How To Decide If You Need AI In Your Marketing Mix

Last December, the Association of National Advertisers membership voted that “AI” was the ANA's Marketing Word of the Year for 2023, in a landslide vote among 271 ANA members. And 2024 is no different. In fact, the frenzy is only heating up.

On the back of the landslide victory for AI as Marketing Word of the Year, the ANA also issued an 83-page-long (!) AI Use Case Compendium for Marketing. This is probably the most exhaustive overview of AI's place in any aspect of the marketing machine.

If you look up "compendium” in the Oxford Dictionary, the definition is  “a collection of concise but detailed information about a particular subject, especially in a book or other publication.”

So, 83 pages is the concise version of the potential for AI applications in marketing?

Well, yes. And therein also lies the challenge of AI today -- not just in marketing, but for AI in general. It can and will impact literally almost every aspect of life as we know it. But marketers, and humanity in general, are struggling with the “where to start.”



There are a lot of companies out there that will sell you AI. It’s very likely their solution is smart and delivers some kind of improvement in efficiency. But the real question is, as a marketer, SHOULD you pursue that particular opportunity? I feel that at the moment, marketers are lured into solution and project thinking before strategy and outcome thinking.

This is typical of marketing. Remember Google Glass? The promise of virtual reality? Drone and/or robo delivery? Brand-created NFTs? The list of things that were going to be marketing’s “next big thing” is long and full of failed initiatives -- but they made it onto marketers’ to-do lists with an exclamation mark next to them. And to be fair, even though those particular examples perhaps did not live up to their hyped existence, some were precursors of trends that were important after all.

I think AI is important, and it will be transformative in many aspects of marketing. But today, AI in marketing feels overwhelming. It reaches us as an unguided missile. Yes, you can use an AI to create social media posts. Or to create look-alike target audiences, or compelling PowerPoint presentations, or convincing email marketing content. Or agency contract checklists. And a myriad of other things, all listed in the 83-page ANA Compendium.

The real question is: Should you? Which of the 83 pages of potential projects are worth pursuing? To answer this question, I humbly propose you apply the following simplistic assessment:

  1. Does it help me in the pursuit of my company’s ultimate goals (e.g., growth, cost savings, distribution expansion, competitive position, etc.)?
  2. Does it help me to deliver any of my marketing outcomes (consumer sentiment, brand perception, awareness, etc.) or marketing outputs (message or program reach, frequency, delivery, efficiency, effectiveness, optimization, etc.)?
  3. Does it help my team with improvements in how we work (e.g., process, approvals, decision making, etc.)

If the answer is yes to a few of those criteria, sort those that look promising by largest ROI. This can be subjective, or  they can be measured against actual data you might have.

As with everything in life: Proceed with caution --  but do proceed.

This post was previously published in an earlier edition of Marketing Insider.

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