Marketing in the age of artificial intelligence requires out of the box thinking

In the Age of AI, CMOs Still Need to Take Risks

By Maya Mikhailov

Artificial intelligence is a disruptive and game-changing tool, and can help brands target customers like never before. But, an over dependence on AI will lead to CMOs falling into predictable patterns that can undermine long-term goals.

Simply having data is no longer enough to make it actionable or usable to AI-based tools. Suddenly CMOs have to care about data sources, quality and freshness. AI is not a panacea for any set of data, as it requires a minimum level of attributes to be useful and accurate. Historical data may even lead to inaccurate conclusions.

The AI driven CMO will also forget about A/B testing as any campaign can be A – Z tested simultaneously. Microtargeting at lightning fast speeds with machines making decisions on creative and language will let optimal results emerge for audience segments. This isn’t the reactive marketing that we now know. This is revolutionary marketing, where CMOs will provide the guardrails of execution to machines jumping from channel to channel constantly optimizing and refining.

Marketing leaders are expected to deliver on innovation. In the past, innovation in the marketing world meant taking a risk that paid off. CMOs worked on experience and gut instinct to create greatness. The rise of digital marketing changed all the rules—intuition had to be backed by data points and constant measuring of ROI. While some still worry whether purely data-driven approaches reduce the wonder or emotion of marketing, AI will put data-driven marketing techniques on steroids. There will be no aspect of digital or analog marketing that AI cannot parse and analyze for optimization.

Take for example Cheetos. A few years back, Cheetos announced a gift collection ecommerce site timed with traditional retail holiday promotions. The site sold pretty much everything but the popular snack, from cologne and branded leggings to bronzer and a $20,000 jewelry set. No AI parsing through Cheetos marketing data sets would ever tell their CMO to sell pricey baubles. But with over 100M impressions, countess press pieces, social medial trending topics and a complete store sell out (yes, even the $20k jewelry set), Cheetos became the hot holiday season story. It’s these brave, and sometimes silly, choices that can resonate deeply with consumers in an age where marketing is becoming increasingly formulaic.

AI will change the rules of the game for CMOs. However, with all the benefits of AI, over dependence risks making marketing generic. Marketing bots will emerge that will only follow predictable patterns and appear to consumers as noise. It is the new role of the CMO to have the courage to make that “gut call” that may fail, but could also be the pivotal moment that sets their brand apart.

Maya Mikhailov is SVP of Synchrony.