Artificial intelligence (AI) has been around for decades. I won’t bore you with its long history, summarized well in this article. It has even had a significant role in the marketing industry for many years (e.g., predictive analytics used in many advertising platforms). But what has recently caught storm is the use of generative AI in the creation of many marketing creatives. Largely because the technologies are more accessible and easier to use than ever before. I feel the industry is at the cusp of a major inflection point, and you better learn what is going on in this space, or you may be left behind.
There was a very good industry research study completed in March 2023 by Botco.ai, a generative AI cloud chat communications company. They surveyed 1,000 marketing professionals across over 16 different industries and company sizes from 1 to 5000+ employees. The results were fascinating—they learned that a whopping 73% of the respondents are already using generative AI to help create text, images, videos or other content. That was the weighted average of B2B companies at a 78% usage rate and B2C companies at a 65% usage rate (I would have guessed the reverse of that). With me being in the 17% that were not materially using AI today, I figured I needed to learn more here, and fast, to stay competitive with our industry peers.
Content Being Produced by Generative AI
The content getting created by generative AI is broad in scope. The survey respondents said they were using it as follows: email copy (44%), social media copy (42%), social media images (39%), chatbots for customers (37%), website images (36%), SEO content (35%), blog post copy (33%) and marketing/sales collateral (33%). The rationale for using generative AI being: (i) you can improve your marketing performance (58%); (ii) you can improve your creative variations (50%); (iii) it is more cost effective than traditional ways of building creatives (50%); and (iv) it is materially faster creative cycles (47%). I would add the additional benefits of better personalizing the content to the exact user, instead of applying a one-size-fits-all approach to your marketing creatives.
And to be clear, the content being produced by AI is across all forms of creatives: text, images, videos, coding, etc. It is revolutionizing pretty much everything a graphic designer or copywriter or website developer used to do for you. As an example, check out this corporate video produced for my Restaurant Furniture Plus business by Synthesia’s AI technology. It was produced in a couple minutes from a simple copy and paste of our About Us copy on our website, without any human involvement or professional actors involved. That is pretty amazing (and scary if this life-like technology is not used in positive ways).
The Generative AI Tools Most Used
According to the survey respondents, these were the technologies most used by the marketers. ChatGPT (55%) for human-like text. Copy.ai (42%) for natural language processing. Jasper.ai (35%) for copywriting. Peppertype.ai (29%) for full article copy. Lensa (28%) for image editing. DALL-E (25%) for text-to-image generation. MidJourney (24%) for text-to-image generation. I am sure there are many others to experiment with, but these are the ones that the early adopters are using today. I personally played with a few of these. I would summarize my experience as the text based solutions were a lot more impressive in terms of producing high quality output than the image based solutions, understanding we are still early in the learning curve and technology advancements here.
How to Prepare… and What Happens if You Don’t
First, it’s time to embrace the simple fact that you need generative AI and that you can’t ignore it. It isn’t going away. So, slowly but steadily, immerse yourself in some (or all) of the tools above — how they work and what they can potentially offer. And if you are working with a marketing agency, make sure that it, too, is well-versed in all the advancements (if your agency is not currently using AI to improve campaigns, it may be time to look for a new one).
The ramifications for non-action will be swift: you either jump on board or prepare to eat the dust of the other AI first-movers — you will essentially be going into a marketing battle with one arm tied behind your back. Performance will suffer (including lower engagement rates compared to competitors), as will profits.
What Does This All Mean?
Hopefully, you have a better understanding of all the advancements that are taking place in the marketing world today. Will generative AI end up replacing your human teams? Not entirely. I think it will make the humans materially more efficient, and you may need less humans than before, but humans will still be needed for strategic direction and quality control, to protect their brands. For example, if AI generated copy will upset Google and hurt your search rankings, someone will need to review that content and make sure it follows all of Google’s rules. So, think of AI as an augmentation tool built for speed and efficiency, not as a full human replacement. You will still need to engage your marketing agencies or marketing teams, but they will be doing their work in material different, and presumably better, ways.
Every decade or so, the marketing industry appears to go through a rapid period of innovation. It feels like we are in the “early innings” of this most recent revolution, and I am excited to see how these AI technologies improve from here, and what additional AI advancements we will see in the coming years. It is time to pull up your boot straps and buckle in, as it is gonna be a helluva ride! Good luck as you experiment with these technologies on your own.