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Artificial Intelligence in marketing – time to believe the hype

There will never be a shortage of ideas and trends claiming to be heir to the innovation throne. The word “transformational” is often bandied about as part of these conversations, but rarely does the technology in focus rise above hyperbole. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an exception.

Hollywood continues to do a solid job imagining how AI will have a catastrophic impact on us mere mortals. But, back in the real world, it is proving a powerful tool that touches all aspects of a business.

At Ricoh, we’re incorporating AI into our interactive whiteboards to boost collaboration. The list of potential applications is almost the stuff of science fiction. This cognitive-enabled interactive whiteboard uses IBM’s Watson intelligence and voice technologies to actively support people in meetings. This includes responding to commands, taking notes and even translating into other languages. This IS transformational technology. And, so far, there’s been no need for Keanu Reeves to save us from near oblivion.

I discussed use of AI in marketing when speaking at the recent CMO Network event in the UK. The requirement for customer centricity and personalisation is a key industry trend. A huge amount of data is collected in customer interactions. But brands typically don’t have the bandwidth to crunch it to enable true personalisation.

This is where AI can pick up the slack. Think of data like a DNA sequence; a spiral of information. AI can analyse this for information and learn how particular customers like to interact. It can unpick context and interactions to see what works best. From this, it will optimise message placement and content. For example, it could detect if a consumer was using a mobile device as well as the type of content they have previously interacted with. It also presents a far better way of prospecting. No more buying data lists (that are, of course, available to anyone with money to spend). No more personal customer details being shared. Instead, the algorithm evolves and learns about its audience to reach new people more intelligently.

This all adds up to better interactions with audiences. We commissioned research last year that shows the value of this. It’s clear that customers are willing to move away from brands that fail to communicate effectively with them; the research reveals 57% of respondents would do this. That’s a stat well worth remembering when planning the next marketing campaign.

We’re also working with AI in our own ad campaigns. This will bring better communication to customers and prospects. It will also boost our website traffic and deliver our messages to new audiences.

In a world of constant plate spinning and ever expanding to do lists, the dependability of AI is a godsend for us marketers. Back in 1999 The Matrix told us to ‘never send a human to do a machine’s job.’ While I wouldn’t totally subscribe to that, I do believe there’s nothing fake about the power of AI.

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