The Marketer’s Job in an AI Future

Whether you’re talking about cognitive computing, machine learning, artificial intelligence or its more common acronym, AI, the real topic is machines doing jobs humans used to. What does that mean for marketers in an AI-dominated future? How will the human role change? Are robots going to steal marketing jobs, or elevate them?

Whether you’re talking about cognitive computing, machine learning, artificial intelligence or its more common acronym, AI, the real topic is machines doing jobs humans used to. What does that mean for marketers in an AI-dominated future? How will the human role change? Are robots going to steal marketing jobs, or elevate them?

Let’s think it through.

Luddites and Automation

Automation has always been seen as a threat to human employment. In fact, one of the first uses of sabotage against automation happened back in the 1810s. “Luddite” textile workers destroyed weaving machines that were poised to take their jobs. (Yes, that is where the term “Luddite” comes from.)

Today the alarm may be less destructive, but it’s still ringing. For example, a few months ago, PWC projected that the U.S. stands to lose 38 percent of its jobs to automation in the next 15 years. And the New York Times’s Claire Cain Miller has built her column on cataloging the negative impacts automation will have on jobs.

But these analyses focus just on job losses, and that’s not the best way to think about automation. After all, the Luddite movement was 100 years ago. While hand-weaving may not be a growth field today, the textile industry employs far more people now than it did then.

While automation changes the tasks employers will pay people to do, in the past it has not put populations truly out of work. The jobs change, but they’re still there.

Analysts are starting to see hope in the AI future on our horizon as well.

USA Today recently ran a special report on the impact of automation across the U.S. economy. And while some of the stats in it are eye-popping — PWC believes 45 percent of work activities can be automated (PDF), potentially “saving” $2 trillion in labor costs; McKinsey identified 70 jobs that could have 90 percent of their tasks handled by automation — the overall takeaway is that the economy is not collapsing, it’s changing.

How Jobs Will Change With AI

Quartz is one publication that’s taken a positive view of the impact AI will have on humans and our careers. A recent Quartz article by Dennis R. Mortensen argued that AI will elevate our jobs and “restore our humanity.”

“Each time technology ate one type of jobs, new ones appeared to take their place,” says Mortensen. “Human ingenuity did its thing, we adapted, and we survived to live (and work) another century.”

His big takeaway: “Automation will take away the parts of our jobs we don’t like and leave room for more meaningful work.

3 Parts of ‘Smart’ Marketing

I find myself pondering all of the things I’ve learned in my career about what’s smart, and what’s not so smart about marketing today. The following are three “parts” of marketing strategies that never fail for brands big and small, as well as in all industries.

smart marketingWith this month’s release of my new book — “Marketing for Dummies,” a new edition that focuses on the digital era — I find myself pondering all of the things I’ve learned in my career about what’s smart, and what’s not so smart about marketing today. The following are three “parts” of marketing strategies that never fail for brands big and small, as well as in all industries.

It’s Not About Creative

Thinking that the more clever or shocking your advertising is, the more your sales will go up is a trap that many big brands fall into. Take a look at the Super Bowl ad phenomenon.

GoDaddy historically does the worst, most tasteless ads every year. Yet they have experienced consistent growth each year and are at a pace to grow 20 percent. On the flip side, Budweiser always has the most heart-warming, talked-about ads with its horses and puppies, and quite often earns the coveted “most-liked ad” in the USA listings the day after. Yet, as pointed out in an article in Money.com, during their roll of Super Bowl ad success, sales have been going down along with their dominance in the beer category.

The takeaway here is clear: Creative entertains and builds name recall, but not necessarily sales results. If you are okay to entertain with your ads and not worry about the impact on sales, then go hire a creative team who can create a mini-movie in 30 seconds. If you need advertising to drive sales, ROI and profitability, like most businesses, then put your resources into the next three parts. Not saying creative is not important, but it should not be what drives your marketing strategy. What should drive it is a product of the knowledge you have about what inspires, moves, motivates and engages your customers — consciously and unconsciously.

Consumers disliked GoDaddy's Super Bowl ad in 2015.
Consumers disliked GoDaddy’s Super Bowl ad in 2015.

Empathy Is the Foundation

The definition of empathy is: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Now more than ever, understanding consumers’ and what moves them to engage, trust and assign loyalty is critical for acquisition and retention. CRM and data analytics platforms and so many more programs help us understand how and why consumers make choices so we can build highly relevant content to deploy across channels used daily by those we want to reach most.

Yet, if our communications focus only on what we learn from “data” about their transactions, we fall short. We need to understand what drives consumers emotionally and psychologically to engage. What are the feelings that influence their ability to trust and what actions create positive feelings toward brands? As I’ve written in many columns and throughout my book, these feelings that drive consumers toward our brands are much deeper than the satisfaction with our products or services. They are the feelings associated with what drives human nature: a sense of belonging, respect, value and altruism toward common causes.

Your communications and marketing content needs to be rooted in “empathy” of shared feelings and mutual understanding. With all of the research about consumers’ values and their support for companies that engage in sincere CSR programs, it’s not hard to get a glimpse of the feelings that move sales today.

Survival Is in Our DNA

After years of studying human psychology and how it drives choice and behavior, this single fundamental element of human nature stands out the most: We are wired for survival, just like any species is, and all of our thoughts and actions follow suit.

Survival relates not just to our physical well-being, but to every aspect of our lives. Consciously, and more so unconsciously, our need to survive socially, professionally, and emotionally is part of the big and small choices we make daily. Shopping for a dress for the company holiday party is not just about what makes you look good, it’s about projecting the image you believe will help you look powerful, sophisticated, and smart in order to maintain your current position or ready you for a new one that is better and enhances your professional and financial position.

When you can create personalized communications, or mass communications around key personas for your customer groups, you hit the emotional chords that get customers to engage and start a journey with your brand to see if it will lead them to a stronger position in the areas of life that matter most to them: social, professional, emotional, financial and more.

Conclusion

While there are many more than three parts of survival for brands marketing products and services in today’s dynamic and complex market environments, these three fundamentals are part of any “smart” marketing plan. No matter what level you are in your marketing career, you will “dummy” down your short- and long-term results if you don’t apply empathy, address the survival DNA, and keep your creative or marketing content relevant to these two drivers.