Since the beginning, marketing has required a balance between analysis and execution. Especially in digital marketing, the cycle of analyze > optimize > execute > repeat is the nucleus of all successful initiatives.
But the age of cognitive marketing has begun, and robot assistants will handle more and more of the creation duties that used to belong to human marketers.
IBM (a Convince & Convert partner) is the forward guard of this movement, with their Watson Marketing suite of tools and APIs powering an increasing number of real-time analysis and optimization opportunities. The IBM Think Marketing portal, for example, uses the Watson CMS to automatically serve up a different mix of content based on what you’ve read in the past.
This past weekend gave us another glimpse of marketing’s future, at The Masters golf tournament. IBM is a long-time sponsor of the storied event and provides all the technology for the tournament, using it as a product showcase. This year, for the first time, IBM used Watson’s cognitive capabilities to automatically determine which video clips should appear on the official Masters website and mobile app.
Based on real-time signals such as loudness of crowd reaction and announcers’ use of superlatives in their commentary (the shot was “terrific” or “spectacular,” etc.), Watson instantly identifies a snippet of video as a highlight, tags it, and pushes it live in seconds, including to Twitter.
— Masters Tournament (@TheMasters) April 6, 2017
Imagine that applied to your YouTube channel. Or used to determine the optimal email subject line for each recipient of a campaign (this is already in-place with some IBM customers). Or instantly creating programmatic ad buys for content that outperforms your historical baseline. Or massively detailed, multi-variate assembly of web pages based on real-time weather data, like a souped-up version of Optimizely or Unbounce.
In truth, all of the above can be done today, by smart, human marketers. But it takes time and attention to do so.
The Robots Are Here to Help
Cognitive technology that gets smarter over time can automate many of these labor-intensive functions, freeing professional marketers to think, while the robots act. AI for marketers doesn’t really stand for artificial intelligence, but rather augmented intelligence. I don’t fear that robots will replace marketers. I instead am excited about robots assisting marketers to do their jobs better and faster, creating communications that are more relevant, and thus more impactful.
Watson—and any cognitive system—is only as good as the data, requests, and other inputs fed into it. This is why the successful marketers of the near future will be those that understand what is possible, and how to optimally structure the feeds, sequences, and triggers necessary to maximize the benefits of the real-time technology at their disposal.
You Wanna Know
The coin of the realm among professional marketers will be insatiable curiosity, combined with an acute understanding of data, applied to omni-channel customer journeys. (In other words, all marketers will need to be like Chris Penn. If you don’t know Chris or his work, fix that right now.)
Marketers—especially digital types—have prided themselves forever on their ability to MAKE something that breaks through. But that will soon feel like a laughable anachronism, as the overwhelming majority of interactions become tailored specifically to each customer, making the long-ballyhooed notion of one-to-one marketing a reality at last.
In that environment, where Watson and other cognitive assistants are doing the making with speed, precision, and insights that no human can match, marketers must focus on continuously asking, “What if we tried this?” to determine how to best deploy the robots.
My daughter heads off to college in the fall to study marketing, and I desperately hope she can cobble together a curriculum that will give her unrelenting curiosity, a love for iterative testing, and an addiction to the Scientific Method.
Because if she wants to be a professional marketer, this is what she will need. As will I. And you, as well.
Are you ready?