AI Vs Robots Vs Marketing- Who Wins?
Across the Pond- Marketing Transformed.
Episode 18. AI Vs Robots Vs Marketing- Who Wins?
“Hey, Marketing Transformed… Play: AI vs Robots vs Marketing”
A couple of years ago, it was quoted that by 2020, fifty percent of search will be carried out by voice. And I’m really interested to see whether that’s come through this year or not. What is certain though, is that once again text is changing and you cannot stop that change. At least twenty percent of all searches were voice a couple of years ago, and it would have been unheard of that the quality of voice interpretation was any good at all. It was considered extremely poor, now it’s reported that voice interpretation on translations worldwide are ninety percent accurate (not just English). Scary right. It's scary how quickly, yet how exciting things change, don’t you think?
Yeah, impressive and scary. You kind of like it but then you think- oh, hang on a minute, are the robots taking over? Is the AI taking everything now?
Exactly. And that’s the subject for this week’s podcast as we enter a new decade. How will technology affect marketing and what does it mean to us in our day to day jobs?
On average, Alexa answers queries accurately about eighty percent of the time, and that was in August 2019. That was up about nineteen percent from sixty one percent in July 2018. So a massive increase in terms of efficiency. An average person types between thirty-five to forty words a minute, but the same person can speak at one hundred to one hundred and thirty words a minute. So, you can suddenly see how by improving technology in regard to voice recognition can start to once again transform what we do. So, that certainly is one area of tech that is going to affect us marketeers. And it's interesting how much emphasis we put on communication and how much emphasis we might have put on voice. Anything else spring to mind Sam?
Well, as you set the scene there with the word of voice, I started thinking how tech is being used to serve us in a way that helps us collaborate, helps us engage each other via relationships and connections. So, I’ll tell you a story about pyjamas and pearls. Anna rose at 6.45 am and made her coffee. She put a comb through her hair, put on a dash of lipstick, threw on her white cotton blouse and a string of pearls. Her old pyjama pants and fluffy slippers stayed on. She was ready for work though. Her computer camera showed the bookcase behind her torso, of course, the pyjamas were hidden. One by one her distributed global marketing team arrived in the virtual work room for the marketing strategy meeting - each from a different time zone. Great narrative from McKinley marketing partners.
McKinley marketing and partners are a recruiting company that publishes annual updates on marketing hiring trends and they’re just describing the world of work. Which is now very much driven by remote set up, remote cameras, people in distributed places. And I use that example because there’s growing research showing that we have to account for remote work as a standard and that the tech could be creating isolation. Is it constraining our ability to have meaningful conversations, meaningful interactions with colleagues?
Now, I’m a huge advocate of another company called Imperative, and their leaders in their purpose powered, peer coaching space; they have a lot of tech and philosophies. The founder is a guy called Aaron Hurst and he talks about some of these issues and how they are being addressed. So, one example is a silicification of work. So, the tool Slack is accelerating the speed of communications but is also causing a bit of a fragmentation and difficulty in generating meaningful connections, and staying actually present without being distracted by a message or a new prompt. And as we are more mobile and able to work much more flexibly, there’s actually an impact on tenure and how we see our paths and our careers, and how we see jobs. Tenure is actually shrinking. And it’s also negatively impacting the ability to develop strong, long lasting relationships in organisations. So, the people-side of the tech is keeping up at night the CHROs, CEOs, CMOs- I’m sure it's keeping them up at night as they need to shift their resources to support and design for these new realities.
It’s definitely interesting. Again, you look back through the ages and how video games were impacting on relationships and how horror movies might have been impacting on people’s sort of psyche. There’s plenty of examples of that in our past as we start looking at different coms channels - something that we’ve covered before. But, putting that to one side, the human impact is real and there will be significant impacts on jobs that will disappear. There will be a huge number of jobs that will be created as well. I read an article, I’ll try to find the source of it but, ten jobs AI can replace: Telly Marketing. That certainly makes sense. Bookkeeping clerks. You look at the rise of Xero and QuickBooks and you can certainly see that happening. Receptionists. Again, how many offices do you walk into and self-reception these days? Proofreading. Market research analysts. Advertising salespeople. Retail salespeople. There’s more on the list but I’ll stop there, you get the picture.
You can certainly see some roles where technology now might be aiding or supplementing but can certainly take over those roles. This week, google said it developed an artificial intelligence system that can detect the presence of breast cancer more accurately than doctors, which is absolutely amazing. Compared to human experts, that program reduced false positives by five-point seven percent for US subjects and one-point two percent for the UK, not sure why there’s a difference there across the pond, but it reduces false negatives by nine-point four percent and two-point seven percent for UK subjects. That’s an amazing achievement and it was even more accurate despite it having less information to work with than human experts. So, again, it’s not like that’s going to happen tomorrow however, that must be seen as an opportunity to improve what we do but it will affect people’s jobs at the same time. And, in marketing, AI works behind the scenes already I think.
The Human Element
To produce, perform and predict at scale - many of those tasks that eat up time will be automated. Again, you just have to look at something simple such as email marketing and how much of that can be done by automation these days, drafting social shares would be another example, AB testing, again you’re just looking a year or two and see the impact that has made. But this isn’t new. This has been talked about in marketing week way back in 2017, I sort of question whether robots and automation will take over our jobs, and my clear answer is no, it won’t - but it certainly will change them. And that’s because when it comes to repeatable processes, or automation you can absolutely understand why that can be a mechanical process, but where there’s a need for a human aspect; emotion, empathy, creativity, spontaneity. I think we’re safe for a while longer. But we need to embrace that change anyway, but again that’s nothing new, we’ve embraced those changes throughout our career. I bet you’ve got a few transitions you’ve gone through haven’t you Sam, throughout your career.
Yeah, throughout my career there’s at least three or four moments I can see huge shifts in how things have gone. A key one is the pace of innovation where the market has changed and shifted consumer behaviour to the tech that’s providing a better solution. I started off working in camera stores where you’d take your film to be developed and wait a week to pick up the pictures; think about digital cameras and how smartphones have completely disrupted that industry and just retail in general. I worked in selling electronics and stereos, videos, and music and those have been turned upside down. I used to love record stores, but do they even exist anymore?
Ten years ago I was working on the Kenmore brand when my colleagues just thought I was completely crazy, that I was wasting my time, because we were working on ideas such as fridges with touch screens and cameras inside to track the food and ten years ago they just thought: ‘Why is he getting paid to do this? This is a complete waste of time; we should be working on decent ideas and decent innovations.’ Anyway, ten years ago that seemed crazy but within four years they were actually in the marketplace. The senior decision makers could not foresee what was coming around the corner when they were supposedly experts in the category. Digital marketing has seen a huge shift and it’s been an interesting dynamic as that has become online. Omni channels have become much stronger, and what used to seem niche is now mainstream. People are buying multi dollar appliances, things which cost three, four, five thousand dollars, AND they’re actually buying it through an app on their phone.
My wife and I, we had a women’s fashion retail channel. It was a boutique called Boutique Larrieux and what was fascinating was trying to scale down my big marketing experiences and ideas to a small budget, startup type environment. But the funding was so difficult at the time, it was impossible to get banks to support and they would take weeks to say no. But, we used peer to peer platforms in 2009 and 2010 such as Prosper and Lending Club who were much more transparent, faster and supported the idea. So, the revolutionary idea of perfect strangers, this idea of crowdsourcing, has become such an established thing.
In terms of the world of work today, I’m in the marketing transformation space and as a consultant focused on reskilling and upskilling people in organisations, to be fit for the future of work. It’s all about now joining this all up, we talked a lot earlier, about all this technology and how things are going to work together on a long term basis, you’ve got multiple processes and operations, modern marketing is so decentralised these days; you’ve got to be agile, you’ve got to create content, you’ve got to contribute content, you’ve got to think about the customer journey. All of that needs to be joined up, and it’s not just now syphoned off to the IT department - IT, digital, marketing, they all need to work together. So, there’s an abundance of complexity and our mission is to make it simple. So those are some of the highlights I can talk about how things have changed and how you really have to lean in and be part of it versus just staying from afar. How about you Chris?
I started out in loyalty marketing which morphed into digital marketing to then broadly into performance marketing and obviously encompassed a more leadership role after that. That certainly was a fundamental change but the principles we talked about were exactly the same. It was the technology and the environment that changed around rather than the other way around. (From) client side to working for myself, what I think is important is that we see the world of marketing change into more short-term, freelance, project based activity and following the path of technology - it certainly lends itself to that, the tech industry has been like that for many a year now and increasingly I’m seeing marketing; the creative services industry go the same way.
I made that move because I wanted to embrace that trend before it actually hit the vast majority of us, and the desire to figure things out and learn about the new. But how set am I now Sam? That’s the thing you don’t really know, and the biggest lesson is: if you’re going to react to change once, you’re going to have to react to change again at an ever-increasing rate. You can’t afford to stop learning and retraining. I mean. Ten years ago, did I think I would be a marketer and a content producer? No. Did I think that learning about how to use Zencastr to create web files either side of the Atlantic would be part of my job? No. as marketeers we have to be prepared to be surprised and we have to be prepared to adapt and to do that with creativity and as you say - enthusiasm as well. So, it’s exciting isn’t it?
Yeah, definitely an exciting space if you’re one of those people who thrive in it. I think some people think ‘Mm… I’m not sure it’s for me.’
Yeah, that’s interesting. Now, the Google CEO called AI “More profound than electricity or fire”, which is a pretty profound statement in itself I think. But marketers are still largely in the dark about AI’s implications. And actually, it was a few years ago since he made that statement, so we have to ask ourselves continuously, ‘how do we get ahead of the curve?’ I’m working at an organisation at the moment where we're still not really putting mobile first and foremost in all of the activity that we do, we’re still relying on desktop and we’ve got to keep forcing ourselves to think about that curve even now on the day job. So, the jobs that are likely to change from a marketing perspective, how do we identify them? How do we retrain to take advantage of them?
“Hey Siri, Is My Job Safe?”
Thank you very much for that one. Ok, let’s try and bring this into practice. So, we talked about ourselves and our careers and how things are changing, but what does that really mean? There’s some good thought leadership out there, and what I urge people is, is not to think of it so far out there as something for the future, but actually think of how it relates to today. There’s a resource by Scott Brinker which is Chief Marketing’s Technologist and he's come up with this four M model and it’s really interesting. It’s about reimagining the parameters of what marketers are today and what they could be and so, the centre of it are marketing technologists but he actually identifies four or five or so different roles and think of it in a way of the axis, so you’ve got an X axis which is from left or right, which is one end of internal orientation and the other end of the axis is external orientation. Then there’s the Y axis, which goes up and down and thinks at the top of that axis, which is process orientation and technology orientation at the other extreme. So, internal orientations are all about serving stakeholders internally, and external orientations are about engaging with customers. Process orientation is about workflow and customer journeys, and technology orientation is about the data and the engineering and the code.
He uses the word orientation very carefully because it’s not an exclusive focus, so those poles, those ends of the process are actually continuous and so you’re not one or the other, you’ve got to think about how to integrate those different dimensions.
This framework is really interesting,
because you can then come up with more traditional types of roles or marketers which are like the demand or brand builders, and they need to be fluent in the use of marketing technology and they’re focused on applying it to campaigns, to engage, attract and retain customers. So, that’s one area of marketing;
but then there are these maestros, these operation orchestrators and they design and manage the workflows, the rules and the reports and the stats that run the marketing department.
Then, you have analytic architects; these modellers. And they dive deeper into the structure and the infrastructure of the data, more data heavy; digging into the data they collect through customer intelligence and that type of thing. And so, that’s the third type of archetype.
Then, there’s a final one they call the marketing maker. Which is another interesting one, they kind of build the apps, they build the digital experiences, they can code, and they increasingly use no code tools. So, those are kind of four areas of marketing technology that aren’t exclusive, but have now become part of the modern marketer's tool kit and we have to know about them and be part of them.
What do you think Chris?
Chris Asks a Big Question
Yeah, look I think there’s a lot of interesting archetypes there, definitely worth checking out. The interesting thing though for me, is you think back to that old adage about I wish I knew which part the marketing was going to work; AI in a way, also the ability to track and measure brings that a lot closer, but at the same time I do kind of wonder if it’s going to make us happier. Is that what we really want? For some analytical focusing marketeers, knowing that there's automation, a process to follow which will give you the result is going to work, but for others I think it’s going to be a complete turn off. Where is the creativity? Where is that human connection?
So, if I sat here as a CMO thinking about where I would be in ten years, should I be worried? That’s the real challenge. What examples have you got about getting ahead of the curve and how do we go about it?
Great question Chris. And I have to say, it’s a big question. But yes, I would be worried because for me it’s much more about the how and not the tech or the PNL. I’d be spending time designing my organisation and developing my people to become fit for the future. So, I just talked about the different roles which could exist and so let’s highlight specific skills that CMOs need to create, and specific jobs that could come up. We need to think about the brand marketers, the marketers that go beyond typical titles of marketing managers or growth marketers and there’s some fascinating work by Cognizant. They’re a digital IT company but they came up with twenty-one different marketing jobs for the future - I’m not going to go through all twenty-one, I’ll just give you a couple of them. So, one of them could be the purpose planner.
We’ve talked about the purpose planner in a prior episode, who has a deep understanding of consumer ethics and their impact on a corporate brand. An ability to generate excitement around the purpose plan with key holders. So, the purpose planer should be a role, I know it’s a bit nearer in, probably something that’s a bit more familiar and common. We talked about an engagement growth hacker, it was episode eleven that we went into that in depth, but they work with human behaviour and help guide the decisions that are the best fit for subscription businesses for example such as Stitch Fix or Amazon and they work with ‘rundles’, which are recurring revenue streams; recurring bundles that will work for your business.
When I talked about the analytics architect and the modellers, you could think about more creative roles, more roles that go into the marketing collection and how they use that data, so maybe a role such as machine and people ethics, which would be partnering and ensuring that there’s integrity and value in the data that’s being used. They maintain the value and ethics for the data that’s being used, and they probably report into the chief trust officer which we talked about that role and the trust in episode fourteen. And again, we talked about the more diverse type of marketing role who are makers, who are building customer maps and digital experiences.
So, how about the head of Bot creators? You may be laughing at that job title Chris, but it’s actually something you could find right now. There’s a couple of companies, new arts and communications and AI companies and even Deloitte are offering roles for people to lead the creative on bots. And they’re going to work with the ethnographers and strategists for insights but they’re actually going to ensure there is good quality coming out from the bots. They’re going to quality check the creative and they’re going to maintain an understanding of their competitive landscapes. So, those are examples of roles that may not exist today, but they should be existing in the next three to six months in your organisation Chris - what do you think about that?
Yeah, I’m always a little bit cynical of these new job titles as we’ve gone through before. I worry sometimes that they’re a little bit Emperor’s new clothes. However, I will say that when you start thinking ‘let’s take a machine and peoples ethics’, that analysing behavioural data from a range of data sources and making sure it’s ethical, you think: ‘Well, who would do that at the moment?’ That’s the sort of thing that would fall between product management, your compliance team, your marketing team, and sooner or later there needs to be a specific owner. Because if you haven’t got a specific owner, then it’s going to fall through the cracks. So, I can see why some of these new roles will get there, I just get a little cynical about some of them. But yeah, who are we to say when we’ve had customer experience directors and the like that say it is going to be much more technology led in about five to ten years’ time.
The bottom line is though, we’ve all got these technologies with all of these areas. As marketers we have to keep ourselves relevant so that we are effectively doing the PESTLE analysis ourselves; it’s understanding which ones are going to be strong, where our unique skills are and where we're going to fit into that.
If I’m starting out, what do I need to do?
So, yeah Chris, success… I sound a bit like a broken record or a stuck tape. The winning approach to navigate this combines I think the timeless areas of marketing excellence, with what are the disruptive behaviours to win for tomorrow. You’ve got to focus on how you’re going to lead the organisation as well as the specific skills we talked about. So, it’s leading people ultimately. Leading from where you are. If you’re not a CMO, if you’re a marketing director or if you’re more junior in your career don’t wait for the higher ups to tell you what to do, you’ve got to get your own career and development plan.
You’ve heard some great ideas and jobs in this podcast so take action. Be accountable for actually learning about it and also developing other people. Ensure that you’re getting coaching and feedback and you’re taking courses and you’re learning about this.
Then, the second thing I’d say, be a catalyst for change. Create an urgency to accelerate the change and link the change to positive impact. We can’t hide from these innovations and this evolution; you’ve got to be part of it.
And then I think thirdly, actively influence the organisation or business you’re in - don’t be passive, you’ve got to be proactive. You’ve got to motivate behaviours that drive growth, you’ve got to try to buy into some of the ideas you’ve been hearing on this podcast that you’re probably finding and reading about. And you’ve got to make links between these ideas and the problems that you’ve got between your organisation, so that you can actually use them for the benefit of good and for growing the business, so for me that’s three things you can do Chris.
That’s good. And the bottom line is, we have to help our teams, our friends, our peers, change as fast with the technology as possible - I think that’s a good list of things that we can practically do.
A brilliant futurologist and the founder of Free Formers was a guy that I knew called Gi Fernando, he talked about that while the industrial revolution saw technology impact which was manual labour - which was all about hands, and machine learning and AI rapidly replicating our intellectual abilities that are way ahead. Fortunately, humans still have the advantage when it comes to intuition and emotional intelligence and heart. And I love this because it means that we are still unique, we’re not being taken over yet by the robots, that’s our competitive advantage, so it’s now our job to work out how we use it. So, Sam, we’re running fast out of time. I think this is an area we could talk more about and we probably will come back to, but why don’t you give us the three key takeouts and reflections of this session?
Three Key Take Outs
Well from this show Chris I would say there are some profound takeaways.
Firstly, we asked a question - “Will AI take over?” I don’t think it will take over, but it will certainly play a greater role in the workforce, in life in general. And change is the only constant in life, so we have to be aware of it and take the benefits from what’s working and be mindful of where it’s going wrong. So, yes, AI is going to play a greater role.
I think secondly, no surprise here, I’m going to say we should focus on the people as much as the PNL and the technology. Organisations need to be designing for the future and they need to be preparing for those changes now.
And thirdly, I would say, there’s an optimistic growth mindset that needs to be applied to all this. There’s a lot of chains, a lot of discomfort, but when you hear about the benefits such as Google, the data and AI able to diagnose illnesses better than doctors - we’ve got to take those benefits and be proud of them but actually use them to our advantage.
I think you’re absolutely right there.
So, next episode. We’re going to change it around a bit actually. We’re going to focus on what goes around comes around, new marketing ideas are simply old ideas remixed. Thinking about how established brands continue to remain relevant, unlocking and unleashing deep consumer insights and how sometimes it’s the principles of before that come back around again. I think that’s going to be a really good adjunct to what we’ve been talking about today so, I’m looking forward to it Sam.