As you may have noticed, the world of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been making great leaps and bounds of late, particularly with the introduction of LLMs (Large Language Models) like ChatGPT and, more recently, Bing’s Sydney chatbot and Google’s Bard chatbot. But these are just some forms of AI innovation that I’ve been paying attention to. There have also been earthshaking developments in generative AI imagery with models like MidJourney, Runway, and Adobe’s Firefly.
Many of these advances have made significant waves in the world of digital marketing and even more broadly, with some calling for a slow-down in AI development to ensure we don’t accidentally develop General AI that spins out of our collective control.
As the leader of a digital marketing agency that prides itself on applying the latest specialized tools to long-standing digital marketing challenges, I’ve been thinking a lot about how marketers can use these tools. At the same time, I’ve been fielding questions from our clients, asking us what all of this means for the future of digital marketing, brand building and how businesses of all sizes will stand out amidst the new flood of AI-generated content.
Time-honoured Digital Marketing Strategies Won’t Be Replaced. They Will be Enhanced.
With the thousands of tools being built on top of various LLM platforms like OpenAI, there is no question that savvy digital marketers are already adopting (us included) many of these tools to help them enhance their work and become more productive and perhaps even more creative.
But at the core of every good digital marketing strategy lay a few core tenets and questions that will remain unaffected by the AI revolution.
- Are you selling a product or service that is compelling enough?
- Who are your audiences?
- What are your key selling points?
- What is your unfair advantage?
- How can you cost-effectively reach your target audiences?
While some AI tools on the market can already help enhance how we conduct research to answer some of these questions, there is still a massive human element to gaining a deep understanding of target audiences and how they can ultimately be nurtured into being convinced of purchasing your product or service.
Will AI Replace Your Marketing Agency or Department?
What I’ve been telling my clients is simply this: AI will change the productivity rate and scope of how quickly you can embark on various digital marketing strategies and their related tactics, but ultimately you still need a trusted team of marketing veterans that can understand the nuances of your business and devise effective marketing methods.
You will still need a dedicated team of marketers to assess and curate the output of any AI tool being used across various disciplines, such as content development, paid ad planning, social media management, SEO, and many others.
The critical thing to remember about how current AI Large Language Models such as ChatGPT and GPT-4 operate is that they are simply working off a predictive algorithm to answer questions and perform actions on data deriving from both internal and external sources. In many cases, the AI doesn’t actually know or understand what it’s talking about; it’s simply adding predictive text of what it thinks is the most likely set of “correct” words, phrases and sentences that should go next in a sequence. Of course, that’s a relatively broad simplification of how these algorithms work, but AI is not yet at a level of true comprehension and, thus, subject to mistakes and basic blunders that most humans wouldn’t make.
You’ve probably seen plenty of headlines about the tendency of these chatbots to occasionally hallucinate and even wholly make up fake references to studies or papers that simply don’t exist.
And while it’s very likely that these models will improve over time, at a rate of improvement that most of us have never seen, there is still plenty of room for marketing professionals to steer the ship so-to-speak.
What Areas of Digital Marketing will AI have the Biggest Impact On
There’s no doubt in my mind that perhaps the most significant impact that current AI tools will have is simply multiplying productivity and output. But there’s a cost to this as well. While you can certainly ask an AI tool like GPT-4 to spit out a blog post about a particular topic to both a specified length and tone or ask a generative image AI generator to create a graphic to specific dimensions, you will find that the ability to create is quickly tempered by the imperfection of the end-products that these tools make.
Soon, while browsing your favourite local job site, you will begin seeing job descriptions for titles such as “Prompt engineer”, “AI curator”, and “AI editor.” The demand for marketing and content development experts who will be desperately needed to apply their expertise and experience in wrangling the flood of AI tools and their eventual flood of marketing content will far outstrip the supply.
While almost every aspect of digital marketing will eventually be impacted and enhanced by AI, some creative tasks remain far out of the reach of today’s AI tools. On the other hand, other tasks, such as generative AI image creation, are already being widely used by marketing professionals everywhere.
While it’s always perilous to prognosticate on the future, especially around a technology that is as rapidly evolving as AI, much of this prediction is predicated on the idea that as AI improves, the human element will become ever more important in guiding the more voluminous and increasingly automated digital marketing tasks of the future, run primarily by algorithms. A steady, human hand on the wheel will be ever more critical, so to speak.
Here’s a rough timeline of how I believe AI tools will be used as they relate to the wide variety of digital marketing activities and initiatives most progressive brands engage in:
- Content ideation
- Textual content ideation
- Image and graphics creation
- Video creation
- Repetitive task automation
- Paid ad copy & creative optimization (major ad platforms)
- Big-data E-commerce analysis
- Automated customer service chatbots
NEAR FUTURE (2-3) YEARS
- Strategy ideation
- Tactics ideation
- Keyword intent research
- Website design & development
- Paid ad copy & creative optimization (3rd party tools)
- Email subject-line optimization
- SEO – technical analysis
- SEO – automated link building
- Automated outreach
FURTHER AFIELD (5-10) YEARS
- Comprehensive market and competitive analysis with predictive forecasting
- Target audience analysis
- Automated strategy and tactic execution with guiding parameters from humans
- Completely automated ad copy and creative creation based on target-audience parameters
- Existing brand analysis and audits
- Big-data SEO analysis
- Automated conversion optimization strategies and execution
- Adversarial AI defence against reputation tarnishing offensives by competitors.
- Automated video editing
- AI influencers indistinguishable from real people
The future of AI and digital marketing will be closely entwined; there’s no doubt about that. With that will come opportunities for brands and their respective marketing agencies or in-house marketing departments to use AI as a supplemental tool to the learned experience and innate creativity that digital marketers use daily.