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Truth to Marketers: AI is a Tool, Not the Solution


Okay, we're going to be blunt here. Fellow marketers time to “get over” the artificial intelligence (AI) hype. Time to stop thinking it’s all about “disruptive,” complex technology on the bleeding edges of a new frontier. The unfamiliar terminology. The unseeable interactions between variables lead to discovering solutions. The ridiculous and oddly human-like robots that always seem to appear in AI articles.

Yes, there are plenty of technology "cliffs" out there, and we’re often talking to our clients about every day applications that drive real benefits. But look, today, AI is disruptive only if you didn’t see it coming years ago. It’s now hanging out in the marketing research and analysis tool shed with ol' favorites like design thinking, customer journey mapping, and brand platforms. 

So now, as fellow alert, forward-thinking marketers, let’s agree, emphatically, that AI is a tool. A super tool, in fact, like a swiss army knife–which cuts, carves, pierces, screws, unscrews, and like Flex Shield can be slathered on all types of things to waterproof them in a jiffy! Oh wait, I’m confusing AI with liquid waterproofing spray-on goo…silly me.

But in the end, and we're actually nowhere near the end of defining how AI can be used, AI is a wonderfully multidimensional, customizable tool that can reveal insights that weren’t previously identifiable. As for sealing leaks...that may be a capability yet to materialize.

What AI is Not

We see some of our competitors positioning AI as a methodology, that is, a fixed, replicable process. We see commentary that suggests AI is a service, like a WYSIWIG website platform. And we see AI positioned as the solution to whatever problem is to hand. 

None of the above.  AI = tool. Remember when punch cards were ubiquitous, the only game in town?  Doesn’t ring a bell? How about floppy disks…CDs? Was the medium the solution? Yes, creating that data storage technology was a solution, but not one of the zillion punchcards fielded was the solution to anything by itself.

AI is like that–a tool and a means to analyze relationships in data that can deliver profound, positive insights in the right hands. 

From Pain Point(s) to the Sweet Spot(s)       

Not a single one of our past or current clients came to us saying “I’m looking for an AI solution.”  

We hope more will do so as marketers follow our lead in de-hyping AI– and turn to us as trusted providers. 

But for the moment, AI “shopping” isn’t how it happens, nor do we expect that. A small percentage of prospective clients approach us to learn about AI generally, and we’re happy to teach. But most early-stage conversations don’t, and shouldn’t, have anything to do with AI.  

The conversations should be about framing the right question to the client’s pain point, e.g., “I don’t have enough customers” or “which campaigns actually drive long-term ROI?” – now we’re talking! 

If we use AI to build the analysis model or application/product that hits the solution sweet spots, the client often doesn’t know until later. 

So depending on the pain point, solutions we can offer could involve: 

  • AI-powered retail shelf allocation analysis (reconfigures store shelves to optimize profit; Walmart uses this)
  • AI-backed product recommendation engine (Amazon-like application “if you bought X, you’ll like Y”)
  • AI-infused messaging development solution to determine which advertising message is most likely to produce the reaction we want from a segment of the public.

We have clients currently deploying the solutions above. Consider these along with a stellar list of past clients and it’s not a bad decade’s work for a lean team like us.

We’ll be glad to walk you through our history of advanced analytics and deployed AI/ML marketing solutions. Breakthrough insights await. Or if you prefer to read a bit more, we've put together sort of an "AI primer" that may be of interest. 

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