Understanding AI for Marketers

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff recently gave an interview to the AP where he reiterated his position that Artificial Intelligence (AI) represents the fourth major wave in technology and the most important of our lifetime. In short, it’s imperative that marketers work on understanding AI. 

I’ve found it easy to treat the mass of breathless AI coverage and countless thought pieces on AI with a side-eyed skepticism; aware, in relative awe, moderately afraid, and yet infinitely unclear on the enduring impact the technology is likely to have on my near-term professional existence.

Marc’s comments to the AP, which align with his longer-form commentary from a March 2023 interview with Kara Swisher, and a series of excellent AI-oriented episodes of Kevin Rouose and Casey Newton’s Hard Fork podcast (including this episode featuring Dario Amodei the CEO of Anthropic, and this one on workplace ChatGPT etiquette) have cemented my predictions on AI’s impact on Marketing over the next 3 – 5 years.

Data Really Matters.

As marketing SaaS providers build machine learning and AI into their platforms, the rewards for high-quality data increase exponentially. And the challenges presented by poor data quality multiply equally. It’s simple to view the potential:

In Salesforce’s June 2023 Generative AI Snapshot Series, 71% of marketers said they believe generative AI will eliminate busy work and allow them to focus more time on strategic work. 

No more busy work? I’m in! Here’s the rub: that busy work is eliminated through quality data + AI. No amount of powerful AI alone can fix years of poor record-keeping or siloed data.

I’m no mathematician, but I can state unequivocally that there is a near-perfect correlation between data quality, data governance, and the elimination of future busy work.

63% of salespeople surveyed seem to agree with me when they report their company data is not properly set up for generative AI. If you are like me and are up for less busy work and more strategic thinking, focus resources now on improving data quality. Future you – free from busy work – will have plenty of time left over to say, “thank you.”

Humans Trust Humans.

The same June 2023 report from Salesforce found that 63% of marketers believe trusted customer data is important for using generative AI successfully.

At its core, AI is a series of math equations. It’s not a magical wordsmith-ing wizard, it’s a collection of extremely well-informed ones-and-zeros. This is quite helpful for solving large problems quickly (think narrowing in on the best target segment for a new product without bias), but not nearly as great for solving people’s problems in a trust-first fashion (think airline chatbot repeatedly offering to rebook you on a new flight that is 24 hours after your friend’s destination wedding). 

The fact is, humans enjoy the company and support of other humans. As Roose and Newton discuss on this episode of Hard Fork, human-to-AI interaction is short on the EQ we need.

AI in marketing must be rooted in trust and deployed as a catalyst for human interaction.

Enhance, not replace.

I believe the most important impact of AI on the marketing function will be its ability to enhance our collective capabilities. Salesforce’s most recent research agrees with this position, reporting that:

  • 68% of desk workers say generative AI will help them better serve customers.
  • 61% of salespeople believe generative AI will help them sell efficiently.
  • 58% of marketers say generative AI is transforming how they analyze market data.

While AI is sure to have an impact on our professional lives, considering it as an additive, not a replacement is a healthy viewpoint (Salesforce Ben has an interesting take on AI in the Salesforce ecosystem).

Yes, it can alleviate busy work. 

True, it can help improve our human-to-human interactions by supplying critical contextual intelligence. 

Certainly, it will change how we work. 

But, that change is in our control. Invest in data strategy, security, and quality now. Build with trust first and look for ways to enhance your day-to-day, not eliminate it.

In fact, I may just try to enhance my content creation capabilities right now…

ChatGPT4 Prompt: 

Write 100 words on how AI will most impact marketing in the next five years


In the next five years, AI will have a profound impact on marketing, revolutionizing the way businesses engage with customers. AI-powered analytics will enhance data-driven decision-making, enabling marketers to predict consumer behavior more accurately and tailor personalized campaigns. Natural Language Processing (NLP) will boost chatbots and virtual assistants, providing instant customer support and improving user experiences. AI-driven content generation will streamline copywriting processes, creating relevant and engaging content at scale. Moreover, AI will facilitate hyper-targeted advertising, optimizing ad placements and increasing ROI. As AI technologies advance, marketing strategies will become more efficient and customer-centric, fostering stronger brand-consumer relationships and driving business growth.

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