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The Fear and Promise of AI in Marketing: Finding the Right Balance

In late 2008, I was at a marketing conference cocktail mixer where I found myself chatting about social media with a group of young marketers. We discussed social media’s trajectory, its impact on customer service, and how we think social media channels will become a main sales channel. I remember a VP of digital marketing for a Fortune 500 retail brand interrupting us to tell us that Twitter and Pinterest were fads and would maybe influence a few sales here and there, but would never replace traditional print and video media.


That was a pivotal moment for me. I remember thinking that this VP’s brand was missing a major opportunity to be part of the digital revolution that was happening right before our eyes. It was clear to me that social media was the biggest thing to happen to marketers since the deregulation of advertising in the early 80s. Social media was going to drive sales, a lot of sales.


Fast forward to today, it's clear to me that we're experiencing another massive cultural shift in marketing. Since the rise of social media, nothing has been as impactful as the modern day advent of no-code, easily accessible, affordable artificial intelligence (AI) platforms. Just like that, these no-code AI platforms are allowing marketers to automate tasks that were once time consuming and labor intensive. This shift has not only made marketing more efficient, but it has also made it more accessible to smaller businesses and individuals who may not have had the resources to invest in traditional marketing methods. Just as social media transformed the marketing industry over a decade ago, no-code AI platforms are poised to do the same in the years to come.


Now, of course, there is a lot of fear and uncertainty around AI. And I believe it is somewhat warranted. AI development is moving very quickly. Like so many of my fellow marketers, I feel as much a party to the collective enthusiasm as I feel stricken with the instinctive urge to avoid being left behind. I find I’m quickly overwhelmed with the new platforms and with deciphering when I should use and shouldn’t AI and what for. I also contemplate the ethics around AI (both in using it for myself and just in general). And, of course, I experience the dreaded fear – will AI replace my job?


While, sure, AI could replace some jobs, the reality is much more nuanced. Yes, AI can replace some of our daily tasks. But, when it does, it frees up our brains to do harder things that AI can't. This ultimately allows more time for us to focus on innovative work. It’s possible we may be better assets to our teams, clients, and even selves. That alone makes AI proficiency worth a shot.


So, how are we utilizing AI at Wheels Up? Here are three real examples of how we’re using AI to be more effective and efficient.


Researching Podcasts, Media Outlets, and Influencers

We use research and PR software to help vet media publications – and always will – but manually finding a research starting point to ensure we collect the best matches for our clients can be tedious and time consuming. This is where we use ChatGPT to help create a base list for research. ChatGPT can quickly scan and analyze large amounts of data, such as social media posts, blog articles, and podcast transcripts, to provide insights and recommendations from just a few keywords. We then take this list of highly targeted publications, and use it as a starting point for vetting (literally saving ourselves and our clients hours).


Analyzing Survey Results, and Customer Feedback

Surveys are a great way to capture the voice of the customer, to identify pain points, to learn customer preferences, and inform marketing strategies and messaging. We’ve found the most useful surveys allow for free-form answers, written in the customer voice. However, this means that we get hundreds of different answers for the same question - resulting in a heap of unstructured answers (i.e. data) that’s difficult to use. Using AI platforms – specifically those with natural language processing capabilities – we can quickly scan through transcripts and identify common themes, sentiment, and key phrases that are mentioned frequently. Also, AI can automatically escalate issues to customer service, product teams, and more if specific keywords are found in the survey response data. Because of AI, we can provide preliminary survey results in a matter of days rather than weeks (or sometimes months), and clients can act on the data quickly, providing a better experience to their customers.


Predictive Analytics

I am most excited about the possibilities of utilizing AI to forecast market trends and customer behavior. When we feed historical sales data, website traffic metrics, and social media engagement metrics into them, AI models (even ChatGPT) can generate predictions about future trends and patterns. This allows our data analysts to move at a much faster pace, providing recommendations sometimes weeks sooner. With that information, marketing teams can make accurate data-driven decisions about product development, marketing campaigns, customer engagement strategies and more – very quickly. Ultimately, it saves time and money by pivoting to better performing outcomes.


As we look to the future of marketing, it's clear that AI (and especially no-code AI platforms) will continue to play a major role in shaping the industry. By automating tedious tasks and providing insights and predictions that would be impossible to gather manually, AI frees up our time and brainpower to focus on more innovative and creative work. Hopefully these efficiencies lead to better ROI for campaigns and better work-life balance for team members.

Oh, and that Fortune 500 retail company? Leadership there did eventually invest in social media advertising and (according to a public case study) spent $65 million in 2019 on Instagram ads alone.

If you’re wondering how your company can benefit from customer surveys, predictive analytics, or really anything marketing, let us know. We’d be happy to help.


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