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How to Cut Through the Hype About Artificial Intelligence in Marketing
Blog Feature

By: Mike Kaput

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September 12th, 2017

How to Cut Through the Hype About Artificial Intelligence in Marketing

We’ll be honest with you. We’re pumped the business world finds artificial intelligence as compelling as we do. (Google Trends shows interest in AI terms jumping up over the past five years.)

We only wish there was a little less hype—and a little more substance and inquiry—when people talk about AI.

If you’re interested in AI, you might know the kind of headlines we’re talking about.

“AI Beats Human Board Game on Monday, Will Take Over World by Tuesday”

“Why AI Will Solve Every Single Problem Every Business Has Ever Had”

“Tech CEO Says Artificial Intelligence Is the End of Humanity”

Don’t get us wrong. We expect AI to transform the way we live and work. We're preparing for AI to disrupt marketing and other industries. And we know our children will inherit a world far more science fiction than the one we have today.

These hypotheses are what led us to dive into the topic of AI in the first place. In doing so, we encountered tons of hype about what AI could or would do. After all, AI is a hot topic, so people write about it a lot.

Unfortunately, if you're an AI beginner, it's hard to tell who knows what they're talking about.

At best, this is annoying. At worst, it does you a huge disservice. Many professionals want to know how AI will impact their jobs and livelihoods. Hype only obscures the facts you actually need to know. It prevents you from learning the mindsets and skills to adapt to what's coming.

This article walks through three AI hype traps you want to watch out for when doing your own research.

1. Watch out for how people use the term “artificial intelligence.”

Artificial intelligence is a broad term. It encompasses a lot of different technologies. Some of these technologies are machine learning, deep learning, and neural networks.

Some commentators treat these concepts as interchangeable. They're not. They refer to specific, but related, technologies. The term "artificial intelligence" or "AI" is an umbrella term to describe this suite of tools. Kind of like how the term "analytics" or "business intelligence" encompasses many technologies.

Understanding this helps a lot of people start to wrap their heads around AI. You pull back the curtain and see individual tools with real capabilities. Not some singular magic technology that can do everything.

2. Beware of scare tactics.

It’s tempting to write the headline that says AI will take your job. Who wouldn't click on that? But it's harder to offer context into the job transformations that AI will cause and how to handle them.

Many outlets are happy to list only the doom and gloom: AI will destroy jobs across industries. There's a kernel of truth to that. Some industries will see major job losses because of AI (autonomous trucking comes to mind).

Yet it's not the full story, especially for marketers and salespeople. In truth, AI will automate some marketing and sales tasks. Professionals who don't evolve will find careers in jeopardy. But plenty of others will find their work augmented and enhanced by AI, not to mention entirely new career paths we can’t even envision yet!

AI will make many professionals more productive and performance-driven. HubSpot recently acquired Kemvi, an AI tool that helps salespeople be more effective. Companies use tools like PaveAI to automate reporting so marketers can perform higher-value tasks.

If your job mainly consists of tasks AI can automate and you fail to adapt, you’re in trouble. Otherwise, you're far more likely to find your role evolve as business becomes AI-enhanced. And early AI champions in marketing and sales stand to become indispensable.

That doesn't all fit into a headline. But it's important for marketers to understand the context behind the hype. When you do, you'll be better armed to seize opportunities to work with AI, not against it.

3. Understand that some “AI” companies don’t really use AI.

This one was tough for us to learn starting out. The more we dived into marketing AI solutions, the more we realized some of them didn’t actually use AI, or, at least, they seemed to be stretching quite a bit to fit what they do under the AI umbrella. We were a little confused, too. After all, “AI” or “machine learning” is right there in the product descriptions.

Turns out, some use these terms to describe automation capabilities that aren't really AI. But because of the hype cycle, putting AI in the name makes good marketing sense. These companies had useful tools with valid use cases, but no real artificial intelligence powering their solutions.

These claims are problematic for marketers who want to vet and buy solutions. You might buy a solution that says it's AI, but find out later it's not. Or, you might discover there are planned AI features but they aren’t yet built.

There's no easy way to cut through the hype on this one. You'll need to do a lot of homework and ask providers a lot of questions. To start, subscribe to our blog, where we often interview marketing AI experts. Then, check out this post on who can help you cut through the hype on the issue.

About Mike Kaput

Mike Kaput is the Director of Marketing AI Institute and a senior consultant at PR 20/20. He writes and speaks about how marketers can understand, adopt, and pilot artificial intelligence to increase revenue and reduce costs. Full bio.

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