5 ways AI is changing marketing – and why you should be worried if you’re on the sidelines


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5 ways AI is changing marketingphoto credit: Pixabay

Elon Musk, owner of SpaceX, Tesla, and the only guy more Ironman than Rob Downey Jr, worries about smart computers taking over the world. Maybe he’s right, but AI (or Artificial Intelligence for those of you acronym fatigued), is already a lot closer to home. I see it every day in my digital marketing life, exposed to machine learning that both scares and comforts me. Here are 5 ways I see AI racking up big wins in the digital marketing space and why you should be worried if you’re on the sidelines:

Win 1: AI decisioning
Know what computers do really well? Fail fast. In a world of real time, always on marketing, the ability to constantly learn what content, campaigns, offers, channels, you name it, a customer is engaging with, and conversely not engaging with (read: the Fail Fast bit), means that AI gets smarter and smarter about decisions like what NOT to talk to individual customers about and how NOT to deliver the message. Case in point, we have a global retailer using machine learning as part of their real-time next best offer in their email campaigns – it delivered a 14% sales lift off the bat, quickly schooled itself to 26% and already is at 49% over controls because it learnt what didn’t work. It also hasn’t stopped learning because customers haven’t stopped schooling it. Watch this space.

Win 2: AI empathy
I was lucky enough to spend the day with the IBM Watson team in New York last month where cognitive computing is the big focus. As an example, Watson uses cognitive skills to detect emotional states like anger, disgust, sadness, fear and joy in call center conversations. What this means is machines are now detecting states of mind that marketers can use to more appropriately continue the conversation in follow up communications.

Win 3: AI discovery
The problem with us humans, is that we usually have to know what we’re looking for, to go looking for it. AI gets smart about finding patterns and opportunities and delivering back opportunities and insights that we either never thought of, or finds them in places we never thought to look. AI basically hunts in the dark places we just don’t get to. Yes, we need to validate a good discovery to help it learn, but the point is it gives competitive advantage to marketers who allow AI to ”discover” versus analytics teams just doing the stuff they’re already familiar with. Case in point, I was recently privy to a case where AI showed us two completely independent, and somewhat benign transactional behaviors, when occurring simultaneously, actually create a customer churn risk. Not the kind of thing any of us was looking for, but when you throw problems at AI, these are the kinds of answers you get.

Win 4: AI in cyberspace
I think it’s fair to say that the current levels of digital paid display/ programmatic marketing are really only scratching the surface of what they will be with AI’s assistance. I’ve already written about the consumer frustration of retargeting when you’ve already bought the product, (abetted by the fact programmatic buys are almost never linked to product or billing systems), but the fact is AI is quickly becoming a game changing decisioning factor as offline and online data work more closely together. To bring this to life, we already see AI helping our clients inject real-time programmatic offers immediately following an in-store purchase, as well as deciding, in real time, to pull programmatic offers following, say, a customer call center interaction, if it deems a sales window has temporarily closed.

Win 5: AI and you
The last point is about marketing yourself, rather than marketing itself. If you’re reading this, and likely in the marketing industry, you’ll know that getting close to AI is a good thing. And a career limiting move if you don’t. It’s already here, it’s part of the future, and it helps you become a better marketer. It’s racking up big wins in the digital marketing space and yes, you should be worried if you’re on the sidelines.

Grant Stewart
Interesting parallels exist in his day job - exploring the customer universe rather than the cosmos. With over 15 years of data-driven marketing experience, he knows how trigger events align with marketing opportunities; how to leverage data analysis; interpret drivers of customer behaviour; and develop customer engagement strategies that improve marketing effectiveness. His innovative strategies consistently deliver profitable growth, showing that our clients and Grant are both winners!


  1. This is one of the best articles on AI and marketing I’ve seen in a while. The examples really bring to life the disruption that AI brings to the marketing planning and execution environments. Recommend.


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