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How AI Will Augment – Not Take – Our Jobs

John Freshley
John Freshley

I don’t worry about a machine taking my job, and neither should anyone in marketing. AI won’t take your job; it will help you be more productive. First, a quick story:

A couple of weeks ago, I received a call from a local real estate investor. I’ll spare the gritty details, but here’s how the call ended:

Investor: “…would you be interested in talking about selling your house?”

Me: “Throw a number at me.”

Investor: (After a brief pause) “Thank you for your time, have a great day.”

Hang up.

I was shocked, not because of the disconnect, but because I can normally sense when I’m dealing with an automated calling system. This one was different, better at keeping my attention, but it didn’t get me to convert to the next step. Why?

The system was listening for certain positive or negative responses to its question. Since my response, while positive, wasn’t one the system recognized, it assumed it was negative and disconnected the call.

This is the point in the story when I got that warm and fuzzy feeling.

This was proof that a machine, no matter how realistic-sounding, will never be able to accurately interpret every single possible response a person can give, and instantly respond appropriately. The human element will always have a place in a world that’s, admittedly, becoming more machine-driven by the day.

I’ve had conversations, of varying levels of depth, with marketers who all ask the same thing: “How will artificial intelligence affect my job? If it can make all the decisions over when to send messages, what to send, and through which channel, then why would my company need me?”

How Will AI Change Our Jobs?

A valid concern, no doubt. Here’s how I think about artificial intelligence, and its role in marketing: it’s like building a house. Stay with me here.

In the construction industry, a genie doesn’t just float over an empty lot and drop a finished house; someone has to design it, and someone has to build it. There are a lot of nails to be driven, pieces that must fit together, and structures that must be put in place when a house is constructed.

Over time, this process was augmented, mechanized, and enhanced (and, in some ways, automated) with the advent of various modern tools. While in the past every nail was driven by a hammer, nail guns now deliver much better results, quicker, and at scale.

Nail guns didn’t eliminate the fact a nail needed to be driven, but they removed the need for the carpenter to focus on how to hit the nail, how hard, and exactly where to drive it home.

That’s what AI does for marketers.

Carpenters use nail guns to work more quickly and efficiently; for me, it means less time and pain spent hitting my thumb with a hammer. But I digress, that’s a different story. It doesn’t eradicate the need for a creative email campaign, but like the nail gun, it eliminates some of the complicated processes required to complete the task (such as when to send for optimal open rates, or what incentive to send for maximum conversions).

What’s It All Mean For Us Marketers?

The tools used to facilitate more efficient house building, now widely available to any builder or home owner, allow for humans to focus on thoughtful, creative ways to improve the final result because they are freed from monotonous, repetitious tasks.

This phenomenon is mirrored in the rise of AI. Just as mechanization replaced hand tools, so are machine learning and big data revolutionizing how marketers work on a daily basis.

AI will never develop a marketing strategy. We’re always going to need marketers to develop those strategies and guide the ship, and you’re always going to need a team to build and execute on those strategies. AI is part of the answer, eliminating menial tasks that distract those teams from focusing on improving the end result.

I’m excited to see what the future of AI marketing holds. If the next ten years of innovation are anything like the last, we’re in for a whirlwind of change. My expectation is that change will help – not hinder – the job of marketers, who will always need to remain innovative, agile, creative, strategic, and, most precisely, human.

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John Freshley is an Account Executive with Emarsys, and lives in the Charlotte, NC area. Connect with John on LinkedIn.