Everything we love about civilization is a product of intelligence, so amplifying our human intelligence with artificial intelligence has the potential of helping civilization flourish like never before – as long as we manage to keep the technology beneficial.

Max Tegmark, President, Future of Life Institute

For consumers, a great deal of the talk regarding artificial intelligence (AI) has focused on virtual assistants and smart homes. And the conversation usually includes equal parts excitement about the possibilities and trepidation over replacement woes and relinquishing control.

For the marketing industry, the holy grail of AI is not so much smart homes (though there is tremendous potential there to help businesses build their brands), but rather smarter customer relationship management and marketing. Yet the response of mixed enthusiasm and anxiety that consumers experience is often echoed by marketers.

But don’t make the mistake of dismissing AI. Recent advances in the landscape have the potential to improve your skillset, make you more agile and help you overtake the competition. Think of AI as the hammer in your toolbox rather than the magic elixir in your medicine bag: It won’t cure all of your marketing ills, but it can amplify your communications strength. By harnessing AI, marketers can:

  1. Disarm big data overwhelm. CMO Council reports that only 30 percent of marketers feel they have a grasp on data and know what to do with it. At a time when tech allows us to gather more data, this means that 70 percent of the marketing field is suffocating under a massive collection of analytics, paralyzed as to how to proceed. Wouldn’t it be nice to use AI to portion this data into nice, tidy groups? Speaking of which…
  2. Leverage tech to recognize patterns. The intersection of digital marketing and tech means not just more data, but also more opportunities for data extraction. When marketers incorporate AI into the process, they can predict behaviors and outcomes so as to optimize the consumer journey in real time. Think: Amazon suggestions on steroids.
  3. Eliminate guesswork. Once these patterns have been recognized, targeting becomes less of a shot in the dark and more of a resounding bulls-eye. We can automate the processes of discovering leads, selecting channels, zeroing in on timing and optimizing content. In short, AI will afford us a certain cognitive intelligence – one that learns from and improves with every new interaction.

But it’s not simply about what marketers can do; it’s also about what brands can gain. When we take control of AI for marketing optimization, we can build stronger, more meaningful customer relationships, increase efficiency for our clients, and drive ROI for their businesses.

Others see the handwriting on the wall. A September Forrester Research report named AI one of the top emerging technologies that will begin to change the world within five years. In October, Salesforce introduced Einstein into its complete suite of products as the first comprehensive AI for customer relationship management.

Bottom line: Regardless of whether the prospect fills us with joy or dread, the brave new world of marketing is upon us. Marketers need to embrace the future and harness AI in their brand-building strategies or risk being a relic, wasting countless hours sifting through spreadsheets and searching for meaning or inspiration.

Let AI do the time-consuming tasks so that marketers can do what they’ve done since the beginning of time – focus on creativity. No matter how powerful the signs are for an impending AI revolution, there are no signs that it can take over for us on that front.