Marketing Automation systems promise power and efficiency, even though the majority of companies are still struggling to take advantage of time-savings and speed to market. Software vendors like SalesForce, Adobe and Oracle have evangelized the field for years. But everyone is busy working out the kinks.
Once marketing departments get their systems humming and take them in-house in order to deploy email, SMS and social content, everyone’s focus will turn from efficiency to effectiveness: from fast to smart.
That’s where AI comes in.
Artificial Intelligence is nothing more complicated than automated decision-making based on a set of rules. Any Marketing Automation system has a certain degree of decision-making baked into it. From the simplest algorithms to the most complicated, the decision-making process for marketing is basically: if person A does B, then serve content C to place D.
Today, a lot goes into creating these decision rules, but once you establish and design them, a computer can execute them infinitely faster and more accurately than a person. That’s the promise all marketing systems make about automation.
But rule-based decision-making (Artificial Intelligence) is not just about efficiency. It’s about effectiveness: smarter marketing.
We’ve already seen this effectiveness in action. Over a decade ago, Adwords started shifting marketing budgets from agencies over to AI. Back then you could provide four options of written ads and the system would optimize until it found the version that worked best at driving clicks to your website.
That was the start of Google’s advertising empire. On the back of that, they built out a goliath software system that automated the process of serving and optimizing content, making better decisions almost instantly.
That optimizing was smart decision-making. Or in other words: intelligence.
A similar intelligence is at the heart of every recommended product you see on Amazon and determines every piece of content you see on Facebook. All this content is being served to you based on rules that make the decisions for you, without you even knowing it. And that intelligence is getting increasingly complex.
So what’s next for AI in marketing?
While rule-based systems are considered artificial intelligence, the modern AI is much more than just pre-determined rules set by marketers. Increasingly, AI is able to discover rules by itself, and continuously refine and improve those rules.
We call this Machine Learning.
The greatest progress made in the last few years in applying AI to marketing is in this area of the automatic discovery and optimization of knowledge and insights from vast amount of consumer data.
With modern AI, not only will content deployment be automated, the rule making will be too.
Most marketing is still miles behind what Google and Amazon are capable of. But we’re on the cusp of a rules-based marketing explosion. Salesforce and others are already acquiring AI products aggressively to get ahead of this – they see the writing on the wall.
The fundamental questions for marketers will soon be not what system are you using? But instead, how smart are our rules? and how good are the decisions?
Of course, there’s also that question, who the hell can help me get there?
Ariad is a North American marketing agency that focuses on client solutions that integrate brand, strategy, content and technology.
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