How does AI and marketing work?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and marketing are very rapidly changing the way products and services are brought to consumers. The Internet greatly changed the whole playing field of marketing beginning late in the 20th century. Now AI (artificial intelligence) is once again shaking up the field.
Much has been said and many dollars have changed hands as marketers have claimed to have found the “secret.” What secret is that?
In fact, a number of “secrets” have been sold over the years that claim to unlock the way to finally make a fortune on the Internet, often with little to no work. Someone is suddenly able to show evidence via screenshots of the vast sums of money they have made in the last few months, and thousands of people looking for the proverbial pot of gold buy this “guru’s” book or software. It’s a never ending cycle, and most don’t catch on to the fact that most of the gurus are charlatans who simply have a massive advertising budget, most of which they spend on Google Adwords.
Google Adwords and the effectiveness of that form of advertising is a topic in itself, but as we look at AI and Marketing, we must talk about Google, now a subsidiary of Alphabet, the largest advertising company ever developed.
For the greater part of Google’s history, as online marketers recognized the market share represented by Google, they worked to unlock the secret of it ever-changing algorithm. Countless books and software products have been marketed claiming to have figured out the latest algorithm, which have made a lot of, once again, the gurus rich.
The point of knowing how Google works is to get your website, the platform where you actually sell your products or services, ranked high on page one of its niche on Google’s search pages. Being able to do so is critical to being seen among all the thousands of other who might be competing in the same market.
It is important for marketers to have an up-to-date knowledge of how Google works. For example, there was a time when all you had to do to get ranked was to flood the Internet with multiple copies of the same webpages, filled with keywords related to your products or services. In fact, you will still occasionally run across one of these “spammy” pages that are filled with nonsense. Certain “gurus” made a fortune selling software that spat out multiple different webpages filled with the keywords the owner filled in to the software control panel.
Today, we call this “black hat SEO.” In fact, Google long ago updated its algorithms to catch this practice and have only created increasingly sophisticated software as time has passed. Today, the real and respected online marketing experts only use “white hat SEO,” which follows all the rules as closely as possible.
Again, the whole subject of SEO (search engine optimization) is a topic of its own, but the bottom line regarding Google, which we must discuss in any article about AI and marketing is that their goal has always been “organic SEO,” or the optimization to gain a natural placement in search engine results, or in other words, optimized for real human beings and the way we like to search.
How do humans like to search? It’s not rocket science. We like to find what we’re looking for in a hurry, and don’t want to be bombarded with junk we’re not interested in. When you’re looking for information about the Tesla Roadster, I don’t want to see a page full of links that take me to porn sites (which used to be common) or to a site selling bitcoins!
Google is now integrating AI more and more into its system, which learns continuously, day and night, and is able to spot potential cheating, including even the most sophisticated black hat SEO, that might easily have been missed in the past. I really believe that this is levelling the playing field, at least in the short term, for creative marketers dedicated to providing real value in their niche.
How does AI and marketing work?
It might seem somewhat facetious to simply answer, “Very well,” but that simple statement really is very true.
Take Netflix, as an example. By using AI called predictive analytics, Netflix is able to curate and recommend relevant content for consumers. This allows them to offer their subscribers better and better content as they get to “know” them.
In truth, many other companies are using AI to determine what
We’ve already mentioned Google. The truth is that Google has been using RankBrain, which is an AI system, since 2015. The system is learning how human being actually talk – ie – natural language processing. Many human beings don’t necessarily use good grammar or spelling, which is a real problem for traditional computer logic. However, AI is able to learn from all search entries, including the ones that use incorrect spelling or sentence structure.
Furthermore, if you’ve noticed an improvement in voice search, that, again, is because AI has been continuously sifting through endless numbers of voice queries and learning how humans communicate their ideas.
Of course, Google has been using AI for much longer, including for offering relevance for search, advertising and recommendations for YouTube. RankBrain is simply a natural addition to the whole system. According to Google, it is their third most important factor for ranking webpages.
AI and marketing cannot be discussed without referring to website design. WordPress, a free, open-source, and likely most popular online CMS (content management system – aka website system), uses an ever evolving amount of AI. WordPress, itself, built on PHP and MySQL, is ever-evolving, built by artists who love software and are very good at what they do, because they love it.
While WordPress doesn’t specifically use AI to build and design websites, its presence is everywhere, from gorgeous interactive themes to plugins, blogging software and SEO tools.
The Grid, on the other hand, actually builds websites from “scratch,” based on everything the owner of the website wants. According to their byline, their system adapts to your message: “Just add content, it designs itself, it’s your piece of a new kind of internet.” We’ve already written about AI that writes music and songs with varying levels of real success. This AI develops websites. If their software works as well as their video describes, it’s something I want to try. In fact, I am going to try it. Watch here for a review in the future!
This is of huge importance. Almost every week we are hearing of massive data breaches, too often with some very large companies.
AI has been used for a while now to analyze and locate points of compromise for, among others, banks and credit card companies. More a more large retailers are also using AI for security. As AI develops, much like Google and other search engines, it is better understanding natural language processing (aka the way humans communicate). With this information, the newer AI implementations are able to spot anomalies, in some cases even the first time they come up.
The implications for fraud prevention using AI in marketing systems on the Internet are very positive. It could be compared to having a police force that never sleeps and is always alert watching every transaction and login on the Internet for any signs of criminal activity. We won’t talk about the privacy concerns that may come out of that in this article!
Product Creation and Pricing
It has long been taught in marketing courses that in order to be successful, you must know your target market.
Language and Speech Recognition
This is one area where, in my opinion, AI has much to learn, and in fact, may never fully “get it right.” Don’t get me wrong. AI has made huge strides in language and speech recognition, making it possible (especially for the more patient) for people from all over the world to communicate with each other, even though they have not learned each others’ language.
The problem is the way AI learns. We must remember that AI is still based on computer logic, no matter how much it develops. That’s why, for example, I believe that while AI is now being used to write songs and music, artists do not need to worry about becoming obsolete, because without a human “spirit,” computers will remain basically unimaginative machines.
They are definitely creative, but imagination requires something more that is so far elusive. It is partly because of this that I believe the “Star Trek” universal translator is, at the very least, a very long way off.
AI learns language, and translation software has come a long, long way since the early days of the Babylon translator software out of Israel. However, while using AI has caused great improvements in translators such as Google Translate and Yandex, there are still many problems. It is my opinion that part of the reason is that while AI learns, it doesn’t differentiate well between correct and incorrect renderings. They rely on user input to learn, and that means that all the incorrect grammar, poor spelling, etc., is also learned.
Ongoing AI involvement in marketing
Much more can be said yet about AI and marketing. In fact, it’s almost impossible to write articles often enough to keep up with the present growth of AI in the field of marketing. Unlike humans, AI never sleeps and has no emotions to get in the way of its learning process.
Some of the other areas where AI is aiding in the marketing process are:
- predictive customer service
- customer segmentation for such things as email campaigns
- content generation, which is now able to produces such things as business reports, albeit such reports are rather lifeless and dry. As Ben Davis wrote in a 2015 article, “… for all automated copywriting can achieve (sports summaries, financial reports etc), it will never master analogy, inference or humour.” I very much agreed with him then and still do.
- chatbots and social interpretation of meaning (semantics), which is another area very much open to pitfalls as AI tries to interact with humans, such as the darkly humorous attempt by Microsoft to create a Twitter account for their chatbot, Tay.
- sales forecasting, an area that has struck fear into the hearts of many department managers for many years, especially when it applied to real products. AI sales forecasting can not only predict the materials required for future quarters, but can also predict the conversion behavior of leads, potentially saving vast amounts of time wasted on prospects that will never convert.
- personal assistants, another form of chatbot with some of the same potential benefits and drawbacks
- image recognition, which is opening up whole new areas of enhanced customer experience and content search. Imagine being able to offer a customer a product based on a photo from their smartphone!
This is an open-ended article. There really is no conclusion in the foreseeable future. In fact, the odds are strong that there’s no end to where AI will take us in marketing. Unlike humans, who often study for years to come up with the next big thing, AI can spot trends long before we humans can. AI has already made discoveries in the field of medical diagnostics that we have missed, simply because AI is unencumbered by any of the fatigue, creativity and emotions that make us human and thereby able to be distracted.
It’s up to humans in the marketing industry to take the information that AI picks up to create the things people want, even before many people even realize they want them! With AI, we now have the technology to greater things faster and better than ever before. AI is a not something to be feared, but is a beautiful and very elegant tool we can now benefit from. As Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story liked to say, “To Infinity and Beyond!”
Please add your insights to the ongoing story in the comments, below. How has AI affected your marketing experience?