Brands today are operating in a world of incredibly short attention spans. Both consumers and brand marketers are overstimulated and overwhelmed by a surplus of data and information. For brands, determining what data to pay attention to and how to act on that data quickly and in a way that brings business rewards has been nearly impossible. Until now.
Recently, AI – which has been transforming how other industries operate for a number of years – has been making real inroads in the marketing industry. Brands that learn how to embrace AI and, most importantly, decision intelligence, to direct their marketing decisions can transform marketing from an area of guesswork and uncertainty to a function that delivers real commercial returns on investment.
In short, AI can solve marketing’s biggest problem: a lack of certainty.
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How We Got Here: The Data Overload
Brand marketers are so bogged down with information these days that they can’t see the forest for the trees. How the industry arrived at this point goes all the way back to the evolution of man. As a former business associate once explained it to me, humans started out fending for ourselves and competing for food, ultimately leading to a shortage of food. Then we had the agrarian revolution when we had tons of food but a shortage of land. Next we had plenty of land but a shortage of capital. Now, as we near the end of the shortage of capital age, what we’re left with is a shortage of attention. With all of the information out there today, one could literally bury oneself in data and never come out.
What this means for brands is that brand managers face an indecipherable number of potential choices they could make every day related to all of the factors that impact brand performance: communications, merchandising, packaging, distribution, promotion, pricing and myriad other factors. There are around 14 “buckets” of these factors and each one then has a large number of sub-factors, all of which have other sub-factors, etc. When you add it all together, the combinations of decisions brand managers could potentially make in any given year amount to around two billion choices. Even the most brilliant CMO can’t always make the best choice without supporting intelligence that the choice will pay off. This is why companies need a brilliant marketing team and AI.
Where We Go From Here: Bringing Decision Intelligence to Marketing
We all know the phrase ‘actionable insights,’ but actionable decisions are much more useful. That’s why decision intelligence is what will shape AI and solve marketing’s lack of certainty problem. For example, just knowing what is happening in the marketplace and who is saying what won’t help marketers. Marketers need to know exactly what to do in a way that causally links their actions to specific outcomes. As John Wanamaker famously put it: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”
Gartner’s annual CMO spend survey, The State of Marketing Budgets 2021, found that marketing budgets are tumbling to their lowest in history, which means that CMOs and brand/marketing managers must carefully prioritize how they spend their dollars. Decision intelligence enables marketers to focus on not just correlation, but also causation. Through this lens, marketers can make data-driven decisions that show causal links between actions taken and the outcomes achieved. Having this proof of ROI will become increasingly important as the marketing community – including brands and the people that manage them – become more and more accountable for tangible results.
Brands that aren’t using AI for marketing should start exploring the benefits now in order to compete in a marketplace in which other companies will soon have an AI advantage. Today, most marketing data is decentralized, however, technology can ingest different data sources into one centralized place. When you then add AI on top of this to analyze the data, brands get the decision intelligence that helps them set better brand strategies tied to business goals and determine the potential ROI of any potential marketing strategy before investing the dollars.
Briefly put, when you add AI and decision intelligence to the mix, instead of two billion possibilities of uncertain brand decisions, marketers get one clear path forward.
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