As a lifelong marketer and former agency owner, I have seen firsthand how AI can and will power our industry. In my opening keynote at MAICON 2022, I explained the vision and opportunities Next-Gen Marketers have using AI-powered technology to deliver the personalization and experiences modern consumers expect, unlock previously unimaginable creative possibilities, and drive efficiency, revenue growth, profits, and societal impact that their leadership demands.
The concept of the Next-Gen Marketer is based on our belief that marketers today are in a rare position to create change and reinvent what it means to be a marketer. You don’t have to be a machine learning engineer or a data scientist to take advantage of what AI enables.
Our theme for MAICON 2022 was “Next-Gen. Now.” meaning now is the time to learn about, pilot, and scale AI within your organization. I invite you to learn more by watching the opening keynote or reading the article below:
Watch the MAICON 2022 Opening Keynote
Watch this video plus all MAICON main stage keynotes, sessions, and panels with the MAICON 2022 On-Demand Bundle.
The more we understand what is possible with smarter technologies and then apply them to our businesses and careers, the more prepared we are for the inevitable AI-powered future. Marketers and business leaders need to look beyond what is known and familiar. In reality, the near future may look nothing like the recent past.
Case in point: On April 6, 2022, Open AI announced DALL-E 2.
New applications and technologies like this emerge that change everything. In many instances, even though we keep our eye out, we don’t see them coming.
So when hundreds of marketers and business leaders convened in Cleveland last month, we were ready to talk about the future—as well as the present state—of AI for marketing and the business world at large.
The Future of Marketing
DALL-E 2 has begun to change the way we do things. Philip Isola summed it up well in a tweet saying, “Something is lost, and something is gained.”
I truly feel that the entrepreneurs and business leaders who find these answers and adapt their talent and business models will dominate the coming decade in every industry. And careers will be altered—perhaps sooner than we think.
At the Marketing AI Institute and in our community, we tend to focus on the theoretical net positive of AI in the coming years, a symbiotic relationship between humans and machines. In this scenario, the machines will do all the data-driven, time-intensive work most humans don't enjoy anyway. In contrast, humans spend their days being strategic, creative, empathetic, and happy.
AI will gradually surpass some of our human abilities as writers, content creators, and creatives. But it will also augment our capabilities and open new possibilities. Again, what will we lose? What will we gain? And when the entrepreneurs and business leaders who find these answers and adapt their talent and business models will dominate the coming decade in every industry.
However, this also leaves me conflicted. I’m a journalist, writer, and storyteller by trade. I’m not an AI researcher or machine learning engineer. I talked to my wife, an artist, about this, and soon thereafter, Mike Kaput and I discussed it on one of our Marketing AI Show podcast episodes. In those moments and those conversations, I realized not only did I not know what the future of creativity was, but there was also no turning back.
This will be commercialized and will be accessible to everyone. Since DALL-E 2 launched, we’ve seen Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, and many other image-generation technologies available to the general public. Google has chosen not to release Imagen to the public yet, due to concerns about the ethical use of the technology and the bias inherent in their training set.
See DALL-E 2 in Action
On June 15th, I got my early access to DALL-E 2. I was sitting on my patio drinking a glass of scotch that evening. So as my first prompt, I typed in “artificial intelligence, writing a blog post while drinking a glass of scotch, digital.” In eight seconds, DALL-E 2 created six original images of my prompt.
Next, “Super Mario on the moon, playing basketball with Luigi, oil pastel.” Eight seconds later, I had six images.
It was a hot day. My son had played baseball that day. So I went with “kids playing baseball on a hot day, chalk.”
And finally, I was thinking about MAICON and using some of these points in my opening keynote. So I entered, “friendly robot dressed in a sports coat and jeans presenting to an audience from a stage, digital art.”
The next morning I showed DALL-E 2 to my daughter. Her prompt was, “a fat, fluffy unicorn dancing on a rainbow.”
While unicorns and rainbows are her world, she didn’t like it. She said she didn’t like AI the way I did, and she didn’t like how AI could do things humans can and should be doing; she said AI doesn’t have an imagination as we do.
This is where many humans, marketers, and business leaders get stuck: we don’t want to believe AI can do things that we can. But, here we are, and we need to accept that machines are creators. However, they’re not creative in the human sense.
As mentioned in our recent book, they don't have imaginations, emotions, or consciousness. A machine does not feel anything when it writes or creates images; a machine calculates probabilities and produces outputs based on data. Human creativity remains. Our creativity comes from the sum of our experiences, knowledge, senses, emotions, capabilities, and imagination, but machines can do amazing things with simple text prompts.
I tell you the story of DALL-E 2 because it's tangible and it's representative of where we are and where we're going in marketing, business, and society. I don't have to like it. You don't have to like it. But we do have to accept and figure out the best path forward.
Every career path, business, and industry will be changed by AI. It's simply a matter of time. So what can you do to turn uncertainty? AI presents an opportunity. Start by asking these three questions:
- What will be lost?
- What will be gained?
If you're curious enough to understand what AI is and what it's capable of doing, you have the opportunity to transform your career and your business to demonstrate the utility of AI.
The Future of Business
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has called AI “the defining technology of our times” and stated that Microsoft's objective is to be able to turn every industry into an AI-first industry by enabling companies to convert data into AI capabilities that drive results in digital transformation. With each day that passes and each advancement in AI, specifically language and vision technology, it's becoming more apparent that there will be three types of businesses in every industry: AI Native, AI Emergent, and Obsolete.
I believe this will be the case for every industry or business model. Take any business and just look for opportunities to:
- Personalize consumer experiences
- Intelligently automate repetitive tasks
- Enhance creativity, innovation, and decision-making.
You can build a smarter version of every business with AI. If you don't, someone else will.
Why now? What is different about this moment in time?
- Our need to understand and act on our data continues to expand exponentially.
- Consumers demand convenience and personalization without invasion of privacy.
- Leadership expects greater performance with fewer resources.
- Predicting human behavior and business outcomes is essential to reducing uncertainty.
- The power and speed of cloud computing continue to rise. As a result, the cost of building AI applications continues to fall, democratizing access.
- Leading technologies—Amazon, Google, Adobe, Apple, IBM, Meta, Salesforce, Nvidia, and more—are rapidly expanding their AI research teams and cloud offerings, bringing AI innovations in tech to businesses of all sizes.
- Venture capital money is pouring into AI startups that are enabling people to build very focused, smarter businesses within niches and industries.
- The rate of AI-powered innovation is accelerating, opening up possibilities for entrepreneurs with a vision to change.
An AI Native company is built from the ground up with AI infused into everything it does. It wouldn't exist without artificial intelligence technology. AI is built into marketing, sales, service, and the product/service itself.
AI Native companies are more resource efficient. They think bigger about the possibilities within their industries. They put a premium on data on how to use it to drive decision-making within the organization. And they build smarter businesses that rise to the top of their in their industry and niche.
If I were running a venture fund today, I would find industries that are too conservative and too traditional and build smarter versions of the companies within them.
One of our favorite examples is Descript. We use Descript, which is infused with AI and is seemingly a part of every feature within the platform. We use it for transcription, video editing, podcast editing, and doing things in-house that used to require outside production teams, and we do it for about $30 a month.
AI Emergent companies are existing organizations that have visionary leaders that see the opportunity to transform, and they move quickly to do it. Differentiators of AI Emergent companies include:
- They likely start with pilot projects, and as they build those successes, they start scaling AI.
- They innovate faster.
- They look at opportunities for personalization.
- They have the data, the customer bases, and the infrastructure, meaning they have a head start.
Netflix is the prototypical example of an AI Emergent company, started in 1997 delivering DVDs by mail. As part of a job description for an internship, Netflix writes:
We're reinventing entertainment from end to end, revolutionizing how shows and movies are produced, pushing technological boundaries to deliver streaming video at scale, and improving personalization to 200 million people around the globe.
What can you learn from Netflix? Think about your own business and ask,
- What should we be reinventing?
- What can we revolutionize within our space?
- What are you? And should you be doing that?
It's time to answer these questions because otherwise, you’ll be an Obsolete company. You know them; you may work for them. Some characteristics include:
- Having leaders who don’t want, and are resistant to, change
- They’re successful now but not looking ahead
- They’re not running AI pilot projects
- They’re not seeking information about AI
- They’re not taking steps to stay relevant
- They won’t create the value they once created
Let’s Not Put AI in Everything
We still believe in the fundamentals of business. You have to build a good brand. You have to have the strength within the customer experience. You have to have good people and a good culture.
AI doesn't replace the need for these things, but if you build those fundamental things and you don’t have AI, how do you compete? How do you stay competitive in an environment where companies build these capabilities into those other things? Choose to be or work for an AI native or AI emergent company because otherwise, your career path won't have the future that you hoped it would.
Next-Gen marketers know that to deliver the personalization and experiences modern consumers expect and demand, marketing must become smarter. It must become marketer + machine. The good news is this doesn't mean you have to be coming out of college to be a next-gen marketer. It's not age banded. Next-gen marketers are business leaders, marketing leaders, marketing practitioners, and entrepreneurs who embrace change and realize smarter technologies exist to build smarter businesses.
Next-gen marketers want to:
- Grow their career and work on personal transformation. They’re trying to understand AI because they’re curious; they’re looking for use cases and technologies to drive productivity, creativity, creativity, and performance within their own careers.
- Be a change agent in their organization. They want a seat at the table and want to be able to drive this
- Grow their business, whether a team member, leader, or owner
- Make that leap and build an AI Native company
- Find use cases and technologies that will drive performance
- Are always thinking about improving customer experience
- Make the business more efficient from a cost perspective and accelerate revenue
Many marketers are still learning what AI is. You’re looking for use cases and technologies. We want to help you understand and begin to apply your learnings through pilot projects where you can gain confidence, increase performance, and develop partnerships. And as you’re applying everything you’ve learned, experienced, and implemented to grow your career and grow your organization, you’re differentiating yourself from your peers and becoming invaluable to your organization. In our State of Marketing and Sales AI report published this summer, 63% of respondents said lack of education and training is their biggest barrier to adopting AI in their marketing. And only 11% said their organization provides any AI-focused education and training for the marketing team.
Because of this, we're building a community and a movement to accelerate change in the industry to introduce AI to 1 million marketers by 2026. AI will have an immeasurable impact on our industry, the business world, and society.
We need more marketers and leaders who understand AI and are working toward the responsible use of it in all applications. We believe that marketing can be more intelligent and more human, but we need your help to continue to learn and share your knowledge and experiences with your peers so that we can move the industry forward together.
We want to be the foundation for you to become the change agent within your business and be the one who drives the next frontier in digital transformation.
Do you want to be a next-gen marketer? Use the resources at the Marketing AI Institute, read our blog posts, take our Intro to AI for Marketers class, attend webinars, join our community, download reports, guides, and templates (all free), read Marketing Artificial Intelligence, look into AI Academy for Marketers and Piloting AI Bundle, and our annual MAICON—Marketing AI Conference.
Get access to all MAICON main stage keynotes, sessions, and panels with the MAICON 2022 On-Demand Bundle.
Paul Roetzer is founder and CEO of Marketing AI Institute. He is the author of Marketing Artificial Intelligence (Matt Holt Books, 2022) The Marketing Performance Blueprint (Wiley, 2014) and The Marketing Agency Blueprint (Wiley, 2012); and creator of the Marketing AI Conference (MAICON).