“So, what should we be doing about Artificial Intelligence” says the CEO as you share an elevator ride to the fifth floor. A reasonable enough question, given that according to Forbes, 53% of marketers plan to adopt artificial intelligence in the next two years. But it would be understandable if at this point a short journey became a very long and awkward one as you “umm-ed” and “ahh-ed” through the unknowns, uncertainties and unfathomable complexities of a topic you know you, as a marketer, need a point of view on, but haven’t yet got around to grasping.
Fortunately, it’s more important to have a coherent view on AI than for that view to be right, as no-one can know for sure what the ‘correct’ view is – the topic is too fresh, too dynamic and with too many unknowns for a single, authoritative interpretation to exist.
So how do you form that coherent view? Here are seven bite-sized practical actions you can complete as a one-off exercise and then refresh from time to time, to keep you on top of your marketing-focused elevator pitch for AI:
- Form your own ‘working view’ on what AI is. ‘AI’ covers a lot of bases, so get up to speed on things like the difference between Artificial Narrow Intelligence (AI applied two one specific task e.g. Google translate), Artificial General Intelligence (AI doing a broad task as well as a human can) and Artificial Super-intelligence (AI outperforming a human). ANI is where all the action is today but AGI and ASI are the future of AI. Also, seek to understand the component technologies within AI and how they work together to make AI a reality e.g. voice analysis + machine learning + robotics + sensors
- Use AI personally on a regular basis. It might be a bit of a stretch to buy a £60,000 Tesla and experience its’ AI-enabled ability to predict and avoid collisions, but a £50 Echo Dot is more attainable and perhaps just as instructive. Use Siri/Cortana/Google Assistant frequently, even if it’s quicker not to, and recognise and take the opportunities presented to you each time you use AI. Engage with things like AI-enabled customer service chatbots, click on the links presented to you for recommended purchases (no need to buy) and follow an AI enabled twitter account (check out “Tay” for an example of when AI can do wrong, or search for ‘AI Bots’). By doing this you’ll be able to share specific, practical (or simply humorous) examples of how AI is being used today in small and sometimes meaningful ways.
- Discover a range of conceptual views about AI. There are plenty of ‘thought pieces’ about AI from technical and business publications, speculating about AI and its’ impact on our lives. Seek and absorb a small range of radical, thought provoking and contrasting ideas about what AI will mean for us and the world in 10+ years’ time. Google and Twitter searches are your ‘go-to’ sources and whilst there are lots of different points of view, they all agree AI is going to be big e.g. PWC’s 2017 report ‘Me: A Revolutionary Partnership’
- Get fluent with a few case studies of AI being used by marketers. The web is the perfect resource for articles and videos about AI (e.g. here), and there are endless forums and publications with relevant examples. Differentiate between ‘front of house’ case studies, where the AI is clearly visible to the user e.g. Alexa skills, and ‘back of house’ case studies where AI usage is not visible to the user e.g. Cogito provides contact centre staff with “live behavioural guidance” that improves interactions with customers.
- Let your imagination run wild. Use your acquired knowledge about current and future uses of AI to imagine what it might mean for your consumers and how they discover and engage with your brand. This imagining is best done as a group exercise, and the value is increased if you can include colleagues from a range of business functions. Imagine what implications AI might have on the products and services you offer to consumers, as well as the way you engage with them at each stage of their customer journey
- Get familiar with the logistics of AI. Find out the names of a few prominent organisations who provide or use AI services in the marketing space here. Find out how much you should budget for a few different applications of AI technology and how long it would take to create and deploy a small range of AI enabled solutions. Understand what skills and knowledge your agency partners can bring to bear and compare their thinking to your own developing point of view
- Go for it and experiment for real. Whether it forms part of your marketing strategy or not, find a way to fund and complete some practical experimentation with the use of AI. The application may be small-scale, trivial and contrived but for a small outlay you will learn a great deal. Just make sure the risks are carefully considered and mitigated where necessary. Check out “Burger King OK Google hijack” and “Echo Dollhouse Crazy” to see where problems can occur.
Follow these seven steps and you’ll quickly acquire a ‘fit for purpose’ understanding of Artificial Intelligence. You won’t be an expert on this topic but then again, anybody who says they are is probably spinning a yarn. And next time you’re waiting at the elevator you’ll be hoping it’s to share the ride with the CEO, so you can give your genuinely thoughtful marketer’s point of view on the emerging applications for artificial intelligence in your business.