AI Marketing: Wave of the Future or Overhyped Gimmick?

The marketing world is abuzz about artificial intelligence (AI), personalization, and so-called “data-driven solutions.” These tech-enabled strategies promise a completely new way to reach consumers, where algorithms swallow up consumer data, craft in-depth buyer personas based on their behaviors, and deliver customized messaging to each individual.

And while we certainly haven’t yet reached Asimov levels of computerized intelligence in our marketing platforms, the industry has seen some significant advancements over the past few years:

  • AI-enabled media buys: Algorithms that manage automated PPC campaigns and help marketers determine the most cost-effective channels for digital advertising.
  • Web personalization: By tracking and assessing hundreds of data points provided by consumer demographics, location, and browsing history, site owners can promote offers and experiences that are custom-tailored to user behaviors.
  • Customer service: AI-enabled chatbots are proving to be powerful customer experience management tools, accessing millions of customer-provided data points to spot problems, detect patterns, and offer fast problem resolution without the input of human agents.

Despite these notable applications, not everybody believes in the future of AI marketing. Indeed, a growing subset of the marketing population believes that AI is just another buzzword that offers dubious value.

Is AI Marketing Overhyped?

Emarketer published results of a study conducted by marketing automation provider Resulticks, showing some cynical results about the current state of tech-focused marketing. Of the 318 senior-level marketers surveyed:

  • 47 percent believe AI is overhyped
  • 31 percent believe big data is a big joke
  • 14 percent believe that personalization is still out of reach

Part of the problem, they argued, has to do with the nature of marketing itself. Marketing is a game of persuasion; a delicate balance between promising and delivering. And of those surveyed, many believed that technology companies are notoriously bad at delivering on the solutions that sound so revolutionary in their advertisements.

These detractors may have a point. AI is still regarded with a sort of mysticism in the marketing world; marketers don’t really understand how these algorithms work, but they press forward with their use all the same. And while AI solutions such as intelligent chatbots may be commonplace these days, the marketing world has yet to truly embrace AI as a fundamental aspect of data aggregation and customer management. In this sense, AI could certainly be considered “overhyped.” However, overhyped doesn’t mean ineffective, and while many might consider AI unworthy of the praise it receives as the marketing wave of the future, it would be shortsighted to dismiss it as a mere gimmick.

Automation Is the Future

In truth, we can’t escape AI automation’s growing influence in the marketing world. Whether or not it’s overhyped may be subjective, but there’s no arguing that the influx of data analytics tools and machine learning applications entering the mainstream is changing how marketers approach data science. Data taken from Salesforce’s 2017 State of Marketing Report shows that 67 percent of marketing leaders currently use a marketing automation platform, with 21 percent expecting to adopt one within the next two years.

At this time, AI’s primary function is that of productivity tool—marketers can use standard algorithms to streamline their paint-by-numbers processes, freeing them up for higher level decision making about strategy. Time will tell whether it has the potential for more, but as of now, there’s no denying that AI has a role to play in marketing success.

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Mark Olson