Can artificial intelligence be a threat to marketing jobs?

While technology has transformed marketing, let’s not forget that consumers are still human

Back in the day, on my way to college, I saw a long line outside the computer lab – the internet had just arrived on the campus! Students lined up to spend a minute or two on Netscape Navigator, the only browser on the World Wide Web. Fast forward a couple of decades and it feels like another world altogether. The talk of the town today is ‘Artificial Intelligence’ (AI) and how it is going to transform the way we live and why it could even threaten marketing jobs.

Over my past 25 years in marketing, I have seen the field evolve many times over. We live in a global, digital, and interconnected world. Consumers have evolved rapidly, and we marketers have to keep pace.

Before we jump into the shiny new world of AI, I would like to stress a couple of basics. Firstly, while a lot has changed, the foundational principles of marketing have remained the same. We still need a good product, a compelling value proposition, a well-defined target audience, and an impactful message, among other things. None of the advancements can ever be a replacement for these tenets. Secondly, transformative technologies are ways to enhance our journey to the consumer and not a destination by themselves. AI is no different. Given all the hype, it’s easy to be overwhelmed.

With the proliferation of digital and social channels, the availability of big data, and automation tools, marketing has been transformed. AI and ML (Machine Learning) have significantly enhanced the way technology powers marketing processes. AI has helped shape the way we understand our clients, how we communicate with them, and how we can deliver accurate messaging to the right people at the right time.

Here are a few specific examples of how AI can enhance marketing. Let’s go through a simple campaign cycle of planning, execution, and measurement. In the planning phase, we seek customer insights and often commission market research. A typical research project from briefing to fieldwork, analysis, and reporting can take anywhere close to 4 months and tends to be expensive. In today’s world, customer data is generated on a real-time basis through digital footprints on owned and earned channels. With a well-set-up customer data platform and analytics, you could glean customer insights ‘on the go’ to plan your campaign. AI can help deepen your understanding of customers, predict trends, narrow your target audience, and customize your product offering.

Moving on to the execution phase, marketing automation tools have changed the game altogether. Traditional 360 campaigns took a long time to plan and execute. This includes the time taken for strategy, creative and content development, media planning, production, and execution. Today, we are in the world of ‘Always On’ campaigns, thanks to technology. Once you set up the parameters and templates in the marketing automation tool, you can deliver a hyper personalized message to each prospect with a custom offering based on what he or she is looking for right at that moment. We can now move to a segment of one, the holy grail of marketing segmentation!

When it comes to measurement and tracking, traditionally we would wait for the media agency to analyse and report on the campaign to carry forward learning, which is usually only for the next campaign. Again, thanks to technology, you can continuously optimize your campaign on a real-time basis to get the best bang for the buck. AI powered tools, for instance, can auto-pick the best working creative from a preloaded pool of 3-4 and thus maximize responsiveness. With the availability of real-time data and dashboards, you can also make quick changes to your media plans and invest more in the best-performing assets.

Outside a marketing campaign cycle, AI can have a far-reaching impact on improving your customer service and satisfaction levels. Use of generative AI to answer customer queries, video bots, customized surveys, and predictive analytics are just a few examples. The list goes on.

So, back to addressing the elephant in the room, will AI make marketing roles redundant? Routine and repetitive low-involvement processes like customer query handling, social media replies, and data analytics can be machine-led but will still need close supervision for exceptions and escalations. More broadly though, while marketers will have intelligent tools and insights at their disposal, they still need to use their own thinking and judgement to make the right decisions and steer the ship in the right direction.

Anand Subbiah
Senior Director and Head – Marketing and Communications,
Qualcomm, India and South Asia

While technology has transformed marketing, let’s not forget that consumers are still human. We continue to be complex beings led by emotions rather than rationale when it comes to attitudes, behaviours, and decisions. To add to the complexity, this changes with time, situation, and many other factors. Hence while tons of customer data from the past can act as a broad guide to devise our marketing strategy, we still need to apply ourselves to discern the nuances and tailor our approach to genuinely connect with the customers and their emotions. This is why human intelligence will continue to play a crucial role in marketing.

People in the marketing team would then become the real competitive advantage between brands as it is easy for companies to deploy the latest marketing technologies available at the time.

To wrap up, NO, I don’t believe AI can replace marketing jobs. In fact, I believe it will make marketing an even more important function within the organisation as it is now ‘marketing on steroids’ thanks to technology.


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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