3 Ways AI Can Support Your Marketing Team
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Marketing Jun 18, 2024

3 Ways AI Can Support Your Marketing Team

From providing insight into your customers to amplifying human creativity, generative AI is here to help.

brainstorming meeting with people and AI computers

Michael Meier

Based on insights from

Jacob D. Teeny

Summary As the incorporation of artificial-intelligence tools continues, companies have to consider how their marketing teams will collaborate with generative AI, balancing the insights algorithms produce with the human judgement that will keep brands on track. Three areas where this can be most effective are carrying out customer research, amplifying creativity around social media and brand personality, and making advertising customization easier and more efficient.

It’s clear that artificial intelligence is on the verge of revolutionizing marketing. But how, exactly, should marketing teams be collaborating with AI now?

Jacob Teeny, an assistant professor of marketing at the Kellogg School, sees huge potential for generative AI to assist in new forms of market research, shake up brainstorming sessions, and personalize advertising at a scale that simply wouldn’t have been possible in the past.

“One of the greatest strengths of generative AI is its ability to offer marketers unconsidered viewpoints,” Teeny says. “ChatGPT is good for breaking functional fixedness, where you only see something from a certain perspective.”

Here, Teeny offers three ways marketing teams can collaborate with generative AI today, balancing unconventional insights produced by algorithms with the human judgment that is always needed to evaluate ideas and keep brands on track.

Get to know your customers

Marketers are increasingly using generative AI models in a variety of ways to assist with customer research.

For one, AI can help teams generate ideas for customer segments that might use a product or service, and then it can help create a description of relevant traits—a persona—for each segment.

“When you work in marketing and you’re trying to pitch a new product, you come up with all these names for different targets, like ‘urban peacock’ or ‘hard-working Jane,’” Teeny says. “AI is pretty good at coming up with profiles of consumers who might be interested in what you’re selling.”

For instance, the online travel aggregator Kayak recently used generative AI to develop a better sense of who might be most interested in its service. Working with Supernatural, a creative agency that combines human expertise with insights from AI and machine learning, Kayak marketers created a memorable ad campaign aimed at men in their 20s and 30s who appreciate humor in their ads and are annoyed by political polarization. The ads poked fun at a character who is a “Kayak denier,” insisting that “Kayak isn’t real.”

Generative AI can also be used to strengthen consumer-survey design, drawing on principles from market research to create questions that can produce more insightful results.

“Many surveys are so poorly done,” Teeny says. “GPT could ensure you design your survey in a way that is going to be fluid for the respondents and give you data that is valuable, interpretable, and actionable that you might not have come up with on your own.”

Another promising avenue for marketers, Teeny says, is using AI to gather consumer data through chatbots. The consumer information compiled from these automated interactions can help offset the loss of data in other areas, as technology companies such as Apple and Google stop using the once-ubiquitous third-party cookies that tracked users as they browsed the internet.

“As a research tool, GPT is becoming increasingly able to identify your personality or certain customer segments just by having a conversation with you,” Teeny says. “Any of these generative AIs could be a good source for learning about a consumer in a very naturalistic way.”

He cautions, however, against taking the information gleaned by AI at face-value. “It’s up to the marketer to determine if this is valuable input that could be verified.”

Amplify your creativity

At its most basic level, generative AI can free up a creative team to focus on bigger projects by filling daily, routine content needs. AI chatbots can quickly write usable copy for social-media posts, a time-consuming and seemingly never-ending task. Teeny also expects to see generative AI used to develop brand-experience guidelines, the playbooks that brands use to set guardrails and expectations.

“You can train a GPT to understand your brand personality: you’re fun, you’re outgoing, you don’t step into political conversations, you really like cats,” Teeny says by way of example. “In seconds, it can pop out several possible social-media posts.”

Generative AI also can create images, though brands have to be careful that this work doesn’t create a consumer backlash. Lego had to back down after AI images on its website drew criticism from its fans.

“This is a tool to help you refine ideas or come up with new ideas. It still takes someone to look it over and say, ‘This is good; this is not good.’”

Jacob Teeny

What might work better right now, Teeny says, is to use generative AI in the pre-production process, where it can quickly create fully designed storyboards and concept images to present ideas for a brand or ad, rather than the half-finished sketches that are typically used in early planning meetings.

“With generative AI, you could iterate multiple examples that seem very professional,” Teeny says. “For agencies, that could be a big boon.”

For now, though, some brands have banned agencies from using AI—both because of concerns about bias and because they may not feel that work created rapidly by a chatbot is worth paying high fees. But regardless of whether marketers actually use AI-generated materials in their campaigns, Teeny thinks they should be using the tool to enhance creativity and brand strategy in even more transformational ways.

“Because these AI models use a probabilistic underpinning, you can get all kinds of associations with a concept you’re talking about,” Teeny says. “In psychology, we call this the nomological net—how different concepts are related to one another. In your own mind, there are certain limits on these associations. Generative AI expands that.”

For instance, in a recent study comparing Wharton MBA students with OpenAI’s GPT-4 in coming up with innovative product ideas, customers in the target market said they were more likely to purchase the products proposed by GPT-4.

All that said, humans will still have to be the tastemakers in determining whether a creative idea is also useful and relevant. After all, it’s not just the wildest idea that wins in the market—it’s the one that meets a real consumer need.

“This is a tool to help you refine ideas or come up with new ideas,” says Teeny. “It still takes someone to look it over and say, ‘This is good; this is not good.’”

Importantly, Teeny does not want to see the spread of AI further erode the use of strategy in marketing. “Your brand strategist has to make sure that a cool idea aligns with your brand personality and the objectives of the campaign.”

Personalize your offering

Generative AI has set the stage for a new level of personalization, from ads to social-media content. Teeny’s own research has found that AI can be used to effectively customize advertising based on a consumer’s personality traits, such as extroversion.

For example, AI would emphasize bold colors and the social relevance of a product advertised to extroverts, while emphasizing more reserved colors and intrapersonal advantages when advertising the same product to introverts.

“It comes up with messages that, on average, are more persuasive than non-personalized ads,” he says. And while it was previously expensive and slow to adapt a message to an individual consumer, AI can complete the task in seconds.

AI is also adept at personalizing content based on data from customer transactions. Carvana, a used-car retailer, used generative AI to create more than 1.3 million unique videos for its buyers, “celebrating their car-buying journeys.” Each video included information such as the date a customer bought their car, its make and model, and where it was purchased.

Generative AI can be useful in a globalized context for designing messages for all kinds of consumers, whether that means translating a message into an additional language or suggesting cultural references for customers in unfamiliar regions. But there are limits to how far marketers may want to go with personalized appeals.

“For some of the big brands, those that have personalities of their own, you don’t want to personalize too much,” Teeny says. For a brand like Harley-Davidson, whose heavyweight motorcycles are often bought by men older than 35, trying to have generative AI personalize content for 18-year-old women could confuse the brand identity and alienate traditional customers.

On the other hand, Teeny explains, Coca-Cola has a much broader brand identity, focused on bringing happiness, so it might be easier to use generative AI to personalize what happiness means for many different types of customers.

However marketing teams decide to approach personalization, their success will come down to how authentically the AI is able to represent their brand.

“A big part of the success of personalization comes down to trust,” Teeny says. “We’re living in a bit of a post-truth world, and when everything is so personalized, you can start to wonder, is this reality, or is this just what is getting served to me?”

So, when using generative AI for marketing, he reiterates, the human touch will continue to matter.

“You shouldn’t rely on AI exclusively,” Teeny says. “We have to see it as a tool, just like we see Google searches or Wikipedia. AI can help to activate or accelerate our own ideas and plans.”

About the Writer

Amy Merrick is a writer based in Chicago.

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