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Will AI Kill Emotion in Marketing?

Artificial intelligence is a huge buzzword across marketing right now, with over 60% of CEOs saying AI will have a larger impact on their businesses than the internet. Let that soak in for a moment. A larger impact than the internet. ‘Cause, y’know, that’s been a non-event over the last couple decades.

Of course, I’ve talked with a number of marketers who worry that this shift will make them obsolete — that once the machines are in charge, their creativity and passion and emotion will take a back seat to algorithms, to math, to machines.

But is this true? Will AI kill emotion in marketing?

Let’s get the obvious answer out of the way. No, AI does not kill emotion in marketing. Not even close. Suggesting that artificial intelligence kills emotion in marketing is like claiming email, or the internet, or television or whatever technology came before or will emerge in the future kills emotion in marketing. Because marketing is about connecting with customers. And customers, in pretty much every case that I’ve run into across my career, are, y’know, people. And people are emotional. Always.

In fact, I’d argue most marketing, most sales, depends on emotion. IBM famously used to close sales with technology leaders by reminding them, “No one ever got fired for buying IBM.” If that’s not an emotional sell, I don’t know what is.

Instead, here’s what artificial intelligence will do — and in many cases, is doing already. AI does a great job of content recognition and recommendation. My friends at SoloSegment have worked with one client to expose the right content to around 20,000 additional customers every month. These are customers who knew what they wanted, were well along the way on their customer journey, and still were failing to find the information they were looking for on the client site. Even if each of those customers only convert about 1% of the time, that’s two hundred additional conversions — 200 additional sales opportunities — every single month. That’s incredibly powerful.

That effect is even more powerful when combined with the kinds of emotionally-resonant content that great marketers know how to produce.

AI can also help marketers process huge amounts of data. In fact, artificial intelligence often requires large data sets to learn how to provide the best value to marketers. The upside is that it makes understanding that data quite a bit easier. You know why you haven’t heard folks talking as much about “big data” over the last couple years? Because, as a friend of mine always says, AI makes big data little. And better still, most marketers don’t like spending their time digging into data. They’d rather spend their time focused on customers. That’s a Good Thing™. But the algorithms can process the data about what your customers do, what they care about, what motivates them to guide you to deeper understanding of the people you’re trying to connect with. Let the machines do what they’re good at. And that will let you focus on what you’re good at: Emotion. Passion. People.

Let’s be clear, AI isn’t going away anytime soon. But neither are people. The marketers who will achieve the greatest success in the coming years are those who know how to harness the power of artificial intelligence and pair it with a deep appreciation for people, for emotion, for passion. It’s not “AI or emotion.” It’s “AI and emotion.” It’s technology and people. It’s logic and passion.

AI continues to dramatically shape marketing. But so will the creative choices you make as a marketing professional. Use it to better understand your customers, to better connect customers with the content that matters to them, and to continue to deliver emotionally-resonant, customer-focused messages. Who knows? You might just learn to love it. And that’s an emotion we can all use more of, today and every day.

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Tim Peter

Tim Peter built his first website in 1995 and loves that he still gets to do that every day. Tim has spent almost two decades figuring out where customers are, how they interact with brands online, and delivering those customers to his clients’ front door. These efforts have generated billions of dollars in revenue and reduced costs. Tim works with client organizations to build effective teams focused on converting browsers to buyers and building their brand and business. He helps those companies discover how marketing, technology, and analytics tie together to drive business results. He doesn't get excited because of the toys or tech. He gets excited because of what it all means for the bottom line. An expert in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, web development, search marketing, and analytics, Tim focuses on the growth of the social, local, mobile web and its impact on both consumer behavior and business results. He is a member of the Search Engine Marketers Professional Organization (SEMPO), HSMAI, and the Digital Analytics Association. Tim Peter’s recent client work covers a wide range of digital marketing activities including developing digital and mobile marketing strategies, creating digital product roadmaps, assessing organizational capabilities, and conducting vendor evaluations for diverse clients including major hospitality companies, real estate brands, SaaS providers, and marketing agencies. Prior to launching Tim Peter & Associates, LLC, a full-service e-commerce and internet marketing consulting firm in early 2011, he worked with the world’s largest hotel franchisor, the world’s premier independent luxury hotel representation firm, and a major financial services firm, developing various award-winning products and services for his customers. Tim can be reached at tim@timpeter.com or by phone at 201-305-0055.

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