Machines and Marketing: 6 Learnings From Supercharged

The recent Marketing Week Supercharged conference was insightful, exciting, but a tad scary. Scary because of how transformative AI will be. And not just for marketing, but life in general.

  1. AI is the new electricity?

There is an overwhelming consensus that AI can potentially transform all our entire lives. As AI expert Andrew Ng states:

“AI has the potential to be the new electricity”

Testament to this, the Gartner Hype Cycle positions Machine Learning at the “peak of inflated expectations”. But it still predicts that AI (or machine learning) is 2-5 years away from mainstream adoption and is due to first pass through a “trough of disillusionment”: a backlash caused by limited technology and applications not living up to the hype that surrounds AI.

Even if mainstream adoption is still several years away, AI will inevitably continue to have an ever-increasing role in our lives.

  1. It should be “Augmented” not “Artificial” Intelligence

The potential of AI is huge, but what exactly does AI mean? Many argue that “Artificial Intelligence” as a term can be misleading, preferring to use the term “Augmented Intelligence”. After all, AI is designed to enhance human intelligence rather than replace it.

Nicola Millard of BT, outlined a potentially successful alliance between “Bots” and “Super Agents”. When it comes to customer service, AI technology can remove mundane tasks (e.g. account verification), freeing up what she calls “Super Agents” to deal with more complex tasks that require unique human traits (e.g. empathy or negotiation).

IBM’s Watson also showcased how an AI bot can build a powerful alliance alongside human intelligence. This was done by demonstrating the speed at which a human can successfully diagnose and address the flaws of an e-mail campaign, by utilising the power of Watson. Understanding this human-machine partnership, “Augmented Intelligence” could make more sense.

  1. Many of us are not ready for AI

Whatever label we give it, AI has the potential to transform all sectors, including marketing.

But is marketing ready to embrace AI?

According to IBM evangelist Jeremy Waite, 4 in 5 global CMOs are overwhelmed by the challenges they face over the next 5 years. He also claimed that astonishingly:

“88% of enterprise firms still don’t share their own customer data internally among their teams”

Despite some of the innovative ways marketing departments are already utilising AI to their advantage (such as Phrasee or Emarsys), an industry-wide adoption seems way off.

  1. AI and creativity are not mutually exclusive

One potential barrier to AI adoption within marketing is a belief that AI can’t be “creative”.

Despite this, Supercharged provided two great practical applications of AI being used to drive creativity:

  1. IntelligentX, demonstrated how they use AI to develop data-driven products, including the world’s first AI beer
  2. Jukedeck – a start-up who have developed an AI music composer which writes and adapts music completely on its own.

But, could the more creative elements of marketing utilise AI?

Paul Lenaghan, Marketing Services Director at Nectar, summed it up well. He predicts a general willingness for industry leaders to involve AI in the more prosaic tasks – such as offer optimisation or targeted advertising, but thinks it will take a lot longer before the more creative tasks, such as copywriting, will benefit from AI.

  1. A chatbot’s personality is important

One of AI’s most profound marketing-specific impacts has been Chatbots. Byte London and Just Eat introduced the audience to their Chatbot, an AI driven bot who helps millions of customer’s order food. But it’s more than this. Relevant and witty responses to strange food requests, marriage proposals or profanity are crucial to the bot’s success, engaging Just Eat customers through having a personality.

Across the globe, there is a race to try and make the most “human” AI, but in this endeavour, there has been a homogenisation of personality. Writer Nick Asbury has a different perspective on things and believes there is tremendous value building a Chatbot with a ‘unique’ personality, rather than the polite, pleasant and occasionally witty bots that are the current vogue.

Asbury recently worked on a Russian chatbot called Zhuck – a proudly grumpy “wise-guy” chatbot. A bot whose personality was central to the whole offering, making it more than a business banking app. Injecting personality into bots, whatever this may be, is important in driving customer engagement.

  1. GDPR is scary, but can be overcome

AI machines are driven by data, which means the introduction of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) next year looks set to shake things up big time.

Sam Ellis, Head of Innovation at M&C Saatchi, made the audience question whether we’re prepared for the change in regulation.

  • Do we know who owns the data we use?
  • Do we know if the current permissions we have in place will satisfy GDPR?

He spoke anecdotally about many large companies being far from prepared for the regulation changes, making a very convincing case that if you’re not preparing already, it’s time to start now!

With 55% of consumers not wanting to share their personal data, getting customer permission is already hard and will become even harder with the introduction of GDPR. So how can brands wanting to utilise data for AI overcome this?

The key seems to be transparency and value exchange. Being entirely transparent with customers about how you plan to use their data and for what purpose is a great place to start. But convincing them of the value they’ll receive in return for permission is also paramount. AI has the power to drastically improve customer interactions with a brand, learning from the information we already know about them. Whether it be recommending relevant products or offers, customers stand to receive a lot back from brands, so make this value-exchange clear from the offset.

By Alex Wilman, Northstar Research