These days every company is a technology company. Tech is at the core of every industry and every function. And marketing is no exception.
I've built my career at the intersection of marketing and high tech, working in industries that focus on using technology to improve people's lives and work—telecommunications, networking, weather technology, artificial intelligence, and digital learning. So, it hasn't been too big a leap for me to embrace all the ways that marketing has evolved in the digital age.
Of course, tried-and-true marketing methods are still valuable—but we must augment and enhance those efforts to drive effective programs that deliver results for our companies. For instance, my fellow marketers have long used technology to improve precision targeting, drive personalized recommendations, and predict optimal timing of seasonal promotions.
Prior to joining Skillsoft, I served as CMO of IBM Watson, spearheading marketing for AI products and solutions. It was thrilling to watch AI redefine the customer experience and go-to-market strategies—among many other applications—for so many organizations around the globe.
And now, the most significant innovation—likely since the onset of the Internet and the advent of the iPhone—is generative AI (genAI).
Hyperbole? Not at all
GenAI is something entirely new and totally game-changing because it's made artificial intelligence far more accessible. You need only look at the latest industry headlines to see how genAI is transforming the way we do business, how we learn, and how we work.
Quite simply, genAI will affect virtually every member of the workforce. In fact, a study this year by University of Pennsylvania and OpenAI predicts at least 80% of all jobs will be influenced, changed, or augmented by genAI.
All knowledge workers, including marketers, will use this technology very soon—if they aren't already.
GenAI has the human-like capacity to create content, such as blog posts, social media updates, scripts, artwork, video, music, and more. Conversation-based tools, such as ChatGPT, the fastest growing app in Internet history according to a UBS study, demonstrate impressive capabilities in understanding context and delivering relevant responses.
As a result, marketers now have a world of opportunities to create compelling content at scale, engage with customers in real-time, and deliver personalized experiences—faster than ever before.
But incorporating AI into marketing goes beyond mere efficiency gains; it's mission-critical to succeeding in today's hypercompetitive landscape.
Customers have come to expect personalized experiences, and AI can be the foundation that enables marketers to build to those individual preferences. Its ability to analyze vast amounts of customer data, understand behavior patterns, and predict future preferences is a tipping point for marketers. Those who grasp the potential of AI can create precisely targeted campaigns that resonate with their audience, driving higher conversion rates and customer loyalty.
AI is also a powerful tool for continual learning and campaign improvement. By analyzing data from campaigns, AI can identify patterns and insights that humans might overlook. We can use that information to fine-tune our tactics, making them more effective over time. Marketers can harness AI to reach greater business outcomes.
But here's the thing. "New" isn't really new (for me). With years of experience in the high-tech sector, I approach new technology with a healthy balance of skepticism and excitement rather than the fear people might naturally feel. Yet, I admit I was taken aback during my first "close encounter" with ChatGPT. I realized—quickly—that I had a lot to learn.
Actually, we all do. And in my experience, nothing replaces fear with fascination faster than learning new skills that can help us use genAI technology to improve our lives and work.
The simple act of getting started is one of the best ways to build basic skills
Asha Palmer, our VP of compliance solutions, says we can make the leap into genAI and all its potential as long as we understand the technology's inherent risks.
When we dive into a pool for the first time, there are things to keep in mind: How deep is the water? Can I swim comfortably? Are there hazards? Is there a lifeguard?
GenAI is the deep end, so we need to make sure we have the proper precautions, protocols, and policies in place. In other words, we must wear metaphorical "floaties" as we learn and practice new skills. And those new skills are absolutely key to success.
Marketing professionals should be encouraged to learn about genAI—to upskill and reskill as needed so that we can make the most and best use of it.
We need to understand the breadth and depth of AI's capabilities and develop hands-on experience with tools like ChatGPT. Relevant courses might focus on prompt crafting, potential applications, and ethics and governance. That type of knowledge not only enhances us marketers' value as employees but also empowers us to contribute meaningfully to our company's success.
And as marketing leaders, we have to practice what we preach: There won't be buy-in from employees until there's buy-in from leadership. As much as employees have a responsibility to learn, it won't happen without initiative from leaders. Similarly, we need to give them the environment—a playground—to experiment. That way, with education, employees can practice, as well as understand the implications of use (or misuse).
GenAI is already being implemented in the core functions of digital marketing, including website testing, media ad creation, live chat (chatbots), and SEO, to name a few. Use cases will only increase in the coming months as AI capabilities continue to evolve.
But humans are still in the driver's seat, of course
At least for now, genAI lacks the most critical and valuable characteristic of all: humanity.
There is no technology that can empathize or demonstrate true compassion, or even read between the lines to understand intent without quite specific human prompts.
And what about the harder to describe—but equally palpable—qualities that make a piece of marketing truly powerful? Nuance, irony, personal experience, or fresh perspective, for instance. The human touches.
Good marketers possess classic skills that will remain critical, even in the age of genAI. For instance, you still need to understand your target buyer, identify your personas, and know what business challenges you can help them solve. You can then input that information into genAI tools to inform your targeting strategy and help you craft the best possible messages.
Ensuring your team is empowered with technical AI skills and "power skills"—such as communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, leadership, creativity, and emotional intelligence—will ensure a more successful and well-rounded team.
I recently had the opportunity to listen to Nicole Leffer, a senior marketing leader who has a passion for AI. Nicole encourages marketers to open themselves to AI's full potential, but to remember that although AI is an innovative and valuable tool, it needs a human operator to conceive an idea, give direction, set parameters, provide the intel and resources the technology needs, and then to edit, adjust, and improve.
For example, if you're enlisting genAI to help you produce marketing content, you need to "teach" it your brand's voice by providing samples, describe the thesis you want it to explore, and explain who the target audience is. Ask for an outline first, just as you might from a human writer. Then, work "together," section by section, until there's output that's ready to review.
The human half of the equation is never far from the process
To look at it another way, think of genAI as the car and yourself as its driver. As Dom Toretto in The Fast and the Furious movies reminds us, "It doesn't matter what's under the hood. The only thing that matters is who's behind the wheel."
The AI revolution is undeniably having an impact on every facet of business (and our lives), and that certainly includes marketing. Consequently, adapting to and embracing new technologies like genAI is not an option; it's a necessity.
By harnessing AI, we can efficiently and effectively create highly personalized, data-driven campaigns that resonate with our audience and deliver exceptional results.
Education plays a crucial role in empowering all of us to embrace AI with confidence. Upskilling and reskilling initiatives can bridge skills gaps, ensuring we stay relevant and valuable assets to our organizations.
AI is not here to replace marketers. Instead, it is here to empower us to work smarter, make data-driven decisions, and continually improve our work.
By understanding, embracing, and guiding AI, we unlock richer possibilities and steer our organizations toward a more prosperous—and fascinating—future.
More Resources on AI's Impact on Marketing Careers
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