Marketing in the In-Between of an AI Revolution

“To be good at the digital and physical is what the future’s about. … Get used to living in the in-between.” That was something Beth Comstock, vice chair of GE, said during her keynote at &THEN16. And it really got me thinking: Marketers are living in a whole lot of in-betweens. It’s not just the in-between of physical and digital. We’re also on the cusp of an AI revolution.

“To be good at the digital and physical is what the future’s about. … Get used to living in the in-between.”

That was something Beth Comstock, vice chair of GE, said during her keynote at &THEN16. And it really got me thinking: Marketers are living in a whole lot of in-betweens.

It’s not just the in-between of physical and digital. We’re also on the cusp of an AI revolution. A few weeks ago I was at Dreamforce where I saw this slide from Wired’s Kevin Kelly:

At that same show, Salesforce announced its Einstein cloud-based AI, which can do some pretty cool things. For example, Einstein can analyze a sales person’s email string and determine if it’s likely to convert. It may notice there’s no one with purchasing power at the appropriate level on it, and recommend the email for you to send and who to send it to to fix that.

Yes, Einstein will write the email for you too.

Meanwhile, at &THEN, Adobe just announced that they’re bringing aspects of their own AI-facilitated product, Adobe Analytics, more directly into its marketing tools. That includes adding the analysis workspace directly into Adobe Campaign, which will allow users to analyze customer segments and campaigns with real-time visualizations and AI insights.

Adobe is also adding predictive remarketing to its suite. Predictive remarketing will look at your website visitors, for instance, individually and identify ones who are less likely to return. It then automatically creates and deploys a remarketing trigger to try to re-engage that customer through email, SMS or other channels.

We’re essentially automating the automation. And as we begin to add a flood of passive data from the Internet of Things to that analysis, the automation is going to get very, very smart.

It’s all part of a revolution in what humans can accomplish with data and machines.

Kelly made an analogy: You could think of the Industrial Revolution as the introduction and mastery of artificial power — steam and electricity replacing human, animal or other forms of natural muscle. That power became controllable; it enabled many, many times the output of the old natural power; and it became cheap enough that we soon put electricity in every household.

He said that’s exactly what we’re about to see in the revolution of artificial intelligence. Hence the next 10,000 startups.

The AI Revolution Will Not be TelevisedWe’re collectively and spontaneously reorganizing our culture around digital information structures, according to Comstock. I think the acceleration of machine learning tools is a testament to that.

The fact it’s happening here in marketing pretty early in the lifecycle of true AI is testament to another thing she said: “Marketers are behaviorists, we recognize and anticipate change.”

And the role of shaping, communicating, and promoting (or discouraging) that change also lies in the hands of marketers. “Communications is where change happens,” Comstock said. “Communications is how you structure a culture.”

Turns out it’s also how you structure a machine culture. And perhaps how a machine culture will continue to restructure us.

So we are all very much navigating the in-between: Of physical and digital customer interactions, of human and machine intelligence, of a revolution that will not be televised because it’s already streaming live on a dozen social networks to audiences carefully chosen by algorithms to be most likely to engage.

Get used to it.