We are going through “an important shift from a mobile-first world to an AI-first world” said Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai, who described the challenge posed by the arrival of artificial intelligence at the Google I/O Conference this year: moving to a world where artificial intelligence is omniscient and omnipresent. By Stéphane Mallard, Digital Evangelist Blu Age @StephaneMallard
The revolution is palpable
Not a single day goes by without a new announcement in the press boasting about the latest innovation in artificial intelligence: AI makes medical diagnoses in a few minutes where doctors are unable to, AI reduces Google’s electricity bill by 40% for the cooling of its servers, AI learns to win at poker by bluffing, Apple announces that its next iPhone will use artificial intelligence to allow us to unlock it via facial recognition. All sectors are being affected by artificial intelligence. Analysts predict a paradigm shift at all levels of society, but they are quick to reassure us that creativity will continue to be unique to mankind. I’m not so sure. There too, artificial intelligence is beginning to replace us: it will compose musical albums, produce paintings, and write the next Game of Thrones.
In all sectors, experts approach artificial intelligence through the lens of how it will affect their jobs. They approach the question of how they will conduct business in the future with the same underlying assumptions: that their business, their activity will continue to exist, and that AI will only improve it, allowing them to do their job better. Especially for marketers, AI artificial intelligence represents the Holy Grail, the ability to significantly improve customer insights, accurately segment the market, micro-target, and identify weak trends and signals in customer data with increasing accuracy. They believe the data is a gold mine from which they can extract untapped value, selling more and selling better.
This line of reasoning is, on many levels, perfectly correct: artificial intelligence will increase the power of the marketing function across the board. But this reasoning is also incomplete, interested only in the marketing function without evaluating the potential of artificial intelligence on the customer and user side of the market. To perform a more rigorous impact analysis, both the supply and demand response must be analyzed. As soon as we look at the customer side and what artificial intelligence will allow for them, we understand quite quickly that marketing is doomed to disappear. And that’s great news. Much value will be created in exchange.
Marketing becomes obsolete
Marketing could be described as a set of techniques, methods, tools and processes that allow companies to not only better know their customers, but also in the broadest sense to influence them in their decisions to consume, in other words, to influence them in their decisions to devote time, money and/or attention to a product, a service, or content (articles, video, personas, etc.). These methods and techniques work, they have proven their worth, and that is why a whole discipline, marketing, is devoted to them. Neuromarketing, for example, uses neuroscience to better understand what is happening in the customer’s brain and, thus, be able to better influence them without their knowledge. Top brands love the insights it provides their campaigns.
On the other side, the customer subjected to this persuasion can feel the manipulation. As a counter measure, entrepreneurs, programmers and users defend us from the effects of marketing on our behaviors. For example, look at online advertising. It is a basic marketing tool, but all too often, it is invasive and unbearable for the user. The user-side solution is ad-blockers, which simply suppress advertising. A second example would be price comparison tools. A few years ago, it was possible to find drastically different prices being asked for the same product. A seller with superior marketing techniques could push the product to the customer and receive a higher margin. Entrepreneurs recognized this economic aberration and created price comparison tools which standardized prices. Again, another marketing tactic parried on the client side.
There is always a lot at stake in the market, and, with the arrival of artificial intelligence, this kind of pattern will be repeated. Whenever marketing uses artificial intelligence to better influence customers, customers will have tools that will also use artificial intelligence to cancel out its effects and prevent manipulation. We can imagine that in the future AI tools will take into account the profile of the user to filter out the marketing behaviors of companies and only let through what is really relevant to him. Marketing was useful and efficient at a time when information was imperfectly broadcasted.
However, a key attribute of the digital revolution which will be amplified by AI is that it is a true Darwinian process: adaptations are naturally selected and naturally spread. Classic marketing is no longer valid, information flows too quickly, and what is adapted and relevant (products, services, content, personas, etc.) emerges and spreads, especially via social networks. The gap between marketing professionals who seek to influence customers and customers seeking to protect themselves from this influence will be reduced with the arrival of artificial intelligence, but the race between the two will continue. The professional will always try to stay one step ahead. If they do, however, there will be room for startups to step in and provide tools for customers to protect themselves.