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Weekly INsight: Programmatic Marketing

Much is being written about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Some say 2018 may be a watershed year as most data and automation will make the marketer’s job easier. More processes will become programmatic as greater amounts of data are infused into the marketing decision-making ecosystem. In a Content Marketing article, futurist Gerd Leonhard quoted Andrew Ng, former CTO of Baidu, who said, “AI is the new electricity.” When we have a lot of data, we also need lots of intelligence, so we can actually do something with the data. A lot of marketing and advertising is already making very heavy use of data mining and AI.

INsight #1 asks how much data do we really need, how much intelligence do we really need, and what kind of intelligence will move the marketing process along? These are pretty tough questions in an age where we can’t seem to get enough data and after we get it, we really don’t know what to do with it. The easy answer is to allow programmatic marketing to take over.

Leonhard projects that the exponential growth in digital technology and the resulting change in consumer behavior will collectively disrupt the traditional marketing model of “surveillance, intrusion and interruption” and that the art of making noise needs to be upgraded to the “art of making meaning, sense and purpose.” As marketing teams gallop to amass more data, they force the issue of requiring more programmatic data systems to not only process the data but apply algorithms to these systems. This is when we have to step back and say, “More is only better when taken in small doses.”

INsight #2 is a confession. I don’t believe anything programmatic is working in the world of marketing, now or in the foreseeable future. Programmatic marketing is the process of combining masses of data from multiple sources through human-developed algorithms to conclude what a customer or cohorts of customers will do next. Programmatic AI may work well in supply chain management or in manufacturing systems. Marketing is different. The one thing that can never be programmed or predicted is emotion, and all consumer buying, business buying and even government buying involves the one algorithm that cannot be duplicated or imagined – and that’s human emotion.

Because an algorithm cannot project human emotions, it cannot tell stories. I’ve said it before, “All marketers are storytellers, and we all have a story to tell.” It’s the human side of marketing that can’t anticipate what people/customers are looking for, and what they won’t want. It’s the storytellers, not programmatic algorithms, who will write the message, and story of the brand. Keep in mind that with humans, it always comes down to the story and to the experience. We buy a story, we buy a feeling, an experience; we buy meaning and purpose. We don’t just buy stuff based on facts such as “this car goes faster than this car.” Leonhard suggests the success of a brand such as a Tesla shows that consumers buy a message and a purpose. Tesla is currently selling more cars in its top class than Mercedes-Benz and BMW together. The reason is not because it has necessarily built a better car. Tesla’s got a better story – and it transforms the owner. It comes down to the storytelling, the ingenuity and tapping into the human emotions.

INsight #3 suggests that even in the age of speed, mass largeness and the Age of NOW! marketing does not need to gather and process more data from more sources and try to make sense of it. What needs to happen is that marketing needs to condense the masses of data and distill it down like a fine whiskey. I used to say we need more data scientists. I was wrong. We need more data “translators” who can collapse the data into meaningful and actionable knowledge that will help marketing tell its story.

After all, we’re really good at storytelling when we have the right data to point the way to influence human emotions that inspire the next sale. Let’s not let the data and programmatic algorithms get in the way of doing our jobs.

Bart Foreman – Executive Strategist @ Infinity Direct
Turning old ideas into new thought leadership

Don’t forget to register for our second of three webinars this Thursday. ME FIRST MARKETING promises to be the one webinar you won’t want to miss. Invite your friends. If you liked this INsight, you’ll love this webinar.

Bart Foreman • April 29, 2018


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