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Connecting at scale: is it possible?

By Peter Armaly

If you’re in marketing, there are days it feels like the most enviable occupation in the world and on others, the most accursed. This is a logical condition since, historically, marketers have been both praised and vilified (think of the series, Mad Men) for the work they do to manipulate their fellow humans and in trying to steer their buying decisions one way or another. Under the intense glare of fraud and privacy concerns in the Internet age, the applause and the brickbats are equally deserved. The vilification though is funny because while our societies have for the better part of a century complained and fretted about the manipulative nature of advertising and marketing, we’ve also emotionally invested in the stories that were told and the images that played out in front of our eyes. In many cases, we love what we see and we act on it. Does manipulation work, then? Yes, of course but we would prefer to call it something else. It sounds better, and more constructive, to call it influencing. Terry O’Reilly of the CBC has a rich source of material called, Under the Influence, which I highly recommend.

Influencing and influencers

By Influencer Marketing, I am not talking about celebrities selling stuff on social media. For the purpose of this blog, I want to talk instead about the countless technical possibilities that exist to help marketers understand, and influence, their customers’ wants and desires. The marketing automation product landscape seems to be as crowded as the beach on a hot summer day and the focus of much of that community of solutions is to try to influence buyers over social media, email, and websites. For marketers, it’s exciting, confusing, and terrifying all at once. However, is it possible that all of the solutions are missing something? This report by The Journal of Advertising Research purports to prove that the most effective advertising campaigns, in terms of stimulating an emotional connection, are actually a combination, and a coordination, of television and those other vehicles. It seems that the human brain while attracted to, and increasingly addicted to, participation in the online world, still fundamentally responds best to television imaging. Does that information upset any notions of how all old technology must always make way for new? It seems the world is too complicated to draw that conclusion and so too is the human brain. Marketers are going to need even more science to handle complications. And that’s another thing that’s funny. The more scientific we become with our marketing approaches, the more critical it is to understand the emotive power of the human brain.

Artificial intelligence

Digging beneath the surface of any subject can sometimes reveal more than you want to know but it also typically reveals greater understanding. That’s why as we continue to evolve our marketing practices, it’s important to incorporate methods that accelerate our ability to do more but to also do it in a way that gets us closer to truths. Just as we conduct A/B testing to discover the best tactics for attracting buyers, it’s worth the effort to try and go even deeper in trying to understand the buyer’s preferences. Test the channels, test the combination of channels, monitor the buyer’s activities, look for patterns, connect the dots, make decisions based on associations. Ah, forget it. Marketers will not be able to do that at scale. That’s why AI holds such promise. It’s the only way marketers will be able to do their job more effectively. There’s a statistic making the rounds that by 2025 there will be 100 billion connected Internet devices, about 12 devices for every human. Not only will there be a lot of humans, there’ll be a lot of ways for those humans to communicate in some form or another. If you’re a data nerd, it will be more your time than ever before.

Open up and be introspective at the same time

To be successful in the future, marketers are going to have to develop methods for touching buyers and customers in ways that connect with them at an emotional level. It’s the same phenomenon we are witnessing now with a desire for longer-form content. Humans are desiring authenticity and messaging that connects with them at a personal level. That’s the trick and the challenge for marketers and if we are going to be successful in the exploding world of multi-channel messaging on new technologies and on old, we’re going to need to be open minded about how our processes work and how our technologies enable us to be nimble. If we can achieve that, then those will be days we’ll feel we’re in one of the more enviable occupations in the world.

If you would like some practical tips for bringing AI into your marketing, don’t miss:

Adaptive Intelligence: Practical Tips for Bringing AI into Your Marketing