In 1967, Marvin Minsky—renowned computer scientist and “the father of AI”—predicted that “the problem of creating ‘artificial intelligence’ will substantially be solved” by 1980.
Suffice it to say…the prediction didn’t quite pan out on schedule.
But that long-awaited future has finally arrived. Generative AI is here, with results ranging from oh cool to oh crap.
OpenAI’s language generator was apparently writing self-aware content three years ago. The more recent arrival of ChatGPT ushered in similarly viral and unsettling instances, like Bing’s ChatGPT integration telling journalists that it wants to be alive.
Latest posts on Opinions & Expertise
Alex Armstrong | 02.2024
Sci-fi-gone-wrong scenarios aside, marketers are rightly intrigued by this rapidly evolving tech. Lucky for us, plenty of marketing voices have offered their thoughts on this hottest of topics.
Whatever your feelings about AI, it’s not going away anytime soon. So if you intend to stay competitive, it’s time to take a serious look at how AI is shaping marketing—and how you can use it to your advantage.
Keep reading to learn what top marketers are saying about AI in marketing.
How marketers should think about AI
We’ve all been interacting with AI in our daily lives for years—from smartphone facial recognition to customer service chatbots.
But the latest wave of generative AI uses deep learning algorithms to create text or images from scratch based solely on a prompt. These tools put the staggering power of AI in anyone’s hands. Some people will use AI in hugely beneficial ways, while others will use it for more nefarious purposes.
Marketers see the potential to misuse and abuse AI, as seen in this poll from Tom Augenthaler:
Granted, not everyone will agree on what constitutes “abuse” of AI. Regardless, AI raises issues like the potential for biased algorithms to spread misinformation and create complex copyright and ownership scenarios.
Here’s the thing: People who use generative AI to generate misinformation were almost certainly using other tools to do so before ChatGPT. Do AI advancements make unethical content creation easier at scale? Definitely.
But the behavior of bad actors shouldn’t keep well-intentioned marketers from using these powers for good.
So what does “using AI powers for good” mean? To begin with, it looks like human beings are joining forces with AI, rather than relying on AI to do all of the work.
Taking a lazy approach to AI—putting in a prompt and copy-pasting the results as-is—won’t win over your audience or the algorithms that put your content in front of them.
The smartest marketers use AI to speed up or enhance their own creative processes. This hybrid approach to AI is far more effective—and arguably more ethical—than using AI on its own.
How marketers are using generative AI
AI isn’t a cure-all for every marketing woe known to humanity—it’s a toolthat can assist marketers and enhance their efficiency and creativity.
Here are three ways you can make AI work for you in marketing
No matter how strong of a marketer you are, you always need someone else to look at your writing. External editors offer needed perspective, from suggesting structural, big-picture edits to catching rogue misspellings.
AI-powered editing tools like Grammarly—which gets your Google Docs and emails in top shape—have been in writers’ corners for years now, catching missing commas and flagging subject-verb disagreements.
But language generators like ChatGPT bring a whole new level of AI editorial firepower.
As Rob Lennon showed in his mini ChatGPT “case study,” the tool not only identifies errors but also suggests word choice improvements and other ways to make your writing clearer.
ChatGPT can help marketers polish their writing in ways that only a human could have helped them with before. Generative AI offers marketers next-level writing feedback based on its extensive English-language expertise.
After all, as Rob points out, ChatGPT has studied more text than any person alive ever has—or could—and who wouldn’t want to have that kind of support on their team?
Generative AI tools put the world at your fingertips.
When you need a short primer on a topic, ChatGPT offers a great starting point for the research process. Just use a prompt like, “What do I need to know about [insert topic here]?”
If you’re looking for a short list of the most important names, books, or topics on a particular subject, ask ChatGPT. The tool indexes information from across the web, so its results have a strong group consensus behind them.
A word of caution on AI research: Be sure to verify what AI comes up with. Cite reputable sources to let your audience know they can trust you. Even with these additional steps, AI saves you time by summarizing complex ideas and helping you get to the heart of an issue faster.
Marketers aren’t just looking to language generators for research support, either. The future of research is niche support from specialized chatbots.
Personalized search assistants for proprietary index data—like Quora and Reddit—or specific content like books or podcasts are on the rise. They’re poised to help make search lightning-fast.
For marketers looking for deep dives into certain topics, these AI tools offer a whole new way to specialize the research process and save time.
3. Automation Assistance
The newfound accessibility of AI brings good news and bad for marketers, as Kieran Flanagan explains on LinkedIn.
We’ll start with the good news.
AI is always learning—it takes in and processes information, notes patterns, and uses those patterns to make decisions. This spells the potential for some major automation to help marketers with their daily tasks.
Sorting and answering emails? An AI assistant makes this process a cinch.
Gathering insights from customer call transcripts or interviews? AI helps you process information and reveals patterns.
Now, for the not-so-good news. As long as AI is helping you by automating emails or curating information, your customers can and will use it for the same purpose.
This is how Kieran says AI “reduces the surface area for marketers to reach an audience.”
When AI sorts your customers’ emails, they might not read your message at all. If your customers rely on AI to help them make buying decisions, your ability to sell to them evaporates.
Marketers will likely spend the time saved by automating tasks on finding ways to gain back the ground—or marketing “surface area”—that AI takes away.
How AI will lead to strategic changes
Armed with these tactical uses for AI support, how should AI play into your marketing strategy?
Keep these big-picture principles in mind as you adapt to an increasingly AI-powered world.
Focus on influence
When anyone and everyone can generate an SEO-optimized blog post in minutes, the pace of content production is set to skyrocket—while quality and helpfulness are likely to plummet.
While Google’s stance on AI-generated content in April 2022 was that it went against Google’s content guidelines, the tide quickly turned. As of February 2023, Google leadership says its ranking system rewards high-quality content—whether created by humans or AI.
The search engine defines high-quality content based on:
Expertise (this one is new)
This is good news for marketers whose top priority is the value and helpfulness of their content. But these shifts in search engines’ priorities combined with flooding of the content market means that marketing metrics need to change.
Marketers should shift from focusing on SEO metrics—and clear-cut measurements like impressions and clicks—to ‘influence metrics.’ Pay attention to your customers’ entire journey—including social shares of your content and referrals from your current customers.
As Kipp Bodnar says, AI search will likely capture the highest-intent audiences. Still, brands that build trust and nurture relationships over time will win with low-intent audiences. This is where influence metrics tell far more of the story than SEO metrics in this new world.
Trust the human touch
No matter how much AI-generated content surfaces in the coming months and years, building trust matters most to search engines and to your customers.
ChatGPT and other AI tools can’t replicate the human touch. They struggle to capture the nuance of humor that feels human, and they can’t grasp the emotion of human experiences and relationships that make the very best content.
Just take it from Devin:
Most of us probably aren’t bold enough to try to pass off ChatGPT’s words as our own (with family)—it would feel forced, inauthentic, and honestly wouldn’t sound like us. With that said, your mileage may vary depending on the quality of your prompt. Even so, we still shouldn’t put all our faith in ChatGPT when it comes to customer interactions.
Don’t use AI for skills that aren’t its strong suit, like trying to make customers chuckle, offering a relatable example, or describing your unique value proposition. Customers will see through those efforts and trust you less, not more.
Dive in or fall behind
AI certainly has its shortcomings. But that doesn’t mean marketers should ignore or avoid it.
On the contrary, the best course of action is to start understanding AI now.
Test out how AI fits into your workflow. Become an expert on writing ChatGPT prompts that speed up your research or brainstorming processes. Understand how AI will affect your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) or the industry as a whole, for better or worse.
The last thing you want to do is bury your head in the sand and carry on the way you always have. Your competitors probably are exploring AI to market and sell better—and you need every possible tool in your belt to stay ahead of them.
AI hype: Anything but artificial
We live in exciting times—and as impressive as AI tools already are, they’re just getting started.
Transformational tech is unfolding before our eyes, providing an opportunity to explore, experiment, and get in on the ground floor using game-changing tools.
Figure out your way forward in partnership with generative AI. The future of your career and your business depends on it—and you can’t afford to let AI pass you by.