Tech Thoughts — Generative AI & Why Marketing as We Know it Will Become Obsolete


ChatGPT and generative AI in general have taken the world by storm. Companies are already laying off people who create content and replacing them with generative AI tools. Buzzfeed was likely the largest, most visible company to do this. While Generative AI is being overhyped at the moment, which is often the case with new technologies, it is also advancing blindingly fast and has the potential to completely change marketing as we know it.

Let’s look at generative AI and why marketing as we know it will become obsolete.

My background in Marketing

My first undergraduate degree was in merchandising with a minor in marketing, and my MBA was heavily marketing focused. I was a Marketing Director and sat on the International Council of Marketing Directors board for a couple of years. I was mentored by one of IBM’s CMOs while working as a market and business analyst. For the last couple of decades, I’ve done market research and marketing consulting, so I know a bit about the topic.


Marketing is about manipulation at scale. When it’s done right, it supercharges sales (making closing a deal far easier), increases consideration for your product against your competition, and improves perceptions surrounding an entity, product, service, politician, initiative or topic. When done wrong, it can be a black hole into which you pour money.

The historical advantage marketing has over sales is scale. A few can touch a lot. The historical disadvantage is targeting. A salesperson can get to know specifically how to influence an individual, while marketing, before generative AI, could not. The older tools (like bots and IVR, Interactive Voice Response systems) used to tightly target at scale were often more annoying than effective.

However, some time back, IBM spun its Watson AI into an initial generative AI tool and rolled it into a sales trial for car insurance. By the end of the trial, prospects were trying to ask the AI out, and close rates went up even when compared against human salespeople. And that was years ago.

AI Impact on Marketing

AI tools like ChatGPT, Deepfakes, and Dall-E 2 enable marketing to not only better target groups but to potentially exceed sales capabilities by better targeting individuals. Imagine going to your line executive and, rather than the typical “our campaign resulted in 30% higher consideration” which most line managers don’t understand, you were able to say the campaign resulted in “70% higher sales.”

Given how fast these tools came to market, there are relatively few people who know how to properly use them, which increases the value of those who do significantly. In fact, as a defense against a layoff like the one I mentioned above by Buzzfeed, a viable defense would be to become conversant in the technology so that your value to the marketing organization was such that you wouldn’t get laid off. More important, you can then argue from experience that such a layoff would be premature as the tools aren’t yet ready to operate entirely independently from human oversight.

Traditional media (TV, radio, print) marketing lacks AI capability, suggesting those media segments will likely fall out of favor until this shortcoming is addressed. For some time, internet marketing has been better targeted and this targeting capability becomes supercharged with the advent of AI tools.

These AI large-scale language and creation tools can customize, or even create from scratch, a pitch from direct knowledge of the prospect and, if done right, which includes timing as well as content, can dramatically increase sales while keeping irritation to a minimum.

They can even change the accent, image and sex of the virtual salesperson for video engagement to remove barriers to engagement, and they can be used to better upsell a new customer through tighter targeting and more intelligent control. For instance, if you just bought a TV, older tools would suddenly overwhelm a prospect with TV pitches which tends to upset the prospect and degrade the brand of the firm doing the pitch. But these newer tools would focus instead on accessories or maybe even a TV upgrade (and know not to do the latter after the TV was installed).

Wrapping Up: Sales is at Greater Risk

Marketing people are generally salaried while sales people are paid by commission. These tools imbed sales capabilities into scaled marketing efforts which should, over time, make marketing more powerful and make human salespeople obsolete (except when selling higher ticket items). But the transition will not only put marketing and sales in conflict (these tools should be owned by marketing but sales often has more power in an organization), and they will severely change not only how marketing is done but the skills needed to do marketing well. Learn how best to use these tools. One emerging internet publication worth checking out is Infinite Retina for more information on this topic.

In the end, we are at the front-end of the biggest disruption to business since the birth of the Internet, and marketing and sales impacts are only the tip of this iceberg. Here’s hoping we find a way to ride this massive wave. Otherwise, we are likely to drown. • 408-272-8560 •


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