There seem to be some misconceptions among marketers in terms of how the "rise of machines" will impact our role, and ultimately, our jobs. There's no denying that it can be intimidating to have someone – or something – come in and do your job potentially faster, smarter, and easier than you. But when marketers actually embrace the power of machines to scale to the masses what they do best, a complete transformation takes place.
Before I married my wife, I thought I was a pretty good cook. Not a chef worthy of any awards but I could get the job done. Gather a few ingredients, toss them in the saucepan, and voila – I had an edible meal. My wife put up with my lack luster attempts for a few years, but then one day she declared that while I’m good at getting the job done, she’s clearly superior when it comes to the creative art of cooking. Yes, her food had always been amazing but in my opinion it required way too much effort! So in an attempt to appease my loving wife, I grudgingly accepted my role as the sous-chef – shopping, chopping and steaming – all to bring her creative genius to life for the benefit of our family and friends.
This balance of partnership is very similar to that of marketers and their machine counterparts. The intent with the machine is not to replace the marketer; the intent with the machine is to help the marketer bring their creative assets to bear – quickly and at a scale that’s capable of transformational impact.
Take mobile operators for example. At any given time, a mobile operator runs hundreds of campaign strategies with thousands of different treatment combinations to market hundreds of products and services to millions of customers. Add to this the desire to communicate with customers in a way that is personalized and in-context, and the process clearly becomes unwieldy for any human to manage. So, the marketer chooses one of three approaches: (1) sizably scale back the complexity and variation of marketing efforts, thus eliminating the element of personalization, (2) launch all efforts in conjunction where customers are encompassed in various strategies, thus eliminating the ability to understand isolated impacts, or (3) employ new technologies to automate the discovery of insights as well as the execution and optimization of communications and offers.
To be honest, most marketing teams within operators try #1 or #2 before they begin to accept that a machine is not an option but a requirement to improve performance. The goal of automated marketing technologies is to enable complex marketing treatments to be created (knowing which attributes best align with desired behaviors), tested (knowing which combinations of attributes plus treatments plus contexts are working, not working, and why), and scaled (knowing when something has proven statistically significant in order to then exploit it).
Similar to my wife’s role as the head chef, the marketer still guides the efforts based on his or her pre-defined assumptions and intuition, but the automated discovery and testing quickly proves if those assumptions are accurate or need to be cast aside. The machine also has the capability in parallel to search for insights that may be outside of the marketer’s existing realm of thinking. For example, while a marketer may be trying to solve the problem of churn by looking at those users with decreased usage over a specified period of time, the machine may recognize a pattern among churning customers that’s based on their social networks. This parallel path of exploiting proven strategies while exploring those with potential highlights one of the unique benefits derived from the marketer and machine partnership.
The other key role of the machine is its ability to scale far beyond what is humanly possible. Identifying the gems, those marketing treatments having a positive impact, from the rocks, those having negative impact, is one thing but if you’re not capable of taking the appropriate action at the appropriate time, your results remain static. This is particularly true in the world of mobile as what is a perfect fit right now (customer + context + offer), can quickly change based on location, social interactions, usage, sentiment, or all of the above. By employing automated technologies to monitor, act, and then learn based on the responses to those actions, marketers move from a time-based, broad brushed marketing approach to one that is contextual and personalized.
This increase in efficiency and precision enables marketers to re-focus their time on what they do best – applying creative thinking to the marketing process. It’s no longer a daily balancing act of coming up with campaign ideas, identifying the right data, analyzing current experiments AND calculating results. It’s about the marketer assuming the role of thought leader within the organization – someone who is continuously looking for new recipes to deliver unprecedented results – and having the right tools (or a sous-chef) to bring that smorgasbord of strategies to bear.
Oh, and to save my man card, I will say that I can grill a mean steak.