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What is AI? A Marketing Primer

What is AI? A Marketing Primer

This is the first post in a series on Artificial Intelligence's implications on marketing, analytics, and you. We will cover a definition of AI, what it means for marketers, marketing applications, and how to implement AI technology in your company.


What is AI?

Most people still think of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as robots, like in the movies “Ex Machina” and “Her”, or the “hosts” in the HBO series “Westworld.” Those androids have “artificial general intelligence,” and can perform more general activities, as the term implies.

artificial intelligence ex machina Ex Machina

However, artificial intelligence has greater impact when applied in more specific ways. Techopedia defines artificial intelligence as “an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans,” but those machines are not necessarily autonomous androids. Basically, any computer can be programmed to produce a certain outcome the way a person would.

Most likely, you’ve already seen and benefited from AI in action.

If you have ever typed a word into Google to find its proper spelling, you have used machine learning (invented in 1959 as a step towards artificial intelligence). Product recommendations, like Amazon or Netflix; virtual assistants, like Siri, Cortana, and Alexa; connected devices, like the Nest thermostat; and so much more, use artificial intelligence to make our lives easier.

Artificial intelligence can be applied in almost every industry to streamline processes.

The reason AI is so diverse in application is because, as David Autor explains in "How Safe is Your Job" on the Freakonomics podcast, computers are “symbolic processors that follow codified sequences of instructions, programs or rules.” Any processes that “have explicit procedures for accomplishing them...routine tasks [that] can be codifiable” can be accomplished using artificial intelligence.

Why would we continue to perform tedious tasks that take up lots of our time, which we could better spend on the things computers will never be able to do?

[blockquote]“The future of AI is probably a lot like the past: it nibbles. Artificial intelligence does a job we weren't necessarily crazy about doing anyway, it does it quietly, and well, and then we take it for granted. No one complained when their thermostat took over the job of building a fire, opening the grate, opening a window, rebuilding a fire. And no one complained when the computer found 100 flights faster and better than we ever could. But the system doesn't get tired, it keeps nibbling."[/blockquote]

Seth Godin 23 things artificially intelligent computers can do better/faster/cheaper than you can.


AI for marketing enables automation, optimization, and measuring the repetitive marketing activities, saving time for more strategic, creative work.

Any task you do repeatedly, whether it’s onboarding new users, defining customer segments, or designing a marketing plan for Facebook, can be performed using AI and free up humans to be more effective and creative.

In the coming weeks, we will explore and illustrate several different applications for AI in marketing, including advertising, social media, and content.

Other Posts in the Series:

The New Marketing Landscape

AI in Marketing Data Analysis

AI for Consumer Insights

AI for ABM & Personalized Messaging

AI for Programmatic Advertising

AI for Marketing Communication

AI for Content Creation

Artificial Intelligence Limitations and Implementation


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