Artificial intelligence will remind us what marketing is all about

The beauty of artificial intelligence (AI) is its capacity to release marketers from the heavy burden of manual execution. Freeing them up to ideate, create and tell brand stories that truly engage their customers. This week I speak to Or Shani, founder and CEO of AlbertTM – the world’s first and only AI marketing platform – about how AI is not here to replace our intelligence, but to augment it.

When I stepped back into the fold of RedBalloon in mid 2017, I discovered we had largely outsourced our key capacity – marketing. We were buying customers one-by-one, over and over again, pulling the same marketing levers repeatedly, with mixed success; all with little to no transparency over where our advertising dollars were going.

It was John Wanamaker who famously said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half”. And all of a sudden, with the stark reality of skyrocketing customer acquisition costs (that went from $0.05 when I launched RedBalloon, spiking at almost $50 last year), I understood exactly what he meant.

So what did we do? We brought our marketing back in-house and made the bold move of employing an AI marketing platform, named Albert. Within the first hour of ‘plugging him in’ with all the required inputs, insights and campaign creative, he had optimised almost 46,000 keywords. He stripped our cost per acquisition spend down from almost $50, to less than $17 during our ‘make or break’ Christmas period.

I’ve seen first hand how this technology can fundamentally alter the fabric of marketing execution, and ultimately, the bottom line. So when I hear about the fear around AI I’m perplexed. I’m sure people were equally dubious about sending their horses to pasture when the first cars started rolling off the lot. And yet here we are, a century later, staring down the barrel of self-driving vehicles. You cannot stop progress. In the worlds of Or Shani, founder and CEO of Albert, when we spoke on his recent visit to Sydney, “In 10 years companies will either have been the first or the last to adopt AI – the train has already left the station”.

Or Shani is the brains behind Albert, and he’s passionate about AI becoming part of every marketing team; to release marketers from 90% of the work they do “fiddling with systems and pushing buttons”.

On his recent trip to Sydney we spoke in some detail about the impact of AI on the marketing profession. Spoiler alert: It seems robots are not here to steal our jobs. They’re here to allow us greater capacity to dedicate our uniquely human brilliance to the storytelling required for truly successful marketing.

“In the past five to 10 years digital marketing has become too much about pushing buttons. That is not marketing. We’ve lost what it means to be a marketer – the brand, the creative, the strategy, the storytelling. Almost counter-intuitively, AI can help us rediscover the true human element of marketing,” Mr Shani said.

Humans play a huge and irreplaceable role when it comes to the highest value tasks in marketing, and those businesses that embrace the technology with this mindset the early adopters – are set to gain the most. Those who have an appetite for experimentation and change, and who are eager to learn.

In the next five years AI will rule digital marketing. We’re currently becoming slaves to tech. Our vision for Albert was to turn the tables on this; to create a different type of marketing reality where the people can remove their focus from manual and menial execution, and dedicate their uniquely human brilliance to the storytelling required for truly successful marketing.’

People are brilliant, computers are not. Computers cannot invent, but they can execute – and that’s where the true power of AI lives.

Many companies feel this desire to keep up with the Joneses when it comes to their tech stack in particular. There is this constant theme where we see clients under the impression they need more and more tech, and so they end up in this situation of being in captivity by their own technology. But the thing with tech is, if it’s not connected and executional, it’s worth nothing. A lot of companies are simply lacking the vision of what they want their tech to do. To quote a famous line from Fight Club, ‘The things you own end up owning you’.

That’s why I see AI as the biggest gift to marketing in 50 years. The fact of the matter is, no one likes doing the the heavy manual lifting of marketing campaigns – people want to do the fun creative work. In history, man has never taken the hardest route – look at the motor car for example. We went from manual transmission, to automatic, to cruise control, and now self driving vehicles are here. Albert is the self driving marketing solution.

I cannot agree with Or more wholeheartedly when he says that “customers buy your product not because of your tech stack, but because of your story” – how your brand makes them feel. It’s all about the emotional connection, which is something I am incredibly passionate about. But computers cannot create this: people do. And the more we can free our people up to create compelling stories, content, creative and strategy, the better it will be for all.

This article first appeared on Smartcompany.

Also published on Medium.

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