The Dark Side of Artificial Intelligence in Marketing


I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about artificial intelligence and its applications for marketing. When writing and speaking about it, I tend to focus on the positive aspects and outcomes.

For businesses, it can increase efficiency by intelligently automating repetitive tasks. And, it can drive revenue by improving an organization’s ability to make predictions.

For consumers, it means personalization and convenience. Ads that seem to be targeted to your exact interests on every social media channel. Voice searches that give you answers on the go. Content that solves your problems from brands that seemingly anticipate your needs. And emails with links to products that appear to have been designed just for you.

But, there’s a potential dark side to the technology that makes this all possible.

AI is powered by data. And the more personal and expansive that data is, the more accurate the predictions become.

Major technology companies are racing to capture as much information about consumers as possible through our interactions online and offline. And the more devices and apps that we enable to collect our data, the more these companies can learn about our activities, interests, wants, needs and desires.

Think about the data collection empires these companies are building, and all the ways they use technology to learn about us. They know where we are, what we say in emails and text messages, what we buy, who we’re with, when we’re home, what we eat, how healthy we are, what we read, what we watch, what we listen to, what we search . . . The list could go on for pages.

As marketers, we have the ability to leverage this sort of data to achieve our goals.

But, the question becomes, where do you draw the line? What data will your organization capture or buy, and how will you use it to motivate consumers to take action.

How will you achieve personalization without invasion of privacy? And intelligent automation without dehumanization?

Figuring out how to apply AI to your marketing may seem challenging now. But, the real challenge, once you realize the power it gives you, is how to apply AI responsibly.

As you think about your marketing AI strategy for the coming year, it’s critical that you start to consider the implications, good and bad, of AI on your customers and other stakeholders.

And I also encourage you to join us at the Marketing AI Conference (MAICON), July 14 – 16, 2020. The ethics of AI will be a theme we explore in-depth at the event.

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