Marketing Career Pathways with AI: What You Need to Know
We get a lot of questions at Marketing AI Institute about how to shape your career around artificial intelligence.
It’s a valid question. AI is projected to have trillions of dollars in business impact on marketing and sales organizations within the next few years alone, according to McKinsey.
That business impact is due to AI's ability to increase revenue and reduce costs by automating and augmenting cognitive work.
In fact, we operate under the assumption that 80% of what we do every day as a marketing team will be intelligently automated by machines to some degree in the next 3-5 years.
That doesn't mean 80% of jobs will go away. But AI will automate away some tasks, evolve current roles, and create entirely new jobs.
But what does that actually look like?
What marketing career pathways will AI unlock?
Which pathways will it alter or cut off entirely?
At Marketing AI Institute, we've worked for several years to understand and pilot artificial intelligence, machine learning, and related technologies in our marketing operations. We've helped brands do the same. And we've been tracking investments and developments in the industry across 1,100+ AI-powered vendors with more than $5 billion in funding.
We don't have all the answers. But we do have some thoughts on what marketing career pathways might look like in the age of AI.
What Marketing Career Pathways Are There?
To get a sense of where we're going, let's look at how artificial intelligence might impact a typical marketing career pathway, courtesy of recruiting company Setup.
The company defines five broad categories of marketing role:
- Entry Level — Entry level roles require 0-2 years of experience and focus on day-to-day execution of marketing campaigns guided by a larger strategy or vision. Sample titles include: marketing coordinator; marketing specialist; and account coordinator.
- Marketing Manager — Marketing manager roles require 3-4 years of experience and involve oversight of marketing campaign execution, usually including a significant people management component. Sample titles include: marketing manager; sales manager; and brand manager.
- Director of Marketing — Director roles require 6-7 years of experience. Directors often build the larger marketing strategies that guide entry level and marketing manager level roles. Sample titles include: director of marketing research; director of public relations; and director of media.
- VP of Marketing — VP roles typically require 12-14 years of experience, and involve both representing the brand and working across departments to build and execute marketing strategies. Sample titles include: VP of digital marketing; VP of brand management.
- Chief Marketing Officer — CMO roles are the “most senior” marketing position and head up all marketing initiatives company-wide, with ultimate responsibility for the marketing department as a whole and its performance. The role typically requires 20+ years of experience.
This marketing career path broadly maps to this analysis from TrackMaven, which breaks up marketing roles into 50 jobs across four main categories:
- Staff — Marketing specialists and coordinators. Broadly, these titles seem to map to the "Entry Level" category provided by Setup.
- Managers and Experts — Marketing managers of various specialities, as well as domain experts and consultants.
- Directors — Marketing, creative, and brand directors.
- Leadership — VPs of marketing and CMOs.
TrackMaven makes the important distinction between traditional career pathways and digital ones. Within digital roles, there are "a plethora of new jobs and career paths" at the Staff, Manager, and Director level which may lead a professional to the Leadership level. However, digital roles still follow the same broad categories outlined above.
So, where does artificial intelligence fit in?
The short answer is, well, everywhere.
Artificial intelligence is going to impact every step of the existing marketing career path.
Marketing Career Pathways and Artificial Intelligence
For purposes of discussion, let's consolidate the categories offered by Setup and TrackMaven even further into three broad categories:
- Entry Level Marketers/Marketing Staff —Non-manager professionals responsible for the day-to-day marketing creation and production.
- Marketing Managers and Experts/Directors — Middle and upper-middle management, tasked with building strategies and making sure they get executed.
- Leadership — Top-level executives who drive organizational direction and priorities.
Now, let's look at how AI might change each one.
Entry Level Marketers/Marketing Staff
TrackMaven identifies the following as common Entry Level/Staff roles:
- Digital Media Specialist
- Graphic Designer
- Communications Coordinator
- Marketing Research Analyst
- Marketing Coordinator
- Marketing Assistant
- Demand Generation Specialist
- Social Media Coordinator
- Internet Marketing Specialist
Any task that is repetitive presents a golden opportunity to apply artificial intelligence. Entry Level roles likely have the highest number of repetitive tasks, given the nature of the work, which seems to suggest these roles will feel the impact of AI first.
After all, marketers do dozens, if not hundreds, of tasks each day and week that follow the same series of steps. If companies can find profitable ways to use AI for these tasks, you can bet they will.
But this may not be a bad thing.
Let's take copywriting as an example.
Today, artificial intelligence exists that can write email subject lines, advertising copy, and data-driven narratives better than humans. And it can do all of that at scale.
This would seem to mean doom for the role of copywriters.
Yet, in at least one example, AI is augmenting the work of copywriters in a positive way.
In this conversation, eBay Associate Creative Director Molly Prosser detailed how her team is using AI to write email subject lines—and it's actually making the work of copywriters better.
"Ultimately, this is going to be a tool for [copywriters], to free you up to do the kinds of copywriting and the kinds of creative thinking that we all want to do. I ask those copywriters who are nervous about this cutting into their own workload ‘What kind of work do you want to be doing? Do you want to be writing 150 subject lines for emails, or do you want to spend your time thinking about the next innovative campaign that we’re going to be putting out?’ Ultimately, they always pick the latter."
We should note that, as AI is applied to Entry Level roles, you can expect significant efficiency gains. This may allow companies to do far more with far less, reducing the overall pool of Entry Level jobs for future candidates entering the job market or changing careers.
However, what is highly difficult to predict is the number of new jobs AI will unlock. Entry Level/Staff roles in marketing may evolve with the technology.
Today, if you're an Entry Level employee or looking to become one, there exists a large opportunity here to identify use cases for AI across the repetitive tasks that comprise these roles—increasing your own value in the process.
Marketing Managers /Experts and Directors
Both Marketing Managers / Experts and Directors at organizations are unlikely to see their work automated away, given the significant human element to what they do.
However, the people in these roles need to start understanding and applying AI now.
AI presents immediate revenue generation and cost saving opportunities that Leadership roles are actively exploring. You can bet these priorities will be passed down to Manager/Expert and Director level roles to implement.
In some cases, the Manager/Expert or Director roles may evolve into "shepherds" of AI-powered tools, making sure systems work together well, play nice with human coworkers, and drive business value.
This sounds futuristic, but it's already happening.
At our inaugural Marketing AI Conference (MAICON), we hosted 300+ marketing professionals to learn how to understand and pilot AI. A significant number had roles as Marketing Managers/Experts or Directors.
These forward-thinking professionals are already investigating potential use cases for the technology, and bringing those pilots back to their organizations.
If you're a current Marketing Manager/Expert or Director, I'd invest the time this year to get comfortable with the technology. You don't need to know how to code or be highly technical to understand the real-world applications of AI. But you do need to get started now.
If you're looking to become a Marketing Manager/Expert or Director, AI can be a massive competitive advantage.
It's still early days for AI in marketing. Demonstrating your ability to pilot and apply AI, even across personal projects or small internal initiatives, can stand out—and signal to Leadership roles that you're able to effectively find use cases for the technology.
You would think Marketing Leadership roles (i.e. VPs and CMOs) would change the least in the age of artificial intelligence. After all, they require a career's worth of experience in both human and technology management to do effectively.
There's no way to automate that, right?
Automate, no. But alter, yes.
AI adoption across organizations is going to necessitate that Marketing Leadership roles increasingly become a technology-centered roles, if they aren't already.
Artificial intelligence, even more so than other marketing technologies, may leverage data across an organization to produce marketing results. This cross-department use of the technology may result in actual reorganization of some Marketing Leadership roles.
One small example of how smarter technology may change the Leadership role:
Scott Brinker notes that McDonald's decided against filling their vacant CMO role. Instead, the brand created two SVPs of marketing—and one now reports to the CIO. Notes Brinker:
"While it’s questionable to extrapolate a global pattern from a single (albeit fascinating) instance, I think this does give us another significant point on the curve that martech is increasingly a core competency at leading companies."
You can also expect artificial intelligence to be a top priority for Leadership roles, whether your organization is new to the technology or already using it.
In fact, 44% of executives think delaying artificial intelligence implementation will leave their businesses vulnerable to startups, notes The Economist.
No matter what role you have, what role you want, or how much you care about AI, one thing is certain:
You're going to be hearing about the technology from your boss or your interviewer, if you haven't already.
How to Plan Your Marketing AI Career Path
We've looked at a common set of steps along the typical marketing career path. We've also talked about how AI may affect careers every step of the way.
But what do you actually do with this information? How do you apply it?
We get this question a lot, from both students entering the workforce and established professionals looking to make their next move.
The marketing AI landscape is evolving really fast, so any advice about career choices or degrees might be out of date shortly after we give it.
However, there are some general steps we advise marketing professionals take now to start planning a marketing AI career path.
1. Get started now.
You don't need a degree in machine learning or data science to get started understanding artificial intelligence. And you do not need a technical background. What you do need is to get started now—not next year.
It's still early days, but the market is developing quickly. Now is the time to invest energy into building competency around AI.
This took us years, but we've created a free resource to help you learn faster than It's called the Ultimate Beginner's Guide to AI in Marketing, and it has 100+ resources to understand everything you need to know about the technology.
If you're a current marketing professional, the guide will put you ahead of many others out there.
If you're just entering the job market, it'll make you stand out above other candidates.
In either case, you'll come away with a healthy practical understanding of artificial intelligence in marketing that serves as a solid foundation on which to build additional knowledge.
2. Identify use cases.
As you learn more about AI, you can start identifying use cases in your organization or at a prospective employer—even if you're still at a beginner level of knowledge.
Start by making a list of the tasks you do every day, week, month, and/or quarter (or that you would do in a potential job). This could be anything from writing blog posts to pulling performance reports to building email workflows.
List these tasks in a simple spreadsheet. Then, list out how many hours you estimate each task takes you or your team in a given day, week, month, or quarter.
Very quickly, you'll identify which tasks take up the lion's share of your time and resources—or would at a prospective job.
For current marketing professionals, this exercise can start inspiring potential use cases for AI. For instance, I might realize that blog writing takes up 80% of my time. From there, I could begin to explore artificial intelligence tools that speed up or scale blog writing.
For those entering the job market, this exercise is a great way to start thinking like marketing and business leaders do, and can arm you with valuable business use cases to bring into interviews.
Check out this post on the top 25 use cases identified by marketers who took our AI Score assessment for ideas.
3. Pilot an AI solution.
Once you explore use cases, get your hands dirty with AI technology. Plenty of AI tools and models exist to experiment with, and lots of solutions have free demos and trials available.
You don't necessarily need to oversee a full AI implementation to show competency with the technology. Often, small pilot projects applying AI to very narrow use cases are the ones that stand the greatest chance of success—and generate buy-in for future projects.
For current marketing professionals, you might start with one of your most time-intensive use cases, so you can prove cost reductions if you're able to successfully use AI to automate the task.
For job candidates, even personal experiments and projects with AI are valuable, even if they're not marketing related. Don't be afraid to explore how AI can be applied to an area of your life, your hobby, or your interests.
Despite the buzz around AI, it is still extremely early. The marketing professionals who stand to capitalize on the technology are those who get started early, identify ways to use AI to drive business value, and actually demonstrate they've used the technology.
From there, you can fit your AI expertise into any step of the traditional marketing career path by focusing on real-world use cases across roles and titles.