As we talk with marketers about how artificial intelligence will transform the industry, a lot of them want to know if AI will automate their job or make it obsolete.
The answer is complicated, as we’ve learned over years spent experimenting with AI and interviewing experts.
Some marketing jobs will go away because of AI. Some marketing jobs will be enhanced by AI. And new jobs will be created by AI.
This likely won’t happen overnight, but it could happen faster than you think.
That means there are very real employment considerations marketers should understand now if they want to remain relevant and effective in the future.
In this post, we’ll outline some of the trends we’re seeing that may affect marketing employment prospects, and offer some advice on how marketers can position themselves for future success.
Will AI take over marketing?
Artificial intelligence is the science of making machines smart, in order to augment and enhance human capabilities.
There are a number of technologies that are considered AI, and they’re at varying degrees of maturity. These technologies include machine learning, deep learning, natural language generation (NLG), natural language processing (NLP), and image recognition.
True artificial intelligence systems can teach themselves to improve their performance at a given task.
Humans build the system, give it a goal, and the system optimizes itself to achieve that goal by improving again and again as it performs a task based on data from its previous attempts.
This process occurs much faster than human trial and error, and at scale. This gives AI the potential to improve exponentially in a short time.
One example is an AI system that dominated human champions at Dota 2, a popular and complex computer strategy game.
The system, reports The Verge, “learned purely by playing successive versions of itself, amassing ‘lifetimes’ of in-game experience over the course of just two weeks.”
Related: If you want to understand how this sort of learning works, do yourself a favor and take six minutes to watch this video about Demis Hassabis and DeepMind, which was acquired by Google in 2014. They “taught” AI to win at 1980s Atari games simply by telling it to get a higher score. That may seem simplistic, but in the world of AI it is very complex and significant.
Few AI tools currently available to marketers improve themselves in this way. But when self-learning systems are developed for different marketing and sales functions, expect them to quickly surpass human counterparts in skill.
It is this ability to self-educate that makes AI systems a potential threat to some marketing roles and duties.
Will AI replace digital marketers?
Plenty of marketing tasks today can be automated by AI.
Systems like Automated Insights are used to create data-driven narratives at scale.
A tool like Phrasee writes better email subject lines than humans.
Any job that consists largely of repetitive tasks such as the use cases above may be automated by AI.
Jobs that require humans to sift through large datasets may also be under threat.
That’s because artificial intelligence technologies excel at surfacing insights, recommendations, and predictions from large datasets. In fact, these systems are much better at it than humans.
In either case, individual AI tools may render certain marketing functions obsolete. These capabilities are also being baked into existing marketing automation and CRM systems.
HubSpot has added predictive lead scoring and AI-powered content recommendations to its platform.
Salesforce is integrating its Einstein AI system across its core product suite.
How AI will impact marketing jobs greatly depends on the role.
HubSpot recapped an employment study on the likelihood of AI job automation in marketing and other industries.
On one hand, telemarketers are in real trouble; there’s a 99% chance their role will be automated. Advertising salespeople also have a better than 50% chance of losing their job to AI.
However, marketing managers have a very low chance of being automated. In fact, their roles may become more productive, effective, and rewarding because of AI’s ability to automate certain tasks that distract from real performance driving activities.
We tend to agree with this assessment, but remain wary of AI’s ability to exponentially self-improve. The right self-learning AI application could quickly shift the ground under the feet of many marketers who think their jobs can’t be done by machines.
That’s why we recommend all marketers begin to evolve in preparation for true AI disruption.
How to deal with the impact of AI and automation on digital marketing jobs
The AI market is young, but growing fast. There has been a 4.6X rise in deals to AI startups in the last five years as investment pours into the space.
This velocity makes it extremely difficult to predict which marketing skills will be most valuable in the coming machine age. But there are a few ways any marketer in any role can future-proof their career.
1. Proactively experiment with artificial intelligence.
Many AI tools are easy to start using today, and many providers offer free trials or demos. Try out tools that interest you. The more you do, the more you’ll learn about what capabilities are currently on the market.
You’ll also find ways to augment your work with AI. This creates additional value for your organization, which provides you with professional cover.
One small way this could work in practice: Use PaveAI to automate your Google Analytics reporting, then use your newly free time to layer additional insights on top of that report that are unique to your organization. The final product will provide hard data and real insight in a way only a human-machine team can.
For some expert advice on other ways to get started with AI, read this post.
2. Consume the right resources on AI.
AI is still in its infancy. That makes now the perfect time to learn about some of the technology’s foundational concepts. This isn’t just for fun; understanding some theory behind AI technologies will better position you to identify how AI will affect your job.
At the very least, marketers should possess a basic understanding of AI terminology, have a good grasp of AI’s potential, and get a beginner course or two under their belts. See the resources below to accomplish all three:
- The Marketer’s Guide to Artificial Intelligence Terminology
- 12 Artificial Intelligence Articles Every Marketer Should Read
- 17 Artificial Intelligence Courses to Take Online
The more you can effectively identify AI applications, the easier it will be to take advantage when your organization starts to adopt it.
3. Become your organization’s AI champion.
The best way to future-proof your career is to lead the charge for AI transformation within your organization.
The rewards are potentially great: the right AI implementations can improve marketing performance and productivity. Spearhead the change and you’ll be out front when AI begins to transform marketing as we know it.
The best way to start championing AI is by finding real use cases for these technologies.
To do that, join our next Intro to AI for Marketers live class. It's a completely free, recurring 30-minute live online class that teaches you everything you need to get started with AI.
Space is limited. Click below to save your spot today.
About Paul Roetzer
Paul Roetzer (@paulroetzer) is founder of PR 20/20, author of The Marketing Performance Blueprint and The Marketing Agency Blueprint, and creator of The Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute and Marketing Score. Full bio.