The role of generative AI in digital marketing operations

Sidheshwar Chauhan,

Global Martech Lead, Virtusa

Published: May 31, 2023

Digital marketing and artificial intelligence (AI) are two of the technologies that have shaped the past two decades. While digital marketing opened countless new channels for brands to connect with customers, AI has an even bigger impact. What started as shopping suggestions on platforms like Amazon and movie suggestions on Netflix is developing into a technology that can change how we do everything. Generative artificial intelligence is the latest iteration in this process that captured headlines and is now changing digital marketing operations.

How generative AI differs from traditional AI

Generative AI has dominated headlines, in October last year, the New York Times described it as Silicon Valley's New Craze," highlighting generative AI statistics to support the excitement, unlike NFTs or virtual reality (VR) applications.

Traditional AI excels in analyzing large amounts of data, distilling it into actionable insights, identifying patterns beyond human perception, and predicting future behaviors. Generative AI furthers this technology by training on existing information by creating new text, images, computer code, and other content. The richer the training data, the better the AI's ability to generate meaningful content that is hard to distinguish from its human-generated equivalent.

Generative AI, as acknowledged by industry experts, holds the potential to transform content creation across various industries. Applications like ChatGPT and DALL-E are prime examples of generative AI.

McKinsey recently published an article starting with a paragraph generated by ChatGPT proclaiming generative AI potential to boost user creativity leading to "amazing creations." While the paragraph is grammatically correct and structured logically, its tone is too jubilant, which gives it away as AI-generated content. Despite the need for further enhancements, the recent implementation of machine learning has undeniably captivated users. The rapid adoption of AI, including ChatGPT, saw over a million users signing up within a few days. Moreover, AI utilization across various industries doubled between 2017 and 2022. While the extent of AI's capabilities and the associated risks are still uncertain, its potential remains to be fully explored.

What generative AI can do for digital marketing operations

Upon ChatGPT's 2022 launch, critics focused on its effortless prowess in creating flawless content; be it academic essays, legal papers, or poetry astonishingly resembling human work.

A significant part of digital marketing operations revolves around providing the right content, at the right time, in the right tone, and through the right channel. Digital marketers can leverage the capabilities of generative AI regardless of the brand and challenges of delivering meaningful customer experiences to well-defined target audiences. While AI augments the brand team's understanding of customer behavior, generative AI applications, like Adobe Firefly, can significantly impact productivity and creativity.

The creators of generative AI believe that these technologies save time for digital marketers and introduce a new level of creativity to marketing operations and content creation by generating fresh and unique content. Adobe asserts that its application will amplify, rather than replace, human creativity and imagination in digital marketing. In this sense, Adobe Firefly complements human creativity instead of serving as a substitute, hence envisioning the addition of another layer of creative intelligence to an existing team.

What collaboration between humans and generative AI would look like?

The aim of generative AI in digital marketing is straightforward: swiftly produce unique and highly personalized content that resonates with customers in a fraction of the time it currently takes to achieve such goals.

Despite the attention generative AI has received and the rush of venture capitalists to invest in promising generative AI startups, it is crucial to remember that the technology is still in its early stages. Applications like Firefly are available as beta versions, allowing creators to test their capabilities with a promise to "generate extraordinary new content" based on prompts given in everyday language.

In digital imagery, this promise would significantly reduce the time spent painstakingly working on a computer, transforming it into mere minutes. In practice, a designer would convey their idea to the AI and await the computer's transformation of those instructions into a captivating image that aligns with established brand guidelines once the AI has been trained accordingly.

Video content is crucial for digital marketing strategies because it generates more engagement than still images or text-only communications. However, video editing can be time-consuming, and even advanced software has limitations, such as enhancing footage captured on rainy days. Generative AI offers a solution by adjusting the mood and atmosphere of the footage. With simple text prompts, such as transforming rainy-day footage into sun-drenched visuals, editing time and effort can be significantly reduced.

How digital marketers can harness AI without losing that human touch

Can digital marketers solely depend on artificial intelligence, relax, and witness the growth of customer engagement? Some interpretations of AI may lead you to believe so. However, the current trajectory of AI advancement suggests collaboration over replacement.

Customers tend to gravitate to brands they can relate to and connect with. This fundamental principle forms the basis of influencer marketing's effectiveness. Potential customers follow influencers because they connect with the content they share hence building a personal connection is essential for the success of digital marketing strategies.

Currently, digital marketers invest significant time in creating meaningful content for the brands they represent. Whether it involves curating a month's worth of social media posts or developing an insightful thought leadership article for an industry publication, generative AI can amplify and support digital marketers' creativity. Generative AI can help overcome writer's block and provide the following:

  • Valuable suggestions for future content based on historical customer engagement data by researching the subject.
  • Summarizing complex topics clearly and coherently.
  • Offering thought-provoking ideas.

This collaboration between digital marketers and generative AI empowers them to deliver impactful, well-informed content to captivate their target audience.

Collaboration and augmentation

There is a growing global acknowledgment of the importance of fostering collaboration between humans and machines, as well as the augmentation of human capabilities through AI rather than replacing humans in creative processes such as digital marketing.

The Global Head of Product at Grammarly, Rahul Roy-Chowdhury, recently emphasized their focus on harnessing advanced technologies to enhance human potential. While technology plays a central role in Grammarly's approach, they believe their AI should be rooted in human intelligence and designed to address user needs and challenges.

The World Economic Forum has highlighted the importance of addressing the dissemination of misleading or false content through AI. Developers like OpenAI, the creators of ChatGPT, are actively working on reducing the potential for false or harmful outputs. However, human input remains critical in ensuring the reliability and integrity of AI-generated content.

Conclusions for digital marketers

Generative AI holds immense potential to revolutionize the workflows of digital marketers worldwide. It offers the ability to streamline processes, whether it's supporting the growth of a small business or reshaping the perception of a global brand.

With existing AI applications, marketers can benefit from content suggestions, captivating image creation that enhances brand perception, and personalized content tailored to previous engagements. Ongoing AI development, exemplified by Adobe Firefly and similar initiatives, promises to expand these capabilities further. However, it's important to acknowledge that human input remains indispensable in establishing authentic customer connections. Building such connections relies on delivering relevant and relatable content across various digital marketing channels. While generative AI can undoubtedly facilitate the creation of such content, it still requires the human touch.

Digital marketers need to embrace the potential of generative AI while remaining mindful of its limitations and potential challenges. Adopting an open-minded approach, they position themselves to grow their brands effectively and efficiently in the ever-evolving digital landscape.

Generative AI allows digital marketers to streamline workflows, enhance brand perception, and connect with customers on a deeper level through a creative interface and dynamic ideas.

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