can interact with users and provide a text output. Theoretically, it could be used to produce everything from Q&A responses to entire blogs with a simple input with the click of a button. (We’ll discuss why we don’t recommend blindly using that strategy further down in this blog.)

Another AI tool that rocked the marketing world in late 2022 was DALL-E, which could provide generated images based on inputs. The images are created specifically from what users guide it toward, based on what it knows about other images available. The tool allows someone without design experience to create an image in seconds, whereas a designer may take hours to design a similar image. You can try it out here.

There are innumerable other AI tools available that offer a variety of functionalities, ranging from basic to advanced, with more becoming available every day. While some are expensive, others are more cost-effective or even free.

“The biggest way AI can help your marketing program be more efficient is by automating the process of collecting and analyzing data. It's not just about getting the right data, it's about knowing what to do with it once you have it — and that's where AI comes in.

AI helps marketers collect data from a variety of sources, including social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, as well as internal company databases and customer service reports.  Then it analyzes that data and provides insights into trends in the market and consumer behaviors so that you can make decisions on how best to move forward with your marketing plan.” 

- Will Yang, Head of Growth at Instrumentl

AI-generated image showing lightbulb with ideas

This image was created using Craiyon, an AI image generator running on DALL-E Mini, using the prompt “Artificial intelligence graphic in an illustrated style.” Try it for yourself here.

Legal and Ethical Concerns Around AI 

While AI might seem like a panacea for marketing teams, considering its ability to generate content almost instantly, it’s important to be cautious. 

For one, while tools like ChatGPT ostensibly generate original material, not all systems can claim the same. This opens the door to plagiarism concerns. The same goes for image-based tools, which some people fear may be pulling from other copyrighted images without consent. 

It’s also important to be cautious when using AI and understanding where it was trained. Some AI outputs will be biased or blatantly wrong because it was fed a diet of whatever was available on the Internet. Use common sense and always fact-check your resources. 

“There are 3 fundamental problems with any AI built around this [pattern matching] principle:

  • Cannot create new ideas: it simply spits back at you the same information it’s already seen.
  • Cannot assess accuracy of its statements: it’s operating simply on probability. It cannot tell when the information it was trained on was correct or wrong.
  • Cannot understand complex logic: you cannot give this thing a writing brief. You cannot teach it logical constructions and how to prioritize one aspect of a brief over another.”
- Mariya Delano, Founder and Operator, Kalyna Marketing

Related: Top 10 dos, don’ts and stop Its for 2023 marketing

Tips for Trying AI Tools 

There are two big schools of thought buzzing around the marketing world right now when it comes to AI: 

  1. This is great! AI can take care of all my tasks for me. 
  2. This is horrible! A computer is going to make my job obsolete. 

It’s tempting to fall into one camp or the other, but the real answer lies somewhere in between. 

AI is just a tool. It might have intelligence and be able to perform some tasks much more efficiently than humans. But it also, by definition, isn’t a human. It doesn’t have emotions, understand empathy, or know anything other than what it’s been trained on. 

That’s where humans are still vitally important. Only you understand your customers and have the insights gained by years of experience to put that customer knowledge into action. 

It’s important to remember that AI is constantly evolving. Abilities that aren’t available now may be soon - perhaps sooner than you expect. Embrace the possibilities that AI can offer, but use your own expertise to evaluate what’s working and what’s not. 

4 questions to help you try AI tools for your business

1. How can we use AI tools to create efficiencies?
Are there any low-value tasks you’re currently doing that could be done more efficiently by an automated tool? Think of it as outsourcing. Things like scheduling social media posts or coming up with photo captions are good candidates for simple AI functions. These tools could help you free up more time to focus on higher-value strategies and tactics.

2. Do we already have tools that have built-in AI functions?
You may be surprised that tools you’re already using have AI functions you can use to make your job easier. For example, your email marketing tool may suggest certain times to send emails based on past performance. Or, your CRM might have an automatic lead scoring system to help you sort and prioritize prospects.

Implementing a new tool can be expensive in terms of both time and money, so explore what you’re already using and see if it has any functions that can help you become more efficient.

3. How can we remain focused on humans, not robots?
AI is a tool that can help support marketing activities and bring efficiency, but it can never replace what a human can do. It still needs a human brain, strategy and creativity behind it to achieve the best results. 
Try any AI content-generating tool, and you’ll quickly fall down a rabbit hole. The images and text produced are sometimes bizarre, sometimes inspiring, and always interesting. Computers think differently than humans, so viewing some AI-generated concepts can often help get you unstuck and provide different ideas as a starting point.

So, while it’s fine to use a content AI tool to help you brainstorm or form an outline, make sure you update the output to include your own voice and unique brand personality.

4. What’s next in AI?
The current pace of innovation in AI is astounding. If you’re curious about new possibilities and what could be next, dig into emerging tools and explore what’s out there. You might just find a new great idea or figure out how to apply something to your business. 

Stay in the Know 

At Marketing Essentials, we stay informed about cutting-edge trends like AI to keep our clients updated and our strategies sharp. Learn along with us and be the first to hear about marketing strategies and tips that can help you run a better, more efficient marketing program with our monthly newsletter.

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