The robots are here
Not long ago, we stopped at gas stations to ask for directions when we were lost, hoping the attendant knew north from south (and that you could remember what they said when you returned to your car). No more. Today we have GPS, Siri, Alexa, Waze, Google Assistant, Slack, Lyft, Freddy Freshbot, HealthTap, WhatsApp, and a slew of messaging applications and intelligent bots to help guide us through our days.
Whether you realize it or not, the robots are here—with most of us interacting with bots and intelligent agents on a daily basis. Servion Global Solutions predicts by 2025, AI will power 95 percent of all customer interactions, including live telephone and online conversations that will leave customers unable to “spot the bot.”
And despite what you may think, customers actually like chatbots: more than half of internet users are satisfied with them and around 60 percent of millennials already use them regularly to purchase basic goods.
A different story for employees
Employees, on the other hand, are increasingly fearful that artificial intelligence (AI) and robots could put their own jobs in jeopardy. And justifiably so.
According to research by Forrester, intelligent agents powered by AI will destroy 6 percent of all jobs in the U.S. by 2021, with the biggest effect felt in transportation, logistics, and customer services. Similarly, a study by Oxford University suggests the top five jobs at risk of automation are loan officers, reception and information clerks, paralegals, retail salespeople, and taxi drivers and chauffeurs.
But what about marketing jobs? A separate study by Oxford University and Deloitte at the end of 2015 predicts that the risk is less pronounced specifically for marketers. For marketing associate professionals, it is fairly unlikely (33 percent) that their jobs will be automated over the next twenty years and for marketing and sales directors, it is very unlikely (1 percent).
But that doesn’t mean AI won’t have a huge effect on the marketing and communications professions.
Gail Heimann, president of global communications firm Weber Shandwick, believes AI is rapidly transforming business and marketing processes. The firm conducted a survey and found 55 percent of CMOs expect AI to have a greater impact on marketing and communications than social media has ever had. That’s quite a profound finding given the impact social media has had on the marketing profession in the past ten years!
There’s more to marketing than data
In the early days of marketing, the goal was creative brilliance. In the 1950s—the golden age of creativity—marketers spent the majority of their budget on advertising and media. Fast-forward sixty years and companies now spend more on marketing technology than on advertising, rivaling what IT departments spend on technology.
Over the past decade alone, the marketing pendulum has swung toward data and analytics. Data and analytics have also spawned an entirely new marketing industry—dubbed martech—along with new capabilities, tools, and job titles. Indeed, there is no shortage of sophisticated martech solutions available, all of which promise to make your marketing simpler, easier, and improve results. And companies are quickly adopting these solutions.
With all the new toys we’ve been given, CEOs and CFOs assume that marketing can now unearth even more new business opportunities, growth, and customers for their companies. Marketing automation and big data tell you when impressions are up, click-through rates are holding steady, bounce rates are improving, and share of voice is tanking.
However, there is a flip side to having too much data at your fingertips.
- First and foremost, it can lead to analysis paralysis. Having too much information sometimes over complicates and delays a decision that could be, and should be, quite simple.
- Second, an over-focus on data can marginalize creativity. Creative elements, such as content, headlines, and visuals, merely become additional elements to test.
- And finally, an over reliance on technology can make you forget that you’re marketing to people, not to numbers.
Too many marketers spend too much of their time behind computer screens treating people like variables in a formula rather than trying to get inside their hearts, minds, and motivations. Sure, your winning campaign may have the greatest click-through rates, but unless you know why, it’s difficult to replicate and scale.
“Your winning campaign may have the greatest click-through rates,
but unless you know why, it’s difficult to replicate and scale.”
Creativity is hard to automate
Martech, and its sibling Adtech, work best with short-lived online marketing campaigns that have a specified start and end date. But not all marketing is digital, not all marketing is programmatic, and not all marketing is focused on driving demand through a pipeline.
For example, martech isn’t particularly good at measuring nondigital, awareness-generating activities. These include the effectiveness of your long-term brand building, reputation management, strategic relationships (media, analyst, partners, and others), product strategies, the strength of your sales and marketing relationship, and your end-to-end customer experience.
There’s still a lot to be said for up-close-and-personal marketing, street-smart public relations, and working the crowd at an event. I don’t know of any campaign that went viral as a result of an algorithm. Building relationships builds reputations and brands—something a formula, or robot, can’t do. Touching upon a key truth, keen insight, unfulfilled need, or even a raw nerve produces far greater and lasting impact than any technology can deliver.
Creativity is marketing’s best career insurance
Artificial intelligence is certainly poised to transform marketing as we know it today. And that’s a good thing.
As repetitive and often monotonous marketing tasks become more and more automated, marketers will have additional time to hone our empathy, emotional intelligence, human judgment, strategic thinking and creativity skills—skills that robots can’t replicate. And least not yet.
In a profession that is becoming increasingly automated, robotic, and self-driving, I’d place my bet on creativity. Creativity is marketing’s best career insurance.
Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take, starting today, to maximize your creativity and agility. I call these actions power moves and I’ve summarized the top nine in a marketing agility guide which is available as a free download.