How data can help CIOs empower tomorrow’s CMOs through AI

The recipe for success is data + technology.

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Marketers, over the past decade, have become experts in leveraging emerging technologies to reach new audiences. The ability to utilize modern tools significantly increases ROI, and those tools demand a level of technical expertise. In 2012, Gartner predicted that by 2017 chief marketing officers would be more immersed in technology than chief information officers. That prediction has come true.

CMOs are getting bogged down

But we lose something when marketers become technologists. Because they spend their time tinkering with campaign settings and trying to read data, less of their energy is being spent on the work of creating powerful messages and strategizing with ideas. This change even affects titles. Marketing execs now have titles like “business information officer for global marketing” or “global head of marketing technology”.

Marketing became a technology specialty almost overnight, but there are indicators that it might be on the verge of another sudden transformation, and this one would be a return to the roots of marketing.

Advancements in AI

“The next leap forward will be to put AI in the driver’s seat for launching and managing campaigns,” says Vijay Chittoor, founder and CEO of BlueShift. “Today, that involves a lot of button clicking and time intensive labor on the part of marketers who should be spending their time developing more sophisticated campaign messaging. When AI is able to take over that function, marketers get to go back to what they were trained to do: the art of storytelling.”

It’s not surprising that marketing technology is arriving at this juncture, because it is the same juncture that most other technologies arrive at. Humans are limited in terms of how they can input information into machines. The more sophisticated the machine, the less efficient human management becomes. For this reason, airplanes, with their hundreds of buttons and switches in the cockpit, are now primarily operated by computers. People with their two hands and ten fingers simply cannot pull all the levers needed to get maximum value out of the machine. When that happens, we develop technology to do it for us.

In marketing, that tipping point is upon us and it is because we have found a way to target consumers based on behavior, not just demographics. This new era of marketing, called Behavioral Marketing, allows marketers to match specific campaigns to specific consumers at any scale – something that is only possible with the help of AI.

Focus on better data

The data required for AI to do its magic already exists. Our online behavior is constantly being monitored. The data traces we leave behind are compiled and analyzed by machine learning programs to find patterns. For example, it may find that people who search for orange sweaters in October are also highly likely to want to buy a pumpkin flavored coffee drink, and are most likely to make that purchase if they are served with a mobile ad at 8:00am, before they head to work.

The key, of course, is data. The more comprehensive the data, the more precise and effective a campaign can become.

“Artificial intelligence is only as smart as the data it is receiving, which means that the biggest gains you can make in quality will come from improving data input,” explains Chittoor. “AI in marketing technology is the same as AI anywhere else. Self-driving cars are fast becoming a reality because of the massive amount of map & street view data available. This helps the AI anticipate every possible scenario. Marketers must prioritize higher quality data input to get AI out of the backseat.”

When AI is able to begin running marketing campaigns, its human counterparts are liberated to focus on strategy, creative, and innovation. This partnership, far from being a job killer, could actually generate huge volumes of opportunities as the economy makes the shift to human plus AI cooperation.

The key is helping AI to learn, to become more intelligent. That requires data, and with better data, we can put AI in the driver’s seat.

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