Black Mirror, anyone? If Netflix’s hugely successful dystopian drama is anything to go by, painting AI and its digital accouterments in the darkest hues imaginable is something of a global pastime. AI naysayers notwithstanding, there are clear and significant benefits of AI that cannot be overlooked. These (for the purposes of this article) broadly fall under the umbrella term White Mirror.
The Ghost of Marketing Past:
Moore’s law dictates rapid and exponential shifts in the technology landscape that render into obsolescence, ideas that do not evolve to stay ahead of the curve. Marketing as a discipline, being a bedrock of capitalism has undergone significant change in the last 30 years, exemplified best by the ubiquity of digital marketing tools and techniques in vogue today.
SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud) occupies centre stage in scalable tech today and has thus forced the marketing orthodoxy to give way to digital iconoclasm. The ghost of marketing past, wizened though it may be, does have a lesson or two that we would do well to remember in the digitally chaotic business world we inhabit today.
Lesson 1: Customer-Centricity
No-brainer or not, this fundamental priority of marketing is often forgotten in the bedlam of digital noise. Central to good business is good marketing and central to good marketing is customer-centricity. The Ghost of Marketing Present, while running on a significantly faster treadmill than its predecessor, would flourish, if it brought back to focus the simple truth that the ‘Digital’ aspect is only a means to a much larger Marketing end.
Lesson 2: Think Global, Act Local
Simply put, customization to include solving for local aspects like culture, readiness to adapt, purchasing power and risk appetite are key to driving scale through a combination of product mix and marketing effort. But keeping in mind that marketing outcomes have higher correlation with successful product adoption when sweeping generalizations are shunned in favor of customized and targeted messaging is a key learning that remains as valid today as it was in the past.
The Ghost of Marketing Present:
Cut to present day and we now have a problem of plenty. A plethora of digital tools, each vying for marketer attention and taking the focus away from adhering to the fundamental precept of customer-centricity. The Ghost of Marketing Present dons a digital suit and speaks almost exclusively in acronyms.
Add to this mix, the complexity of big data and the ability to use this data to capture a single meaningful sliver of customer attention and presto!, you have the key problem of the digital marketer crystallized for easy consumption.
On the handling and manipulation of the data piece of the digital marketing puzzle, there has been a proliferation of solutions and incremental improvements that have ensured that innovation stays on the bleeding edge. For the more nuanced aspects of User Segmentation and Unified Profile Creation and Management, offline tools like CRM and more recently, real-time solutions like CDPs have begun addressing organizational needs.
Sadly though, all this will add up to naught, if the key piece of the puzzle isn’t addressed- The ability to weave hyper-personalized campaigns into the fuzzy realms of customer acceptance through the channels that most appeal to each unique user. Remember Lesson 2?
It is in this most crucial leg of successful campaign execution, that AI truly shines. In order to understand why, let us consider a frequently encountered use case.
Use Case: AI for Channel Orchestration
Financial Services firms often struggle to effectively convert prospects who have indicated interest in one or more of their offerings. This, despite having enough data and technology to start a war. As observed earlier, the crucial element of effective execution is often lacking, since ‘dumb’ automation does not have the capability to effectively learn from customer behavior and adapt to target prospects at the right time through the right channel. Enter AI.
Deep Neural Networks have long been at the forefront of improving our digital experience- be it predictive text, improving compression ratios for better media quality, or enabling us to have a passably realistic online retail experience. DNN provides the ‘smarts’ to marketing automation through channel orchestration, i.e. leveraging behavioral insights to ensure that the right prospects are targeted through the right channel at the right time.
Doing so opens up the possibility of attaining Marketing Utopia by accounting for individual preferences, so that while ‘A’ receives an SMS before 9 AM in the morning alerting him to a time-sensitive loan offer, ‘B’ receives a call while browsing the firm’s website for a suitable credit card during lunchtime. Lesson 1: Check. Lesson 2: Check.
The Ghost of Marketing Future:
How far will the cradle of innovation take us? Or more literally, what do we think may happen when AI leaves it’s precocious cradle to take the first few steps of an eerily ‘self-aware’ future version? Will we then be judged with the ruthless binary options that Roko’s Basilisk would present? Or would we be able to somehow envision a silico-carbon symbiosis that has White Mirror-esque overtones?
Only time will tell. In the meanwhile, if the Ghost of Marketing Future were to look through the opaque and distorted lens of digital history, it would perhaps do well to remember the fundamental lessons of its predecessors, while sharing space with a growing AI to benefit humankind at large. White Mirror? Just maybe.
By Kiran Ramaswamy | Vice President – Global Sales at Lemnisk