All too often, marketers find themselves stuck building and running tech-based ad campaigns manually. This takes a lot of time and makes it hard for them to focus on the bigger picture – developing creative and personalised offerings. But, more worryingly, it means employers are unwittingly recruiting marketers to be statisticians, rather than making the most of their wider, richer skill-set.
It’s a tricky situation – to do its job well, the marketing function needs both sides of the coin. After all, data analysis has to be paired with creativity to get the right messages to the right people and make any campaign a success – but how to ensure marketers have enough time in their day to do both? This is where artificial intelligence (AI) can come into the situation, giving marketers the power to have their creativity unleashed.
And thank goodness. With a reported “creativity crisis” in digital marketing, an AI-led approach cannot come soon enough. Big data-overload can’t continue sucking up the precious time of such a vital business function. Marketers worldwide have themselves, reported concerns about time spent on data management affecting productivity. Luckily, over the next decade, machine learning is set to unleash a renaissance of creativity, and we will see more visual, emotive content produced and delivered in the most targeted, engaging and efficient way.
But AI is old news, right?
From manufacturing through to financial services, it seems everyone is talking about it. Agreed, there has been a lot of talk about AI across other industry sectors but, in a lot of cases, it’s been just that - all talk. In reality, AI technology is actually a fair way off widespread use across most sectors and a lot of discussions around machine learning lean towards ‘what could be’ or are hypothetical. The marketing industry, however, is proudly ahead of the curve in applying “real-world AI” for business success.
But, how? We’re already seeing a number of smart businesses and their forward-thinking marketers turn to AI – true, hype-free AI – as a means for standing apart and to help free up time in their day that can be dedicated to what marketers specialise in – building innovative campaigns that cut through the noise.
Some of these are from established brands, successfully using AI to achieve campaign optimisation, improved customer experience and revenue growth. In Europe, they include Sky Germany, Toys R’Us and BrandAlley. Small and medium-sized enterprises, meanwhile, are also in on the action, with UK-founded Sheridyn Swim’s AI-informed customer relationship management (CRM) advertising recently generating an impressive – and immediate – 850% return on ad spend. Progress will continue at pace, with more than a third of marketers planning to significantly increase their investments in AI and machine learning before the end of next year.
This is a promising start in reaching best practice, creative marketing ideals, but the industry needs to see more following suit. Any marketer serious about creating campaigns that will resonate with the audience (and that should be all marketers in our world of content saturation) is faced with a new challenge. Luckily, AI presents the opportunity to take creative, personalised content to the right audiences at scale. Manually “dragging and dropping” different messages to different audiences? It simply does not scale – something most marketers are acutely aware of. AI allows both machines and humans to do what they do best, unleashing output that squeezes most value from each.
After all, in order to deliver the multiple, high-impact pieces of tailored content that are necessary to stand out from the crowd, they must produce a higher quantity of material – and in a timely fashion.
Get ahead of the game
And that’s why adoption of AI systems is prevalent right now. Global tech heavyweights are throwing their weight behind marketing AI and machine learning initiatives at scale. Marketing AI has hit a sweet spot in its maturity where it can be effectively productised, but is still innovative and new. That’s why businesses should get on board now – while the technology is still something exciting – letting them differentiate themselves and wow their audiences, driving engagement with AI-enabled output surrounding creatively developed campaigns.
AI is already changing the way in which marketers execute activities and the role of marketing itself. Best practice marketing not only incorporates data sheets but aspiration, stories and vision. It is time invested in the latter that makes the difference and lends a competitive edge, allowing brands the room they need to grow. Practical use of AI, hype-free, is key to unlocking marketing’s true, creative potential.
By Steven Ledgerwood, managing director UK at Emarsys
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