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Should Your Brand Shout Its AI and Marketing Plan to the World?

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Should Your Brand Shout Its AI and Marketing Plan to the World?

To use AI or not to use AI, that is the question.

Let’s hope things work out better for you than they did for Shakespeare’s mad Danish prince with daddy issues.

But let’s add a twist to that existential question.

CMI’s chief strategy officer, Robert Rose, shares what marketers should really contemplate. Watch the video or read on to discover what he says:

Should you not use AI and be proud of not using it? Dove Beauty did that last week.

Should you use it but keep it a secret? Sports Illustrated did that last year.

Should you use AI and be vocal about using it? Agency giant Brandtech Group picked up the all-in vibe.

Should you not use it but tell everybody you are? The new term “AI washing” is hitting everywhere.

What’s the best option? Let’s explore.

Dove tells all it won’t use AI

Last week, Dove, the beauty brand celebrating 20 years of its Campaign for Real Beauty, pledged it would NEVER use AI in visual communication to portray real people.

In the announcement, they said they will create “Real Beauty Prompt Guidelines” that people can use to create images representing all types of physical beauty through popular generative AI programs. The prompt they picked for the launch video? “The most beautiful woman in the world, according to Dove.”

I applaud them for the powerful ad. But I’m perplexed by Dove issuing a statement saying it won’t use AI for images of real beauty and then sharing a branded prompt for doing exactly that. Isn’t it like me saying, “Don’t think of a parrot eating pizza. Don’t think about a parrot eating pizza,” and you can’t help but think about a parrot eating pizza right now?

Brandtech Group says it’s all in on AI

Now, Brandtech Group, a conglomerate ad agency, is going the other way. It’s going all-in on AI and telling everybody.

This week, Ad Age featured a press release — oops, I mean an article (subscription required) — with the details of how Brandtech is leaning into the takeaway from OpenAI’s Sam Altman, who says 95% of marketing work today can be done by AI.

A Brandtech representative talked about how they pitch big brands with two people instead of 20. They boast about how proud they are that its lean 7,000 staffers compete with 100,000-person teams. (To be clear, showing up to a pitch with 20 people has never been a good thing, but I digress.)

OK, that’s a differentiated approach. They’re all in. Ad Age certainly seemed to like it enough to promote it. Oops, I mean report about it.

False claims of using AI and not using AI

Offshoots of the all-in and never-will approaches also exist.

The term “AI washing” is de rigueur to describe companies claiming to use AI for something that really isn’t AI.  The US Securities and Exchange Commission just fined two companies for using misleading statements about their use of AI in their business model. I know one startup technology organization faced so much pressure from their board and investors to “do something with AI” that they put a simple chatbot on their website — a glorified search engine — while they figured out what they wanted to do.

Lastly and perhaps most interestingly, companies have and will use AI for much of what they create but remain quiet about it or desire to keep it a secret. A recent notable example is the deepfake ad of a woman in a car professing the need for people to use a particular body wipe to get rid of body odor. It was purported to be real, but sharp-eyed viewers suspected the fake and called out the company, which then admitted it. Or was that the brand’s intent all along — the AI-use outrage would bring more attention?

To yell or not to yell about your brand’s AI decision

Should a brand yell from a mountaintop that they use AI to differentiate themselves a la Brandtech? Or should a brand yell they’re never going to use AI to differentiate themselves a la Dove? Or should a brand use it and not yell anything? (I think it’s clear that a brand should not use AI and lie and say it is. That’s the worst of all choices.)

I lean far into not-yelling-from-mountaintop camp.

When I see a CEO proudly exclaim that they laid off 90% of their support workforce because of AI, I’m not surprised a little later when the value of their service is reduced, and the business is failing.

I’m not surprised when I hear “AI made us do it” to rationalize the latest big tech company latest rounds of layoffs. Or when a big consulting firm announces it’s going all-in on using AI to replace its creative and strategic resources.

I see all those things as desperate attempts for short-term attention or a distraction from the real challenge. They may get responses like, “Of course, you had to lay all those people off; AI is so disruptive,” or “Amazing. You’re so out in front of the rest of the pack by leveraging AI to create efficiency, let me cover your story.” Perhaps they get this response, “Your company deserves a bump in stock price because you’re already using this fancy new technology.”

But what happens if the AI doesn’t deliver as promoted? What happens the next time you need to lay off people? What happens the next time you need to prove your technologically forward-leaning?

Yelling out that you’re all in on a disruptive innovation, especially one the public doesn’t yet trust a lot is (at best) a business sugar high. That short-term burst of attention may or may not foul your long-term brand value.

Interestingly, the same scenarios can manifest when your brand proclaims loudly it is all out of AI, as Dove did. The sugar high may not last and now Dove has itself into a messaging box. One slip could cause distrust among its customers. And what if AI gets good at demonstrating diversity in beauty?

I tried Dove’s instructions and prompted ChatGPT for a picture of “the most beautiful woman in the world according to the Dove Real Beauty ad.”

It gave me this. Then this. And this. And finally, this.

She’s absolutely beautiful, but she doesn’t capture the many facets of diversity Dove has demonstrated in its Real Beauty campaigns. To be clear, Dove doesn’t have any control over generating the image. Maybe the prompt worked well for Dove, but it didn’t for me. Neither Dove nor you can know how the AI tool will behave.

To use AI or not to use AI?

When brands grab a microphone to answer that question, they work from an existential fear about the disruption’s meaning. They do not exhibit the confidence in their actions to deal with it.

Let’s return to Hamlet’s soliloquy:

Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all;

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprises of great pith and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry

And lose the name of action.

In other words, Hamlet says everybody is afraid to take real action because they fear the unknown outcome. You could act to mitigate or solve some challenges, but you don’t because you don’t trust yourself.

If I’m a brand marketer for any business (and I am), I’m going to take action on AI for my business. But until I see how I’m going to generate value with AI, I’m going to be circumspect about yelling or proselytizing how my business’ future is better.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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The Future of Content Success Is Social

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The Future of Content Success Is Social

Here’s a challenge: search “SEO RFP” on Google. Click on the results, and tell me how similar they are.

We did the same thing every other SEO does: We asked, “What words are thematically relevant?” Which themes have my competitors missed?” How can I put them in?” AND “How can I do everything just slightly better than they can?”

Then they do the same, and it becomes a cycle of beating mediocre content with slightly less mediocre content.

When I looked at our high-ranking content, I felt uncomfortable. Yes, it ranked, but it wasn’t overly helpful compared to everything else that ranked.

Ranking isn’t the job to be done; it is just a proxy.

Why would a high-ranking keyword make me feel uncomfortable? Isn’t that the whole freaking job to be done? Not for me. The job to be done is to help educate people, and ranking is a byproduct of doing that well.

I looked at our own content, and I put myself in the seat of a searcher, not an SEO; I looked at the top four rankings and decided that our content felt easy, almost ChatGPT-ish. It was predictable, it was repeatable, and it lacked hot takes and spicy punches.

So, I removed 80% of the content and replaced it with the 38 questions I would ask if I was hiring an SEO. I’m a 25-year SME, and I know what I would be looking for in these turbulent times. I wanted to write the questions that didn’t exist on anything ranking in the top ten. This was a risk, why? Because, semantically, I was going against what Google was likely expecting to see on this topic. This is when Mike King told me about information gain. Google will give you a boost in ranking signals if you bring it new info. Maybe breaking out of the sea of sameness + some social signals could be a key factor in improving rankings on top of doing the traditional SEO work.

What’s worth more?

Ten visits to my SEO RFP post from people to my content via a private procurement WhatsApp group or LinkedIn group?

One hundred people to the same content from search?

I had to make a call, and I was willing to lose rankings (that were getting low traffic but highly valued traffic) to write something that when people read it, they thought enough about it to share it in emails, groups, etc.

SME as the unlock to standout content?

I literally just asked myself, “Wil, what would you ask yourself if you were hiring an SEO company? Then I riffed for 6—8 hours and had tons of chats with ChatGPT. I was asking ChatGPT to get me thinking differently. Things like, “what would create the most value?” I never constrained myself to “what is the search volume,” I started with the riffs.

If I was going to lose my rankings, I had to socially promote it so people knew it existed. That was an unlock, too, if you go this route. It’s work, you are now going to rely on spikes from social, so having a reason to update it and put it back in social is very important.

Most of my “followers” aren’t looking for SEO services as they are digital marketers themselves. So I didn’t expect this post to take off HUGLEY, but given the content, I was shocked at how well it did and how much engagement it got from real actual people.

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

Writing a book is a gargantuan task, and reaching the finish line is a feat equal to summiting a mountain.

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Being position-less secures a marketer’s position for a lifetime

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Optimove Positionless Marketer Optimove

On March 20, 2024, the Position-less Marketer was introduced on MarTech.org and my keynote address at Optimove’s user conference.

Since that initial announcement, we have introduced the term “Position-less Marketer” to hundreds of leading marketing executives and learned that readers and the audience interpreted it in several ways. This article will document a few of those interpretations and clarify what “position-less” means regarding marketing prowess.

As a reminder, data analytics and AI, integrated marketing platforms, automation and more make the Position-less Marketer possible. Plus, new generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Canna-GPT, Github, Copilot and DALL-E offer human access to powerful new capabilities that generate computer code, images, songs and videos, respectively, with human guidance.

Position-less Marketer does not mean a marketer without a role; quite the opposite

Speaking with a senior-level marketer at a global retailer, their first interpretation may be a marketer without a role/position. This was a first-glance definition from more than 60% of the marketers who first heard the term. But on hearing the story and relating it to “be position-less” in other professions, including music and sports, most understood it as a multidimensional marketer — or, as we noted, realizing your multipotentiality. 

One executive said, phrasing position-less in a way that clarified it for me was “unlocking your multidimensionality.” She said, “I like this phrase immensely.” In reality, the word we used was “multipotentiality,” and the fact that she landed on multidimensionality is correct. As we noted, you can do more than one thing.

The other 40% of marketing executives did think of the “Position-less Marketer” as a marketing professional who is not confined or defined by traditional marketing roles or boundaries. In that sense, they are not focused only on branding or digital marketing; instead, they are versatile and agile enough to adjust to the new conditions created by the tools that new technology has to offer. As a result, the Position-less Marketer should be comfortable working across channels, platforms and strategies, integrating different approaches to achieve marketing goals effectively.

Navigating the spectrum: Balancing specialization and Position-less Marketing

Some of the most in-depth feedback came from data analytic experts from consulting firms and Chief Marketing Officers who took a more holistic view.

Most discussions of the “Position-less Marketer” concept began with a nuanced perspective on the dichotomy between entrepreneurial companies and large enterprises.

They noted that entrepreneurial companies are agile and innovative, but lack scalability and efficiency. Conversely, large enterprises excel at execution but struggle with innovation due to rigid processes.

Drawing parallels, many related this to marketing functionality, with specialists excelling in their domain, but needing a more holistic perspective and Position-less Marketers having a broader understanding but needing deep expertise.

Some argued that neither extreme is ideal and emphasized the importance of balancing specialization and generalization based on the company’s growth stage and competitive landscape.

They highlight the need for leaders to protect processes while fostering innovation, citing Steve Jobs’ approach of creating separate teams to drive innovation within Apple. They stress the significance of breaking down silos and encouraging collaboration across functions, even if it means challenging existing paradigms.

Ultimately, these experts recommended adopting a Position-less Marketing approach as a competitive advantage in today’s landscape, where tight specialization is common. They suggest that by connecting dots across different functions, companies can offer unique value to customers. However, they caution against viewing generalization as an absolute solution, emphasizing the importance of context and competitive positioning.

These marketing leaders advocate for a balanced marketing approach that leverages specialization and generalization to drive innovation and competitive advantage while acknowledging the need to adapt strategies based on industry dynamics and competitive positioning.

Be position-less, but not too position-less — realize your multipotentiality

This supports what was noted in the March 20th article: to be position-less, but not too position-less. When we realize our multipotentiality and multidimensionality, we excel as humans. AI becomes an augmentation.

But just because you can individually execute on all cylinders in marketing and perform data analytics, writing, graphics and more from your desktop does not mean you should.

Learn when being position-less is best for the organization and when it isn’t. Just because you can write copy with ChatGPT does not mean you will write with the same skill and finesse as a professional copywriter. So be position-less, but not too position-less.

Position-less vs. being pigeonholed

At the same time, if you are a manager, do not pigeonhole people. Let them spread their wings using today’s latest AI tools for human augmentation.

For managers, finding the right balance between guiding marketing pros to be position-less and, at other times, holding their position as specialists and bringing in specialists from different marketing disciplines will take a lot of work. We are at the beginning of this new era. However, working toward the right balance is a step forward in a new world where humans and AI work hand-in-hand to optimize marketing teams.

We are at a pivot point for the marketing profession. Those who can be position-less and managers who can optimize teams with flawless position-less execution will secure their position for a lifetime.

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