July 20, 2023

What Smart AI Optimization Means for Today’s Brands

George Eddy, President

The novelist Milan Kundera said, “Business has only two functions—marketing and innovation.” With the rise of generative AI, those two functions might seem more like one. There’s overlap to be sure, but my three decades at Heinrich have taught me that you can’t drive growth without deepening customer relationships.  

The numbers people might be tempted to scale growth only with AI. The hype says generative AI can make marketing faster and easier than ever before thanks to tools like ChatGPT or DALL-E that can create content in seconds. Marketers will, in theory, be freed from the blocking and tackling of making and promoting things.

But a key question remains: is it possible to fast-track customer relationships with AI? We’re about to find out. I’m a numbers guy by training, but I worry about the people side of the business. That’s why Heinrich takes a measured approach, balancing growth and humanity through smart optimization.

Smart optimization means efficiency rooted in strategy

The number of new generative AI tools shows no signs of stopping, but brands need to be disciplined when it comes to testing and implementing new AI tools. Otherwise, you’re just throwing away your precious marketing dollars.  

Before you start using AI, establish clear objectives by asking these questions:

  • What are you trying to accomplish and why?  
  • What’s working well with your current marketing strategy and tactics and why?  
  • What’s not working well, and how might it be fixed?  
  • Where can automation or AI support your goals?  
  • Will you be able to test and measure it?  
  • What safety, copyright and compliance risks might AI pose to your brand or business model?  
  • Can you learn from others’ wins and fails?

You’ve got to start with strategy to know why, how and when you can leverage AI.

Start with data analytics and research

Great marketing is rooted in understanding. Agencies need to know their clients’ business as well as their clients’ customers.

Research and data can give you valuable information about both, but only if you know how to translate it into a cohesive story. Many brands have a ton of data they can’t make sense of because it’s in disconnected platforms and formats. AI can help you cut and slice your data in new ways so you can discover new connections and insights.  

AI can help you make predictions when it comes to customer behavior. If you’re a retail brand, you can track which transactions happen when and where. This helps you anticipate trends and shifts in buying behavior before they occur. You’ll shorten the data-analytics cycle and go to market faster with new marketing campaigns and efforts. When you know the why behind the data, you can optimize your marketing plans.

Find the right personalization balance

According to a Salesforce report, 66% of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations while 52% expect offers to always be personalized. McKinsey promises personalization as one of the great advancements of AI on marketing to enhance unique language, imagery and messaging at scale instantly. AI developers need to balance the kind of personalization that drives results against the level of personalization consumers want. Where on the spectrum from empathetic to creepy will AI-driven personalization fall?  

Snapchat’s new My AI raised concern around both safety and user privacy, resulting in 75% one-star reviews from users who called it scary and wanted it gone. AI might not be the growth driver big tech thought it would be. What matters now and moving forward is how consumers react to it. In Snapchat’s case, AI personalization was a brand detractor. If you don’t understand the emotional connections you have with consumers, you risk losing those same connections you spent time and dollars to build.

It comes down to people

Last year seems like the old days now, but brands can’t take a freewheeling, anything-goes attitude toward AI. Smart optimizations focused on incremental improvements can help you navigate changes without wasting time and money. You’ll be able to truly measure which tools get you the most performance improvement. Your customers won’t feel blindsided with new features that feel invasive or off-putting. You’ll have the insight you need to shift gears efficiently.

You can’t care only about the numbers. At Heinrich, we gut-check our data-based assumptions. We ensure people remain part of the equation at the beginning, middle and end. Because we’re not trying to market to algorithms—we’re marketing to people.

#AI #marketing #brand