How generative AI is transforming marketing—for better or worse

From creating highly personalized customer experiences to freeing up resources for more complex tasks, generative AI has something to offer every marketer—but approach with caution and handle with care.

Prompt for DALL-E

What is generative AI?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been around for some time now—decades, really. But have you ever heard of generative AI? It’s a subset of AI primed to revolutionize the marketing industry and impact nearly every aspect of our lives—personal and professional.

Generative AI focuses on creative processes, such as generating ideas, words, or images. For the sake of simplicity, this article largely refers to it as it relates to producing copy (with tools like ChatGPT by OpenAI, Jasper, or Writesonic). 

They all use deep learning algorithms to create unique content from scratch rather than relying solely on human input. So, instead of being limited by human creativity, it can generate new ideas without any external influence apart from a simple prompt. This can be incredibly useful for marketers looking for fresh and innovative ways to engage with their target audience—and, of course, those looking to buy some time.

How generative AI can improve your marketing

Generative AI can help you build powerful, personable, personalized content and/or customer experiences. By combining data analysis, natural language processing (NLP), and machine learning algorithms, these tools can generate highly-targeted, highly-personalized content that resonates with your audience(s). It also helps identify customer preferences (with the proper input) to help you tailor your content to better meet their needs. This could include creating personalized emails, website pages, captions, and ads designed specifically to engage with a person based on who they are. On a trial with Jasper, I asked the tool to generate an Instagram caption about the same topic but for different audiences. This is what I got back:

Prompt: "Write a punchy Instagram caption about Generative AI for Marketers"

AI-generated Response: Generative AI has revolutionized the way marketers reach their target customers. With its powerful algorithms, it can generate personalized content that is tailored to niche audiences.

Prompt: "Write a punchy Instagram caption about Generative AI for HR"

AI-generated Response: Generative AI has been a game-changer for HR departments, allowing them to make more informed decisions and create tailored recruitment strategies. From predictive analytics to automated candidate matching, this innovative form of AI is impacting the HR world.

Is it punchy? Not so much. Is it a good caption for Instagram? Maybe, but that’s subjective. That said, it’s undeniably “personalized” for the specified audiences, and it’s certainly something to work with. It might’ve even given me a new topic that I’ve yet to explore, like “automated candidate matching” in the HR example above. (Note: I’m not knocking Jasper. I’m admittedly a novice at using their product)

It can also help with storytelling—creating stories that resonate with a customer’s interests and values, which could be collected as zero-party data via forms, surveys, or quizzes. And it does this by using natural language processing (NLP) algorithms to generate narratives tailored specifically for an individual persona rather than relying solely on predetermined templates. This allows brands to create more engaging and valuable stories for their target audience while remaining authentic to their brand identity. But don't skip the QA process!

Generative AI can also be used to help boost SEO rankings by generating content that is optimized for search engine algorithms. By leveraging machine learning algorithms, it can identify keywords and phrases more likely to generate higher SERP rankings, allowing brands to generate more organic traffic from potential customers searching those terms online.

In short, generative AI has the potential to drastically improve the way marketers interact with their customers and create meaningful content (and experiences) for them. By combining its creative capabilities with data analysis techniques, marketers can create highly-targeted content that caters directly to their target audience—at a scale likely not achievable without it.          

The operational benefits of generative AI in marketing

Generative AI offers several advantages over manual methods when it comes to the operational efficiency of a marketing team. For one thing, it generates (debatably) high-quality content much faster than humans could do manually—which means you don’t have to waste valuable time creating content from scratch every single day. You prompt the AI. The AI prompts you. And the writing process commences. It’s not so different from asking a third party—be it an intern, freelancer, or someone else— to “present you with some options,” is it?  I would be willing to bet that most marketers—even content marketers and copywriters—would rather review and react to something versus start with a blank page. And that is so much potential time saved.

And because it requires little human intervention once the parameters have been set up correctly, it frees up resources for other tasks that require human attention—such as strategic planning, social media moderation, community building, creative ideation, and the list goes on.

The concerns about using generative AI to create content

Though AI has the potential to revolutionize marketing, it is not without its concerns. There are risks associated with relying too heavily on this machine-generated content instead of human input. Yes, generative AI is capable of creating unique content, but it may lack the personal touch of human creativity (think brand voice). This could lead to a disconnect between marketers, the brands they work for, and their customers—which could have a detrimental impact on both customer engagement and brand perception. 

And while generative AI can be used to quickly and accurately create highly targeted content, it may not always produce the best results. In some cases, AI algorithms may make decisions based on incomplete or inaccurate information—which could lead to poor-quality content or even offensive content being generated. Just like how good marketers know the value of a well-executed creative brief, now they'll need to know the value of a well-written prompt. And it bears repeating, don’t skip the QA process. 

To avoid this problem, companies should ensure that the tools they use are regularly tested and updated with relevant data to remain accurate, up-to-date, and on-brand.

There is also the risk of overusing generative AI in marketing efforts. Over-reliance on automated systems can lead to decreased creativity within an organization and less innovation overall. It's important for marketers to be aware of this risk, so they don't fall into a rut where they're just feeding data into an algorithm without considering any other options or ideas first. Without human intervention (of creativity and voice) it could also lead to indistinguishable parity with the content created amongst competitors.

Marketers should remember that although generative AI can help automate certain aspects of marketing campaigns, creative thinking still plays an important role in developing effective strategies—so it's important not to let technology completely take over.

My take

As a content marketer and (self-proclaimed) writer—I can understand the general trepidation surrounding this new-wave tech. But there’s no doubt it’s already changing how we approach marketing—and its potential remains largely untapped. 

Having sampled and trialled a few different tools and reading at length about the subject, I've concluded that it will serve us best as a springboard and idea generator.

Let it give you headline options. Let it pump out interview questions. Let it generate keywords to explore. Let it summarize long-form content when you’re in a pinch.

Just like you would an agency, freelancer, or new hire—let it work for you, not replace you. And maybe don’t knock it ‘till you try it?

P.S. I used DALL-E-2 to create the image for this blog post, with the juvenile prompt: a team of robots typing on laptops. It saved me at least 15 minutes that I would’ve inevitably spent looking through our own image gallery!

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