Long gone are the days of painstaking market research to identify and target key audiences. Today, technology carries the bulk of that workload.
Now, as AI chat grows, more brands are focusing on data-driven campaigns as a fast track from conception to execution. It’s efficient—and, even better, it’s effective. The art of advertising is quickly giving way to the science of marketing. The more insights and data brands can compile, the stronger their campaigns will be.
This is the technologically advancing space in which we operate. We have to move with it, or it will leave us behind. But the streamlining of the future should not fossilize the values and lessons of the past—values and lessons that are as important today as ever. Instilling confidence, trust and excitement in consumers is the key skill set for any marketer. Despite AI’s great promise, it is still human (i.e., nonlinear) thinking that remains the premium means of building this bond between brand and consumer.
AI is, by its very definition, artificial. But connecting human to human (rather than data to human) is essential. We’re all guilty of being sucked in by technology, powerless to repel its seductive might. We’re moths to the flame.
I fritter away endless brain-dead minutes asking Alexa questions I know she can’t answer (such as “Why is my dog called Harley?”). I also rely on her for the weather, to read Wikipedia and to play Bruce Springsteen in the kitchen when I’m cooking.
It’s funny to think back to the time before mobile phones. Life functioned perfectly well without them. But, fast forward to 2019, and I’d be lost without not one but two phones, each nudging me throughout the day.
But if we don’t remain rooted in human interaction, we’ll all become robots ourselves. AI exists to complement our skills, not render them irrelevant.
Powerful and evocative words like “purpose” and “good” should be at the core of any campaign. However, in this increasingly competitive, cutthroat and data-driven era, these words are becoming blurred.
It occurs to me that “purpose” and “good” are the corporate version of “cool”—placeholder terms that are easy to say but not often properly explained or justified. Their meaning is left for the listener to decipher. In many cases, the purpose and good is hard to find.
I could add “meaning,” “conscientious,” “sustainable,” “ethical” and countless others to this canon of blurred words. Terms that used to be concise and accurate in definition are now being thrown around like headless chickens in a digital age of brand bombardment and ever-shifting societal change. That isn’t to say “good” and “purpose” were perfect words in the past. They’ve always had their rises and falls, their hits and misses.
More than 25 years ago, I wrote a book—rather, I curated it—called 150 Ways Teens Can Make a Difference. Back then brands had to “make a difference” to ensure consumer satisfaction and security. People were eager to be contributors versus takers. It was around the time that book was published, when Esprit launched its “Real People” campaign—which, as a junior marketer, I helped cast (among others, a then-unknown Gwyneth Paltrow). Instead of hiring “flawless” beauties, Esprit selected every-day, “real” people to pose in its clothes and provide an accurate representation of women. It was the dawning of a new era of brand communication—one that threw its arm around a world disenchanted with the fashion industry and its “perfect” catwalk starlets. It sparked a dialogue with people, encouraging them to take a stand.
Some 25 years later, the onslaught of AI brand marketing is upon us. It offers boundless potential. But the messaging—the good, the purpose, the meaning—must remain on point, not blurred. We can’t let data and tech supplant the authenticity of our brand messaging, nor of the brand itself. Data can collate valuable information, AI can drive you to the right people, but only we can capture hearts and minds.