Thinks Out Loud: E-commerce and Digital Strategy

Thinks Out Loud: E-commerce and Digital Strategy


Revisiting Is It Time for Your Marketing Team to Use AI? (Thinks Out Loud)

March 20, 2024
Photorealistic image generated by MidJourney showing people in an office interacting with a humanoid robot to illustrate the concept of marketing teams using AI

As noted in the past, with all the hype and hope attached to artificial intelligence, it’s worth asking, is it time for your marketing team — is it time for many of your teams — to use AI? The simple answer to the question is, “yes.” As it happens, the more complicated answer is yes, too.


Why is it time for your team to use AI? Where are the areas where AI can provide the greatest value to your organization? How can it help you improve your marketing — and your business? And, most importantly, how can you get started? That’s what this episode of the Thinks Out Loud podcast is all about.


Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you.


Revisiting Is It Time for Your Marketing Team to Use AI? (Thinks Out Loud) Headlines and Show Notes
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You might also enjoy this webinar I recently participated in with Miles Partnership that looked at "The Power of Generative AI and ChatGPT: What It Means for Tourism & Hospitality" here:



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Running time: 25m 53s


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Transcript: Revisiting Is It Time for Your Marketing Team to Use AI?

 Hi, everyone, and welcome back to Thinks Out Loud.


If you have any experience with deploying technology in your company, you probably are familiar with Gartner’s Hype Cycle, which talks about how technologies get adopted and used within large organizations. And they go through, you know, the period where it first blows up and then it, we get inflated expectations and then we dive into what is known as the trough of disillusionment before people start to become enlightened and actually put the tool to work to improve productivity.


And Gartner has been pretty forthcoming that they think that generative AI is entering the trough of disillusionment. We are seeing this all over the place. I talked about this last week in the episode on putting AI to work. The funny thing about the trough of disillusionment, the funny thing about the hype cycle, Is that according to Ethan Mollick at Wharton, only about 4 percent of companies, only 4 percent of technologies actually go through all of the stages of Gartner’s hype cycle.


So it’s possible that we’re actually going to see greater benefit from AI over the long term. And that right now, people are just a little uncomfortable with the lack of results. Part of the reason for this is that companies are struggling to figure out how to put AI to work, which is why we talked about that on last week’s episode.


But you also cannot generate results if you’re not using AI, and it is well past time for your marketing team, and frankly, many of your other teams, to use AI in practice. very much. And that’s why this is a good opportunity for us to revisit an episode that asked, Is it time for your marketing team to use AI?


Spoiler alert, it is, but the episode also explains exactly how you can do that. So sit back, relax, and enjoy this repost of a prior episode.


Well, hello again, everybody, and welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital expertise your business needs. My name is Tim Peter. This is episode 405 of The Big Show, and thank you so much for tuning in. I think we have a really cool show for you today. I want to start with a bit of a headline.


So Google shipped, kind of, Gemini, its new AI model, today in three different versions. And when I say kind of, I say kind of because one is already available. You can start using it today within Bard. The other two are either in developer previews, are coming in the new year.


And I’ve got to tell you, there’s a great brand story here. I’m going to do a little sidebar here for a second. In their announcement, they did a really cool framing thing. In their introducing Gemini blog post CEO Sundar Pichai said, "nearly eight years into our journey as an AI first company…"


And the reason I thought that was really cool. is because they’re trying to reclaim the mantle of the OG AI company. They’re saying, "we’ve been doing this for nearly eight years. We’re not new to this whole idea." And that is an entirely fair claim. When you hear about GPT, like ChatGPT, that stands for "Generative Pre-Trained Transformers."


And the original paper about generative pre-trained transformers, GPTs, were written by researchers at Google. So they are, in some ways, the OG AI company, or OG generative AI company, I think is probably fairer to say. So that’s smart of them to kind of say, "look, we’re Google, we’ve been doing this a long time, we’re really good at this." Good, good marketing lesson there.


The bad side of the story is that their product messaging is complicated at best. Show of hands, I know you’re listening in your car, but show of hands, how many of you know the difference between Bard, Duet, Gemini Pro, Gemini Nano, and Gemini Ultra? Right, probably not tons of you. Again, show of hands, how many of you are going to do the work to find out?


Some of you, for sure, and some of you are just going to wait until it sorts itself out, which is an entirely valid strategy, by the way. Maybe they should have asked their AI to help them streamline their messaging. It’d be easier for people to understand what they do if they were clearer about what these are.


And that brings me to the point of today’s episode. We are into a place where, yeah, we’re in the early innings of AI. Yes, there is a lot of change we’re going to see. There’s going to be a lot of development over the course of the next year. At the same time, we’re further along than I think most people realize.


There’s new research that came out about a month ago from the conference board that shows that greater than 50 percent of marketing or communications professionals use AI for a variety of things. Drafting content, inspiring thinking. Summarizing Content and Conducting Research. According to the report, marketers and communications professionals, this is a quote, “are becoming editors of machine generated content to improve creative output and ensure accuracy and relevance.”


Think about that. The AI is doing the groundwork, is doing the legwork, and then the marketers and communications professionals are overseeing that work, and I want you to tuck that in your back brain, because we’re going to come back to that in just a little bit. Now, in the sum of this data, the report itself calls out that there is small sample sizes because everything I’m about to tell you came from the pool of the 50 percent or more who said they were doing those things.


But, of those folks, 82 percent say that it helps them get tasks done faster. Almost 70 percent state that it significantly improved their ability to get started on a new project. Half say that it significantly improved their ability to understand and research new topics faster. And more than 40 percent say it significantly Improved the quality of their content.


Those numbers are big enough that I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, even with the small sample sizes. At least among the people using those tools. And one of the reasons is, I’m speaking from my own experience. I completely agree with these findings. Is it possible that it’s just reinforcing my bias?


Well, sure, maybe. But I’m genuinely seeing benefits in the same areas as the survey respondents. Faster. Cheaper. Better. That’s happening today. And I’d argue that the 50 percent who aren’t doing these things Might be in a little bit of trouble. I’ve said for some time that AI won’t steal your job, but smart people who use AI will.


My advice to you is don’t be in that 50%. That’s a huge, huge risk. You know that I like to say that when you build the ship, shipwreck. It is always a good and wise idea to consider the downsides, and there are downsides to AI. We’re going to talk about those a little bit more in a moment. You’ve heard them, so I’m not going to belabor the point, but I don’t want to put it aside entirely.


I do want to talk about one specific problem for a moment, and why you might want to think about that differently. You may have heard of what’s known as the stochastic parrot problem, excuse me, stochastic parrot. And a stochastic parrot is this idea that the AI is simply echoing things it’s already read.


It’s not reasoning, it’s not generating new ideas. It is simply telling you something that is in its own training data. It’s regurgitating something it’s heard before. And there are some obvious risks there. Copyright or trademark infringement, contextual errors, where the thing that it read isn’t actually accurate in this specific context.


And I share those concerns. There’s also the downside to assuming that the risks of the shipwreck outweighs the value of the ship. The economist Brad DeLong had a great line the other day, where he said, we, human beings, are often stochastic parrots. How often is it that we’re simply echoing back something that we’ve known from the past?


I mean, think about it. In your day to day lives, how often do you think deeply about every single situation you encounter? I’m not trying to malign you, by the way. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. There are plenty of times when, confronted with a specific challenge, I fall back on what’s worked in the past.


I’m regurgitating responses based on my past experiences. That’s what past experiences are for, right? That’s why we want to build experience. You know, the old joke that says experience is that thing you can’t have until after you need it. That’s why we build those, the experience that we build. I also, personally, legitimately place a focused block of time on my calendar each week just for thinking time.


And I usually do about a day every couple of months where I do nothing but focus on new ideas. Because I want to make sure I’m not just going through the motion day after day, because on a lot of days I am, I’m being a stochastic parrot. I’m parrot, I’m drawing on my experience to accomplish a task or solve for a problem.


So it’s not that there’s no risk there, it’s that the risk from the AI may not be that much larger than what we deal with in our day to day already. The other thing we wanna realize is that the benefits from these use ca in some cases. Can be huge. I had a conversation the other day with a company that makes custom video.


They go out and they get sponsors to sponsor the creation of video that is then distributed via television networks, cable channels, as well as on the internet. And they’ve gone to the marketplace in less than six months. They’ve gone from not existing to being in over 107 million households plus online streaming.


And I asked the question about, well, what would this have cost you to do if you didn’t have AI? How much would it have, you know, would it have taken to do? And he said, I don’t think it would have been doable. They’re, they’re creating all kinds of content, they’re using AI to do this in a way that is more economical, which then makes it more valuable to the sponsors, which then allows them to go ahead and get the thing made in the first place.


As he said, AI is my right hand man. AI didn’t make this cheaper or more efficient. I mean, it did, but it didn’t make it something where they cut costs dramatically of something they were already doing. It made a thing that they weren’t doing. Doable. That’s massive. It couldn’t have been done any other way economically and actually been able to bring it to the market.


And there’s a huge downside that you could be left behind. Again, going back to the conference board research, mid level and junior marketers and communicators. are at the forefront of adopting AI in their work, and increasingly so. It’s positioning them as the leaders within their organization in terms of how you use AI.


Again, these are small sample sizes. But a 20 point increase in usage over the last 3 months among mid level and junior marketers, and a 9 point increase among communications professionals, suggests that they’re outpacing their elders, they’re outpacing other people by a lot. In June, they were at roughly equal levels with senior professionals in the two disciplines.


Now they are way ahead. Their productivity is way up. I make this joke all the time about the fact that, you know, I can’t outrun Usain Bolt. But put me in a Toyota and I’m going to kick his ass. Right? That’s huge. By the way, this has been proved in other categories. Ethan Mollick, a researcher and associate professor at Penn, at the Wharton School, has said they had a paper where consultants at Boston Consulting Group improved the quality of their work by 40%.


And he noted in a recent blog post that there’s a key point people are missing in that data. The consultants, this is a quote, “were not given some special version of AI trained on proprietary data and with a customized interface. They were just given GPT-4 with minimal training and examples.”


Boom. That’s crazy.


Now, the conference board data does show that the quality and creativity benefit does remain uncertain. It’s not necessarily as predictable, I suspect, based on my own experience rather than any huge data set. That one of the reasons that the BCG folks saw such a big improvement and that so many marketers don’t yet is that these folks were already experts.


They’re using it to leverage their expertise, to boost their expertise, and when they see errors, they can just go in and fix them. If you’re a junior level marketer or junior level communications professional, with no disrespect, you may not yet have enough of a feel for what constitutes good quality to be able to tell the difference.


Or consistently tell the difference. So you may be, you may do more rework because you want to make sure it meets the standards that you need to meet that you’re not necessarily as comfortable with. Now, I like to quote William Gibson, the author, All the time, who said the future is already here, it’s not, it’s just not evenly distributed.


And that’s the thing I want to leave you with today. We’re already in the future. You’ve heard me say more than once on this show how I’m a fan of the principle of who, not how, when you’re faced with a new challenge or a new task. Don’t ask how I can do it, ask who can help me do it. And AI is, at least for the first pass of many things, the new, “ooh, we can leverage a decent expert at any time.”


Another Ethan Mollick insight is what he refers to as the best available human standard. AI can help us with “creativity, collaboration, and co intelligence.” It enables us to say, how do we get better at something that either we don’t know how to do, or we do know how to do, but we don’t know where to begin.


And that latter one is where you really ought to be focusing for now, because it will help you overcome the errors. You already know the answer. It’s just helping you get there quicker and you’ll know whether or not it’s doing a good job.


There’s a framework I really like from Salesforce that talks about enablers versus differentiators in terms of the work you use AI to do.


Enablers are table stakes. They make you more effective and efficient, but they probably aren’t transformative. We’re there today. That already works with AI. Differentiators make you more desirable. They drive transformative growth. We may not fully be there yet, though this producer I was talking to about the television show, maybe is getting close.


And the great thing about this is there are lots of really credible options for which to choose. With Google, we’ve got Bard, we’ve got, now that the now has Gemini underneath it. We’ve got Duet AI within Workspace. Microsoft has launched its Copilot programs in lots of its tools, Word and Excel and PowerPoint and Outlook and the like.


Facebook has a whole series of task built AI tools versus general purpose tools under their LLaMA framework. Amazon just launched something called Q the other day. OpenAI obviously has ChatGPT and DALI. Anthropic has Claude. Adobe has Sensei and Firefly. And Salesforce has Einstein. Notice who the players are here, by the way.


With the exception of OpenAI and Anthropic, they’re all folks we’ve talked about for years. They’re Big Tech, the AGFAM, plus Adobe and the Salesforce. This isn’t some day. This isn’t something coming down the road. This is already here. The future is already here. And the great thing is people like Microsoft and people like Salesforce.


have basically said that they’re going to help eliminate some of the risk in terms of copyright or legal because they’re going to assure certain quality of outputs in some context. By the way, I’m going to put a link to those in the show notes. As you’ve heard me say many times, I’m not a lawyer, so you’re going to want to check that it helps you specifically.


Obviously, there are risks you need to be concerned about, whether they are legal, whether they are quality of data, whether there’s privacy, things that you absolutely should be concerned about. Making sure the quality of outputs match what you want, and that they’re not going to expose you to reputational harms or reputational risk.


I still believe the best people to use AI are those who are the most skilled. You’re outsourcing the work that you do to a junior team member. I’ve talked about this in a past episode on how to hire an AI for your team. But just like any junior team member, they require supervision. The challenge here is their errors aren’t always obvious.


So that’s where the oversight and the expertise come into play. But, you don’t have to use some fly by night or some random thing you’ve never heard of. You can work with the biggest players in tech and have some assurance that at least most of the time the results are going to be what you expect.


Where do you get started? I mean, how do you begin with this? I would encourage you to, at minimum, start playing with Bing and use it in its creative mode. Because then you’ll be using GPT 4 under the hood. And you don’t need to pay for an account or anything along those lines, it will get you started pretty quickly and pretty readily.


If you can, go ahead and break out the credit card and sign up for OpenAI’s paid version of GPT-4, of ChatGPT. Because you’ll get an even better experience and the like, and it’s not super expensive, it’s like 20 bucks a month or something along those lines. But, you want to get started, because we want to start thinking about who, not how.


We want to remember that the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed. We want to remember that your competitors are already using this, especially the junior folks on their teams. They’ve already gotten started with this. And just like you’re not going to outrun Usain Bolt, you’re not going to outrun these folks in their Toyotas either.


So as we begin to wrap up to the end of the year here, the key point is it’s not too late to get started. The key point is there are core tools that exist right now from credible players that will allow you to get started. The key point is that you can do this. And the key point is, you need to do this. Especially if you don’t want to get left in the dust.


Show Wrap-Up and Credits

Now looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week. I want to remind you again that you can find the show notes for this episode, as well as an archive of all past episodes, by going to timpeter.com/podcast. Again, that’s timpeter.com/podcast. Just look for episode 405.


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Show Outro

Finally, and I know I say this a lot, I say this pretty much every week, I am just so thrilled that you keep listening to what we do here every week.


It means the world to me. You are the reason we do this. You’re the reason we make this happen. So please keep your messages coming on Twitter, on LinkedIn, on email. I love getting a chance to talk with you, to hear what’s going on in your world and to learn how we can do a better job building the types of content and insights and information and community that works for you and works for your business.


So with all that said, I hope you have a fantastic day. I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and I will look forward to speaking with you here on Thinks Out Loud next time. Until then, please be well, be safe, and as ever, take care, everybody.


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