The Reality of Generative AI in Marketing May Not Be What You Think


What’s really going on with generative AI and marketing?

We wanted to know, so we went straight to the source and asked.

No surprise, generative AI said a lot is going on — 73% of companies use generative AI in their marketing campaigns, according to Statista. CapGemini says almost 60% of organizations are implementing or exploring the use of generative AI in marketing.

Last week, Accenture announced it’s working with Adobe to develop solutions to “help organizations create personalized content at scale and accelerate the transformation of their content supply chains.” Andreessen Horowitz released research that shocked them about changing attitudes around budgeting and planning for generative AI.

But all that doesn’t really tell us what’s going on with generative AI and marketing. So, instead of refining our prompt, we went to Robert Rose, CMI’s chief strategy advisor, for his take. Read on or watch this video:

Lots of generative AI equals lots of use cases

It can feel like everybody is moving a lot faster with generative AI than you and your brand. But is that the truth?

Well, take a breath. It seems that many use cases exist, but they are not very useful.

An enterprise going to a technology provider with over 500 use cases for the application of any technology is not just useless; it’s counterproductive.

Andreesen Horowitz, better known as A16z, has released research that amazed them — budgets for generative AI are skyrocketing. They found:

  • Promising results from generative AI experiments prompted enterprises to increase their budget two to five times higher this year than last.
  • Leaders are reallocating AI investments from last year’s “innovation budgets” into more permanent line items in IT, business units, and research and product development.
  • Top-down mandates to find and deploy generative AI solutions have been made in the last six months.

OK, let’s take a breath.

A16z is obviously doing some content marketing. It’s made at least 20 generative AI investments, including leading a $400-plus million Series A round for Mistral AI, OpenAI’s European competitor. Of course, A16z evangelizes for generative AI saving the world. They need enterprises to feel the push to spend millions of dollars.

Click on all the headlines, research reports, case studies, etc., and you’ll find a whole lot of “we believe” statements around generative AI: We believe we will spend more. We believe it will save headcount. We believe it will transform the marketing industry. We believe it can save the planet.

Generative AI has a lot of hype people. I don’t mind that. That’s at the heart of great marketing. But marketers who might use generative AI would do well to recall the words of Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights, “Clear hearts, full hearts, can’t lose.”

Don’t believe all the hype

Consider a different hypothesis. Put a pause on all enterprise technology change initiatives.

I see more tech companies, consulting firms, and brands taking an overall slower approach in business. Growth in firms like Accenture and others has slowed quite a bit. Research shows IT-related budgets are also down.

Maybe the real story of generative AI’s integration is much slower.

Over the past six months, I’ve asked my network, clients, training attendees, and colleagues about how they’ve employed generative AI. So far, I have 235 unique use cases for generative AI and content and marketing. Most are creative and interesting. I can see the value. But some of them make me go, “You could do that. But is it that valuable?

As I’ve said, generative AI is not a strategy. It is an amazing, transformational innovation that can be applied to a strategy. In marketing, it’s a new ability to do something that you couldn’t do without huge human effort or something you can now do faster or more efficiently.

Why is that distinction important?

It explains why companies haven’t hurried to make enterprise-wide generative AI applications a priority. They talk like they are in a hurry, but the world doesn’t even know what “enterprise-level generative AI” looks like.

Realize the real lesson is this

Whether you’re a business of 100 or 10,000, generative AI takes time to figure it out. If your organization possesses a change-fatigue mindset or is still grappling with all the changes from the pandemic, nobody will rush to take on the BIG CHANGE project of generative AI.

The lesson is this. If senior leadership pressures you or your team about how generative AI can create efficiency, add capability, or futureproof your competitive advantage in marketing, don’t ask for the budget to acquire all the models so you can build 500 use cases.

Ask senior management for a budget for the change management necessary in marketing and content operations to create a new strategy. Then, you can assess the priorities for generative AI use cases and budget for the technology needed to do that.

Make the case for how you change with technology. Don’t compile a list of all the ways technology will change you.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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