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The end of marketing or a new beginning? The truth about AI

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The end of marketing or a new beginning? The truth about AI

Love it or hate it, the artificial intelligence revolution is here. People can’t stop talking about ChatGPT, OpenAI and how AI will fundamentally change the world. Marketers everywhere are obsessing over the newly discovered power of AI.

Amid the jaw-dropping realizations of what AI is capable of, marketers are faced with an existential question that’s a bit daunting to consider: Is this the end of marketing as we know it? After all, you can ask ChatGPT almost any question and get an exact answer.

Need to know how to set up form conversion tracking in Google Tag Manager? Just ask ChatGPT and it will give you step-by-step instructions.

Want to build a keyword strategy, craft a job description for a new hire, or write the copy for a new landing page? The AI will do it for you immediately and effortlessly.

It’s no surprise that marketers everywhere are concerned that AI will render many aspects of marketing obsolete, but before you start worrying, let’s remember that this has happened before:

  • Direct mail was disrupted by email.
  • The phone book was replaced by online search.
  • Newspapers and magazines were largely replaced by social media.
  • Telemarketing was replaced by SMS marketing.

Artificial intelligence is the next technological innovation that will fundamentally shift marketing approaches. Here’s what you need to know to stay up-to-date and prepare for the new world of marketing.

What’s changed (and what hasn’t)

The fast-paced evolution of artificial intelligence has already changed many things about marketing, but there are still several pillars that will stand the test of time.

Here’s a quick preview to give you a perspective on how to think about the future of marketing in a world dominated by AI.

Search engines

Searching on Google for information or answers will soon seem as useful as flipping through the yellow pages to find a reliable business. People will ask AI questions and get specific, contextualized and detailed answers.

You can even ask the AI to clarify an answer or provide more options. It’s time to rethink your SEO and content strategy.

Content production

Creating content is already much easier and faster, thanks to artificial intelligence. As if we needed more content, AI will result in an explosion of content like we’ve never seen before. This isn’t speculative — it’s already happening. 

There are now tools capable of creating complete articles, slide decks, talking head videos and even reproducing anyone’s voice. These tools are fast, affordable and extremely accurate. Plus, they’re only going to get better.

Dig deeper: 5 AI writing assistants in action

Data analysis

Consuming lots of inputs and information and making sense of it is complicated, complex and time-consuming. Not anymore.

AI makes data analysis, insights generation and even predictive analytics easier. Your data and reporting will evolve to a significantly new level of sophistication without too much effort or cost.

Consumer behavior

Fortunately, people are still the same. We are still emotional, irrational and human. That means that the marketing fundamentals will still work the same, only the mechanism has changed.

Consumers will still look to each other for guidance, approval and recommendations. Creating conversations, connections and community is still a smart and reliable approach. 

Thought leadership

No artificial intelligence is sentient (capable of conscious experience) — yet — so most of what we’ll see in the near term is the repackaging, repurposing and regurgitation of existing thoughts, ideas and content.

Thought leadership is still paramount in the form of original and innovative ideas. Every marketer should continue to pursue creating and distributing thought leadership to stand out in the sea of sameness.

Brand

Nothing beats having a powerful brand. Building a recognizable, trustworthy and desirable brand is still challenging, time-consuming and expensive.

The power of having a strong brand will only increase. Savvy marketers should continue their investments in brand building.

Dig deeper: Building a brand strategy: Essentials for long-term success

The pros and cons of AI in marketing

Artificial intelligence isn’t perfect. Although it will make marketing easier, it also brings some significant concerns and considerations. 

First, here are some of the major wins:

Improved efficiency

Marketers are constantly overwhelmed with many tasks that AI can easily take over. Using AI will enable small teams (or individuals) to scale their efforts and be more efficient, which will have an enormous impact on the results that can be achieved.

Data-driven insights

Consuming, processing and summarizing large data sets is one of AI’s biggest strengths. Marketers can use this to mine insights from multiple data sources to inform and optimize our marketing efforts.

Google Analytics already provides “Analytics Intelligence,” which uses machine learning to answer questions about your data and build customized reports. 

Personalization

Delivering truly customized experiences is no longer a pipe dream. Email platforms can already use machine learning to send messages to customers at the exact right time, based on their historical behavior of when they’ve opened emails in the past.

As the capabilities evolve, AI will be able to create brand-new, unique and personalized experiences, content and conversations with users.

Cost savings

The time and cost savings of using AI tools will be one of the biggest impacts on every marketing organization. Marketing budgets are notoriously thin. The ability to reduce expenses and achieve greater scale will be transformative for marketers. AI also brings a new level of automation that will deliver immense time and cost savings.

Dig deeper: How AI can help your marketing right now

However, there are some significant concerns with the adoption of AI:

Quality and accuracy

Since artificial intelligence cannot think independently, there are massive concerns about the quality, accuracy and integrity of its output.

How can you trust what the AI says? What source is it relying on? We must be vigilant about ensuring that anything the AI produces can be verified.

Job displacement

Unsurprisingly, artificial intelligence will replace and displace jobs, with some marketers being more affected than others.

As with any new technology, there will be a shift into different types of work required to leverage AI to support the marketing organization. Companies are already hiring for “AI specialist” roles to understand and capitalize on what’s possible.

Privacy and ethical concerns

Since AI relies on consuming lots of data and information, how can we protect user privacy? In addition, how can we ensure that artificial intelligence is not biased or discriminatory?

There are major concerns around privacy and ethics that must be addressed before fully adopting AI.

Dig deeper: 4 areas of martech with ethical concerns

Will AI replace marketers?

AI will dramatically change how marketing is done. It will make it easier, faster, cheaper and better. Those benefits come at a price: replacing the need for many specific tools and shifting certain roles.

There is no question that some marketing roles will be made redundant by artificial intelligence, especially on small teams with limited resources.

However, all artificial intelligence requires a creative brain for input and guidance just as much as it needs critical thinking and proper review to maintain the quality and integrity of what it produces.

Every successful marketing team will embrace the use of AI throughout their tech stack and their processes in order to maximize their efficiency, creativity and productivity. In doing so, it will usher in a new generation of marketers who understand how to mold and shape AI to produce better marketing assets at record speed.

The ultimate question

There’s one important question that every marketing leader should be thinking about and asking: Is your marketing team using artificial intelligence?

If you don’t know the answer, you better find out. The benefits of using AI in marketing are massive: getting more done faster and cheaper. However, the risks must be understood and controlled. 

Is your marketing team regurgitating your competitor’s content — or are you creating authentic thought leadership and building a powerful brand?

Artificial intelligence is just another tool. It’s your job to help your team understand how and where to use it to create powerful marketing.

This isn’t the end of an era, but the exciting merger of human creativity and cutting-edge technology will revolutionize how we connect with our customers.


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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

Did you follow the Apple iPad Pro content debacle?

Here’s a quick recap. A recent online ad for the new iPad Pro showed a large hydraulic press slowly crushing various symbols of creativity. A metronome, a piano, a record player, a video game, paints, books, and other creative tools splinter and smash as the Sonny and Cher song All I Ever Need Is You plays.

The ad’s title? “Crush!”

The point of the commercial — I think — is to show that Apple managed to smush (that’s the technical term) all this heretofore analog creativity into its new, very thin iPad Pro.  

To say the ad received bad reviews is underselling the response. Judgment was swift and unrelenting. The creative world freaked out.

On X, actor Hugh Grant shared Tim Cook’s post featuring the ad and added this comment: “The destruction of the human experience. Courtesy of Silicon Valley.”

When fellow actor Justine Bateman shared the Tim Cook post, she simply wrote, “Truly, what is wrong with you?” Other critiques ranged from tone-challenged to wasteful to many worse things.

Actor Justine Bateman shared Tim Cook’s post on X, which featured the ad, and added this comment: "Truly, what is wrong with you?".

A couple of days later, Apple apologized and canceled plans to air the ad on television.

How not-so-great content ideas come to life

The level of anger surprises me. Look, the ad does show the eyeballs on an emoji-faced squishy ball popping under the plates’ pressure, but still. Calling the ad “actually psychotic” might be a skosh over the top.

Yes, the ad missed the mark. And the company’s subsequent decision to apologize makes sense.

But anyone who’s participated in creating a content misfire knows this truth: Mistakes look much more obvious in hindsight.

On paper, I bet this concept sounded great. The brainstorming meeting probably started with something like this: “We want to show how the iPad Pro metaphorically contains this huge mass of creative tools in a thin and cool package.”

Maybe someone suggested representing that exact thing with CGI (maybe a colorful tornado rising from the screen). Then someone else suggested showing the actual physical objects getting condensed would be more powerful.

Here’s my imagined version of the conversation that might have happened after someone pointed out the popular internet meme of things getting crushed in a hydraulic press.

“People love that!”

“If we add buckets of paint, it will be super colorful and cool.”

“It’ll be a cooler version of that LG ad that ran in 2008.”

“Exactly!”

“It’ll be just like that ad where a bus driver kidnaps and subsequently crushes all the cute little Pokémon characters in a bus!” (Believe it or not, that was actually a thing.)

The resulting commercial suffers from the perfect creative storm: A not-great (copycat) idea at the absolutely wrong time.

None of us know what constraints Apple’s creative team worked under. How much time did they have to come up with a concept? Did they have time to test it with audiences? Maybe crushing physical objects fit into the budget better than CGI. All these factors affect the creative process and options (even at a giant company like Apple).

That’s not an excuse — it’s just reality.

Content failure or content mistake?

Many ad campaigns provoke a “What the hell were they thinking?” response (think Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad or those cringy brand tributes that follow celebrity deaths).

Does that mean they’re failures? Or are they mistakes? And what’s the difference?

As I wrote after Peloton’s holiday ad debacle (remember that?), people learn to fear mistakes early on. Most of us hear cautionary messages almost from day one.

Some are necessary and helpful (“Don’t stick a knife in a live toaster” or “Look both ways before you cross the street.”) Some aren’t (“Make that essay perfect” or “Don’t miss that goal.”)

As a result, many people grow up afraid to take risks — and that hampers creativity. The problem arises from conflating failure and mistakes. It helps to know the difference.

I moved to Los Angeles in 1987 to become a rock ‘n’ roll musician. I failed. But it wasn’t a mistake. I wasn’t wrong to try. My attempt just didn’t work.

Labeling a failed attempt a “mistake” feeds the fears that keep people from attempting anything creative.

The conflation of failure and mistakes happens all too often in creative marketing. Sure, people create content pieces (and let’s not forget that there are always people behind those ideas) that genuinely count as mistakes.

They also create content that simply fails.

Don’t let extreme reactions make you fear failures

Here’s the thing about failed content. You can do all the work to research your audience and take the time to develop and polish your ideas — and the content still might fail. The story, the platform, or the format might not resonate, or the audience simply might not care for it. That doesn’t mean it’s a mistake.

Was the Apple ad a mistake? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

Was it a failure? The vitriolic response indicates yes.

Still, the commercial generated an impressive amount of awareness (53 million views of the Tim Cook post on X, per Variety.) And, despite the apology, the company hasn’t taken the ad down from its YouTube page where it’s earned more than 1 million views.

The fictional Captain Jean Luc Picard once said, “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not weakness. That is life.” The Apple ad turns that statement on its head — Apple made many mistakes and still won a tremendous amount of attention.

I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t criticize creative work. Constructive critiques help us learn from our own and others’ failures. You can even have a good laugh about content fails.

Just acknowledge, as the Roman philosopher Cicero once wrote, “Not every mistake is a foolish one.” 

Creative teams take risks. They try things outside their comfort zone. Sometimes they fail (sometimes spectacularly).

But don’t let others’ expressions of anger over failures inhibit your willingness to try creative things.

Wouldn’t you love to get the whole world talking about the content you create? To get there, you have to risk that level of failure.

And taking that risk isn’t a mistake.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

Subscribe to workday or weekly CMI emails to get Rose-Colored Glasses in your inbox each week. 

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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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