Marketers and AI Together – But Doubts Persist

Thursday, September 14 2017 Reinhard Cate Content Marketing Manager Categories:

Artificial Intelligence is arguably the most anticipated and controversial technology on the planet. No matter what you read or who you speak to, people either love or hate the idea of AI and there is not much in between. Broader beliefs on the topic range from sensational, like the fear of killing robots, to the more pragmatic, with debate over the practical use of self-learning algorithms. For modern marketers, who as a rule are generally accepting of new ideas and technologies, the spectrum of beliefs about AI are largely positive. Most narratives about AI technology in marketing see it as chock full of potential benefits. However, there is a negative belief for marketers, that AI driven technology would put some in the marketing industry out of work.


While most marketing leaders see value and benefit to the adoption of this technology, a debate lingers over whether the technology is actually ready to provide value to their organizations. For the biggest proprietors of the technology like IBM, Salesforce, Facebook, and Google, these concerns can impact their success. The technology, although interesting with potential to drive greater customer engagement hasn’t shown enough real value and isn’t quite ready for adoption into the marketing tech stack.


The Narrative Landscape

Analyzing the underlying beliefs, or narratives, about the intersection of artificial intelligence and the future of marketing captured in news, blog, and social media data over the past year view the technology in a mostly favorable light. Narratives held by marketers reflect the belief that AI can allow marketers to really step up their game, becoming even more data-driven and customer centric. Even for the most negative belief, that artificial intelligence could be used to replace marketers’ jobs, was challenged directly by a unique counter narrative, off-setting some of the negativity.


The narrative, Human Driven captures 15% of the conversation and argues that AI driven technology will focus more on menial time-consuming tasks. This directly counters the belief that AI is a job-killer, because the technology requires the guidance of a human. Positive beliefs about the adoption of the technology are so dominant about the future of marketing and artificial intelligence, that an entire narrative exists focused on the belief that marketers who do not adopt AI-driven technology will be left at a serious disadvantage. This narrative is called Left Behind and captures 2% of the conversation.



The belief that the use of artificial intelligence driven technology will allow marketers to ingest and decipher massive amounts of data allowing them to make data-driven decisions about strategy more efficiently is the largest held belief. We call this narrative Deciphering Data and it captures 29% of the conversation. A variety of smaller narratives capture further beliefs about how AI-driven technology will help marketers do their jobs better.


Why should marketers embrace AI? The improvements for marketers range from an enhanced ability to engage customers Tailored Experience 21%, to knowing precisely who to engage Precision Targeting 9%, to the ability to anticipate and leverage audience shifts Predictive Analytics 6%. Add in the marketing return on investment Real ROI 0.3% for some very tangible and revenue-focused reasons. All together the positive narratives on the future of artificial intelligence and marketing are overwhelmingly positive, and artificial intelligence clearly is the hero, not the villain of the story.


While beliefs about the future of marketing augmented by artificial intelligence look bright, one aspect of the conversation focused on the capabilities and value of the technology available today. Not There Yetwhich captured 10% of the conversation and expressed skepticism in the current use of AI as a tool for marketers. Content in this narrative argued that the technology was not consistently performing in either marketing or any other industries, and that artificial intelligence needed major development before it could provide real value.


A Warning Sign for Tech Companies

While the current, versus future value of artificial intelligence-driven technology may be up for debate, the biggest names in Silicon Valley have poured tremendous resources into developing and leveraging AI across all industries and departments. The brand association of the four tech giants is tied heavily to the beliefs around the future of AI technology.



In Silicon Valley’s race to perfect and develop artificial intelligence, the big four need to pay attention to their brand presence in the narrative, Not There Yet. Association with the narrative reflects a belief that a company’s efforts to develop AI technology are currently falling flat. Salesforce has the least to worry about with it only being associated with Not There Yet 6% of the time. However, IBM, Facebook, and Google all hold strong association with the narrative. Google has the largest association at 26%, followed by Facebook at 24%, and IBM at 19% of the time.


Whatever the narrative, they are not static, so there is always room to influence or change a narrative that impacts business the wrong way. Keeping the balance of brand association in both positive and negative narratives is critical to maintaining a healthy perception of your company or organization by the public.


Therefore, it’s critical to amplify your brand’s presence within the positive narratives in its narrative landscape and shape your communication strategy accordingly. This is especially important for IBM, Facebook, and Google, but for any company in the artificial intelligence space. While it’s easy to assume that the future for AI is bright, monitoring and addressing the negative beliefs about the technology is essential for any company in the space. Don’t assume your buyers believe the marketing messages you are sharing. Tap into the data first, before you spend more time and money on engaging buyers.


Behind the Analysis

We used the Protagonist platform to surface, classify, and quantify underlying deeply held beliefs, called narratives, from content in social media, reviews, blogs, and articles about artificial intelligence and the future of marketing over the last year. The platform’s combination of computational linguistics and natural language processing together with narrative analytics provide an avenue to understand the underlying beliefs present in content.


Each article is given a score based on its volume and social engagement called narrative impact. We then can calculate the total narrative impact of each narrative and estimate a share of each narrative’s impact of the total conversation expressed in a percentage. We get to the heart of what is critical and relevant in the vast sea of data available so organizations can identify and leverage the most significant narratives.


The advantage of the narrative analytics process is that it can access and analyze more data than traditional market research and provides clearer, data-driven insight than social listening or media monitoring. Better understanding of what drives your customers, means better engagement. Modern marketers are using narrative analytics to optimize strategy, communications and ultimately, revenue.