This article is adapted from Jason's appearance on the CMO Convo podcast.
In the landscape of technology, the intersection of human insight and artificial intelligence stands out as a pivotal discussion point. As AI continues to evolve, business leaders grapple with its potential and the ethical considerations it brings.
Yet, amidst the complexities, the heart of successful business remains human-centric, driven by our innate ability to adapt, innovate, and build genuine relationships.
I’m Jason Hemmingway, CMO at Phrase, a localization technology business. I believe in striking the right balance between technology and the human element. Having witnessed firsthand the profound shifts in the industry, I've come to realize that while AI holds transformative promise, the heart of marketing still lies in the people, their ideas, and their strategic thinking.
Tools can only do so much; it's the human touch that crafts a brand's story and message.
The impact of AI on the marketing industry
The current landscape of AI in marketing feels very reminiscent of the "wild west." When considering technology, it's essential to address three primary pillars: people, process, and the tech itself. Ensuring that the technology aligns with meaningful use cases for your business is crucial; otherwise, what's the purpose of its integration?
In the current climate, marketers are navigating the maze, attempting to identify substantial use cases that can genuinely enhance business value. In marketing, the primary concern isn't so much about AI replacing jobs but rather how professionals can harness AI's capabilities. The significant risk lies in falling behind, becoming obsolete in a rapidly evolving industry.
Peering into the future and the repercussions of AI on the industry can be challenging. Especially with generative AI, there are inherent pitfalls. Models can have "prompt drift," meaning the output might vary depending on various factors. Such a probabilistic nature demands human oversight to ensure optimization and to rectify any aberrations, like the AI "hallucinating" answers.
Another critical aspect is the safeguarding of intellectual property. With platforms like ChatGPT and the influx of data processing, businesses must remain vigilant about where their data is stored and how copyrights and IP are protected.
Particularly in B2B tech, marketers seem to be hopping on the AI bandwagon, propelled by the immense noise surrounding it. Yet, the gains are undeniable. Whether it's increased productivity, creative strides, or data processing capabilities, AI offers marketers tools that were previously unimaginable. But amidst all these advancements, it's pivotal to remain grounded. Determining the tangible business value AI brings and not getting swept away by the noise is vital.
We're in an era where AI's impact feels overwhelming and swift, with businesses constantly adapting. However, as with any technological advancement, the market will normalize. Businesses will evolve, some folding these innovations into their products, while others might struggle to keep pace. Despite the current frenzy, I believe that AI's integration into marketing is a positive and necessary evolution.
The interplay of AI and human creativity in content creation
When you delve into the trifecta of people, process, and technology, the landscape becomes more intricate. On the technological front, the primary appeal of AI lies in its ability to operate at a vast scale. While AI might automate certain facets, its output often lacks the authentic touch that humans bring.
This realization brings us to the "human in the loop" concept, emphasizing the irreplaceable role humans play, especially in content creation. Whether it's refining content to align with brand values or ensuring it resonates with the target audience, the human perspective remains crucial. Even in the realm of creative endeavors, while AI might generate outputs, the judgment and discernment of whether it mirrors the business's ethos are undeniably human.
Then, when we talk about the process, AI can certainly aid. For instance, it can draft structures for a blog post, suggesting a flow and approach. But, it only ventures into segments of the process, leaving significant aspects necessitating the human touch.
A common misconception was that the introduction of AI would spell doom for roles like copywriting. Though AI can churn out vast amounts of content, it often lacks quality and relevance. While such voluminous output might suit specific purposes like SEO, it misses the mark in offering genuine value. What consumers truly seek is the value a business can bring to them, articulated in an authentic manner.
Focusing on content, the essence remains the same across various AI applications. Human oversight and intervention are imperative, at least in the present scenario. Though the future remains uncertain, for now, AI needs the human touch to ensure its outputs are meaningful and resonant.
Human and machine: Co-creators in an AI-driven landscape
In our current, rapidly evolving technological age, organizations are enthusiastically exploring the possibilities of AI. From a product-centric standpoint, while models can be built and trained to function autonomously, they invariably require human intervention. Ensuring the model's accuracy, relevance, and constant refinement based on emerging information is paramount, and currently, this is a task that humans are best suited for.
The rise of ML OPS (Machine Learning Operations) underscores this necessity. According to Gartner, the astounding statistic that around 80% of ML and AI projects never transition into production reveals a gap. They may lack meaningful business value, operational feasibility, or perhaps the human oversight to ensure their effectiveness.
When it comes to content creation, there's a spectrum of stakes. On one end, we have high-stakes content, like marketing material that is outward-facing and carries the brand's voice. Here, the content must be impeccable. On the opposite end is low-stakes content, like customer service interactions, where the primary goal is to comprehend the essence, rather than having perfect grammar or phrasing. A distinction that, when understood, allows businesses to tailor their AI applications more judiciously.
The realm of localization offers an insightful case in point. Machine translation is a burgeoning field, but not all content requires the precision of human translation. For instance, a customer query, broadly understood, can be addressed even if the translation is 70% accurate. AI, in such scenarios, can efficiently discern content quality, select the right engine for translation, or even guide the process based on existing term libraries. This streamlined approach paves the way for efficiency at scale.
However, suggesting a complete AI takeover in any of these processes would be premature. The symbiotic relationship between human and machine is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. Humans will always play a pivotal role in refining, guiding, and overseeing AI's outputs. The future may not see humans being replaced, but rather their roles being redefined in conjunction with AI.
Breaking language barriers: The power of AI in localization
The changing economic landscapes push businesses to continually seek out opportunities in untapped markets. As the chase for global customers intensifies, localization becomes more critical than ever before.
But it's not just about language translation; it's about genuine personalization. An often overlooked point is that many organizations, especially tech companies, approach personalization with a Western lens. The English-centric mindset overlooks the vast potential of non-English speaking audiences. By integrating localization with personalization strategies, companies can not only communicate better but also foster stronger connections with international audiences.
Internal communication is another often overlooked dimension where localization can revolutionize how businesses operate. Large global corporations deal with a myriad of languages internally. Be it training materials or internal updates, ensuring that these communications are available in the native language of the employees can drive better engagement, understanding, and overall business efficiency.
AI's advancements in the field of machine translation, powered by ML, can foster new use cases previously deemed impractical or uneconomical. These strides in technology will enable businesses to scale their operations, unburdened by language constraints. The streamlined processes not only enhance external customer interactions but can significantly impact internal communications and collaborations.
With the human-centric approach to AI, the ultimate goal is to fortify the human connections—whether it's with the customers or within the organization itself. The ability to understand and communicate in a person's native language goes beyond transactional interactions; it creates bonds.
Imagine tailoring every piece of content based on a customer's preferences and behavior in real time. It is not just about sales and transactions but about forming genuine relationships. This approach can elevate a company's image, trustworthiness, and value proposition.
A vital aspect of this evolution is recognizing and prioritizing the service layer. Customers, when interacting with a brand, have specific objectives or "jobs" they wish to accomplish. Using AI to swiftly present relevant content in the native language of the customer not only enhances user experience but also drives brand loyalty. By addressing the immediate needs of customers efficiently and then building on that foundation, companies can carve a niche for themselves in global markets.
AI and ML have opened doors to endless possibilities in the world of localization. By shattering language barriers, these technologies pave the way for truly global enterprises, more meaningful relationships, and a richer tapestry of human interactions.
Navigating the global business landscape
Business dynamics have been shifting. For the longest time, English was hailed as the ultimate business language, but things seem to be transitioning. China is, of course, a behemoth in this regard. And with events like Brexit, English's supremacy in Europe seems to be waning. Could German, Spanish, or even Italian rise to take its place?
This changing landscape in language preference is evident. There's a palpable shift, and if we intend to reach a truly global audience, we need to adjust our sails accordingly. What's empowering is that technology has now evolved to the point where large-scale localization is feasible for almost any brand.
In the past, localization heavily leaned on linguists. The introduction of technology was primarily a tool to facilitate smoother interaction between linguists and their clientele. But now, we've got machine-assisted components and efficiency tools that can vastly amplify the range and speed of these tasks. Yet, despite all these advancements, there's still a significant piece of the puzzle that technology alone can't solve.
Even with the most sophisticated AI, there will always be nuances - like idioms, cultural quirks, local expressions - that might trip up the process. These are the intricacies that linguists inherently understand. While we can store certain translations in databases like 'translation memories' to avoid repetitive queries to linguists, it's vital to have a human review these translations for context and accuracy. Those subtle linguistic elements can make or break the authenticity of a message. And authenticity, as we know, is crucial in forging genuine connections.
So, in a nutshell, while technology offers us the means to expand and expedite our localization efforts, the human touch remains irreplaceable. As we navigate this ever-changing global business landscape, our strategy must be a blend of tech-driven efficiency and the invaluable nuance that only a human can bring to the table.
The symbiotic relationship of humans and AI in business
It all boils down to the intertwined roles of technology, people, and processes. When these three aspects work in harmony, the true potential of a business emerges. Historically, many companies have viewed localization or adapting content for specific audiences as a complex and costly task. But as technology continues to advance and make these processes more streamlined, businesses are realizing the profound strategic value of speaking to consumers in their native tongue. The increasing importance of localization isn't just pertinent for large-scale enterprises. Even mid-sized and small businesses should recognize the benefits of such efforts, especially as these technologies become more mainstream.
It's an undeniable fact that smaller businesses might have fewer resources at their disposal, which can limit their ability to effectively communicate in multiple languages. However, the importance of localization is magnified in such scenarios. Consider a scenario where a potential customer in Germany is comparing two businesses - one that uses imperfect translations and another that seamlessly communicates in fluent German, even having German-speaking staff. The latter undoubtedly has a distinct edge. It's a clear testament to the fact that effective localization can set a business apart from its competitors, establishing a deep connection with its target audience.
The beauty of AI lies in its ability to enable businesses to communicate more authentically and directly with customers. Drawing from my experience in personalization, poorly executed personalization can do more harm than no personalization at all. Similarly, in the realm of localization, if it's not done accurately, it can leave consumers questioning the brand's sincerity. Done right, it creates a genuine connection.
For instance, while overly detailed personalization can feel intrusive or unsettling, simply adjusting your brand's message to resonate with the local vernacular can significantly bolster engagement and trust. As businesses, our primary goal is to capture attention and foster engagement. We yearn to be a top-of-mind brand, an immediate choice for consumers. To achieve this, conversing in the customer's language isn't just an advantage; it's a necessity. And, as a side note, while I may slip in the occasional cricket pun from my British background, it only serves to emphasize the importance of cultural relevance in communication.
The importance of training in the era of AI
Training has always been a pivotal aspect for any team, and in today's AI-driven world, its significance cannot be overstated. Before diving into AI-related training, it's essential that a marketing team is well-versed in core marketing concepts. Only after establishing this foundation can a team effectively integrate AI tools into their processes.
The term "training on AI" is broad and can mean various things depending on the specific tools and platforms a team employs. For instance, if a marketing team uses a specific marketing automation platform, it's crucial they receive training on the AI aspects of that platform. Every specialist or sub-team should be well-acquainted with how they can leverage AI to optimize their specific tasks.
During our regular team discussions, I've noticed that different members utilize generative AI in unique ways. It's enlightening, yet a tad unsettling, to observe the myriad of applications that arise spontaneously. Consequently, there's a need to establish certain guidelines and boundaries to ensure that AI usage remains purposeful and safe, particularly concerning sensitive company data.
Department-wide discussions around AI are vital. Regularly checking in on the team's experiences, the challenges they face, and the benefits they've garnered from AI tools can lead to more cohesive and efficient AI integration. However, it's paramount that these tools don't become mere distractions. They should provide tangible value to the business. Hence, it's crucial to differentiate between genuinely productive tool usage and mere "play". In rapidly growing businesses like ours, time is of the essence, and every tool or strategy should be directed towards concrete objectives.
Training needs vary across disciplines. While more technical roles, such as those in operations, might require formalized AI training sessions, creative roles, like design, might demand a more fluid approach. The key takeaway is that there isn't a universal AI training module; the approach must be tailored to the team's unique needs and functions.
Balancing digital tools with core marketing principles
In the rapidly evolving landscape of marketing, it's paramount to strike a balance between leveraging the latest tools and maintaining a solid foundation in traditional marketing principles. While machine learning and other technological advancements have made remarkable strides, their real power is realized when they're used to amplify and execute time-tested marketing strategies.
Fundamentally, our goal as a marketing team is to propel our business forward, ensuring profitability and delivering genuine value to our customers. The dual-speed strategy we often discuss involves capturing existing market demand while simultaneously nurturing and creating demand that might not yet exist. This framework incorporates both short-term performance marketing and long-term brand planning.
Regrettably, this holistic view is sometimes neglected, especially among newer digital marketers who might primarily focus on the immediate results of performance marketing. While I appreciate and acknowledge the value of specialized expertise, it's crucial for marketers to always consider the bigger picture. What overarching goals is marketing striving to achieve?
Continuous learning is an indispensable trait for any marketer. There's a wealth of knowledge out there. Books like "How Brands Grow" by Byron Sharp offer invaluable insights into the core tenets of marketing, while platforms like Marketing Week delve deep into current industry trends. For those keen on understanding the intersection of technology and marketing, resources like Scott Brinkler's Chief MarTech are indispensable.
However, no matter how advanced our tools or methods become, it's essential to always circle back to the central question: how will this help us market more effectively? All our efforts, regardless of their sophistication or novelty, must ultimately align with the broader goal of driving business growth.
Navigating the ethical landscape of AI in marketing
The ever-evolving domain of AI in marketing presents not just opportunities but also challenges, particularly when it comes to ethics and regulations. It's not just about harnessing the potential of AI to achieve business goals but ensuring that its utilization aligns with best practices, regulatory standards, and ethical considerations.
Being proactive is crucial. As marketing leaders, we're tasked with crafting guidelines that are not just suitable for our teams but resonate with the broader ethos of our businesses. It's about determining what's appropriate for our unique contexts, anticipating potential challenges, and designing frameworks that ensure AI is utilized in a responsible and ethical manner.
However, it's essential to understand that this isn't solely a marketing concern. AI's impact is widespread, permeating areas like service, sales, product development, and more. This universality suggests that any guidance or regulation surrounding AI shouldn't be siloed within one department. Instead, a more holistic approach is required.
Many businesses already mandate compliance training on various subjects. Perhaps it's time to augment this with modules focused on the responsible use of AI and its associated technologies. Such education would offer teams across the board a clearer understanding of what's expected and how to navigate the often-complex world of AI, ensuring its power is harnessed responsibly and ethically. Given the rapid advancements in AI and its increasing importance, it's likely that such training will soon become not just recommended but indispensable.
The evolving landscape of marketing in an AI-driven world
The intersection of technology, marketing, and the human experience has always been an intriguing one. While many anticipate the challenges and transformations AI might bring, it's equally crucial to remember our innate ability to adapt, innovate, and redefine roles in response to technological advancements.
The fear associated with AI's evolution often stems from uncertainty. The Y2K scare is an example of how we tend to overestimate immediate impacts while underestimating long-term transformations. It's not so much about AI supplanting us but more about understanding how it can augment our skills, making tasks more efficient, precise, or even previously unimaginable.
As we steer into this brave new world, it's crucial to focus on the symbiosis between man and machine. Machines can process, analyze, and even predict, but humans bring context, emotion, ethics, and the irreplaceable ability to genuinely connect. These qualities remain indispensable in areas like marketing, where understanding and influencing human behavior is paramount.
Just as Star Trek envisioned a harmonious future of technological advancement and human exploration, the ideal path for us is to ensure AI serves as a tool that complements human ingenuity rather than competes with it. The allure of dystopian futures, like those depicted in the Terminator series, makes for compelling cinema, but in reality, our journey with AI can be one of mutual growth and discovery if we approach it with foresight, understanding, and a touch of optimism.
Balancing human insight with technological progress
It's undeniable that the rapid expansion of technology, especially in AI, has presented businesses with an overwhelming array of options. Every day, we're inundated with promises of new tools and systems that can transform operations, customer experience, and profitability. But amidst this barrage of information, there's a fundamental truth every leader should hold onto: technology is a tool, not a strategy.
In the rush to adopt the latest and greatest, it's easy for organizations to lose sight of their primary mission and business objectives. By anchoring decisions in the company's core goals, leaders can better discern which technologies will offer genuine value and which might serve as mere distractions.
This isn't to downplay the potential of AI or its many derivatives; its capabilities are impressive and will continue to shape the future of business. But at its core, AI is a tool, a means to an end, and not the end itself. The role of humans in this equation cannot be understated. We provide context, emotion, ethics, and strategic vision – elements that even the most advanced machine cannot replicate.
Moreover, successful integration of AI into business processes requires a human touch. Staff need training, not just in how to use these tools, but in how to think critically about their application. They must be able to identify and articulate the real-world challenges they face, to which AI might provide a solution.
Ultimately, the golden rule for any business leader contemplating AI should be to remain focused on the company's core objectives and values. By grounding technological decisions in this foundation, they can ensure that any innovations they adopt genuinely drive the business forward, rather than diverting its course. AI is undeniably a transformative force, but its power should always be harnessed in service of human-driven goals and strategies.
Want expert insights on how to approach AI as a CMO? Don't miss the CMO's AI Playbook!