Artificial Intelligence: The New Tool for Accomplishing an Old Goal in Marketing

The roots for how you interact with media and how media interacts with you to influence your choices date back to ancient civilizations in China and Egypt. Since that time, each advancement in communication technology has opened the door to new, more sophisticated forms of connecting brands with potential consumers. You can argue advertising’s positive and negative effects, but you can’t ignore its overall impact on society and commerce.

Standing out in a crowded marketplace was probably a challenge for those Egyptian sales posters made on papyrus. It is even more difficult today. Depending on the statistics you read today’s consumer is exposed to 5,000-plus advertising and brand messages per day. In reality, only 86 ads actually register with some level of awareness, and only 12 make an impression on you.

One thing that hasn’t changed throughout human history is the power of referrals and endorsements from people you trust. In the not too distant past, that meant relying on personal word-of-mouth and brand images that would potentially appeal to broad demographic segments.

Pepsi, for instance, hopes that its customers will share their soft drink preferences with friends. That influence was traditionally limited by proximity. That’s why they also banked on the market appeal and implied endorsement of Michael Jackson in the 1980’s and Brittney Spears in the early 2000’s.

Today social media has transformed the relationship between marketers and customers and between customers and their friends. As Ryan Detert, CEO of Influential, says, “The largest crowd sourcing of public opinion in human history is now available through social media.”

Research reported in Joe Calloway’s book, Magnetic, supports that conclusion. Among the most compelling is this: “81 percent of U.S. online purchase decisions are influenced by their friends’ social media posts.”

The challenge for marketers is to change from a world where the connection between brand and consumer is a one-directional ad to one where anyone can talk to everyone at any time they choose. Calloway says that the key will be to “change from talking to the market to talking with the market.”

That’s where artificial and augmented intelligence comes in.

Detert’s company, Influential, is one of several that use new technology to match brands with social media influencers. Demographic and psychographic targeting has been used in marketing for years. Today’s technology allows marketers to increase the precision with which these approaches are applied and adds the power of contextual relevancy to match the right influencer to the right audience to achieve the desired result.

How It Works

Every technology provider has its own proprietary approach. Detert shared that his company uses deep and pervasive data mining enriched by IBM Watson®. This allows Influential’s clients to analyze seemingly unstructured information to make data-based, actionable decisions on where to spend their marketing and advertising dollars.

The process begins with identifying the audience. Influential then gathers data from across the entire internet to show the best word-of-mouth influencers on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and You Tube. As a data and service provider, Detert’s company has no vested interest in the final choices made by the brand or its marketing agency. Its goal is to show the results in a transparent manner that allows the client to make the best return on investment decision.

What it Means for Brands

The advantages to brands and the marketing agencies that represent them are obvious. The money spent digital advertising surpassed that spent on traditional television ads in 2016. That trend will not be reversed in the foreseeable future. Brands are now able to ensure that their efforts and resources are laser focused in the areas with the best opportunity for success.

In addition, the technology will only improve. This is the next step in a world of personalized marketing that could easily culminate in experiences eerily similar to those imagined in the movie “The Minority Report.” Calloway wrote about the need to talk with customers not at them. That could easily be done using technology not people.

What it Means for Consumers

Detert believes that one visible advantage for consumers will be fewer visible disruptions of digital ads –especially banner ads – that may or may not be relevant. The best companies will learn when and how to share information to make the experience feel natural not contrived or forced. Consumers, according to Detert, don’t want to feel as if they are unable to get away from a brand message or that their trusted influencer is, in fact, just a corporate shill.

It is, however, completely understandable if this level of personalization causes you concern. Machine learning and artificial intelligence, according to well-known thinkers, have the capacity to destroy the human race as we know it today ... even if that would be decades from now.

It is crucial to remember that consumers are already interacting with machine learning. The advertisement for the product you just viewed on Amazon didn’t appear immediately in your Facebook news feed by accident or magic.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be aware of how your social media habits influence the information you receive. The technology that sends you personalized messages about the deodorant you purchase is being used to influence many other decisions in your life.

Artificial intelligence is the natural progression in the fusion of marketing and technology to connect people and brands. It is a change that was foretold by Regis McKenna back in 1991.

Fictional advertising executive Don Draper summed up the options for how you view this change in Season 3 Episode 2 of “Mad Men”: Change is neither good nor bad, it simply is. It can be greeted with terror or joy, a tantrum that says “I want it the way it was,” or a dance that says Look, something new!”

Ryan Detert and his team at Influential are doing the dance to help their clients be more effective and efficient in connecting with customers. How about you?

Randy Pennington is an award-winning author, speaker, and leading authority on helping organizations achieve positive results in a world of accelerating change. To bring Randy to your organization or event, visit , email, or call 972.980.9857.

Randy Pennington does not have a financial position in Influential at this time.


This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.