Search for ‘AI and customer acquisition’ on Google and you will get over 30 Million results. Clearly, there is much hype surrounding AI, machine learning and other emerging technologies as they relate to improving customer acquisition efforts – and rightfully so. By leveraging real-time data analytics through machine learning, companies are able to become much more efficient in identifying, engaging and converting potential buyers. And given the immense pressure to prove marketing ROI on a daily basis it’s understandable many marketers are increasingly declaring they, too, are “all in” on AI. But the very advantages this technology brings (extreme scale, micro-targeting, hyper-personalization and autonomous campaign management) can also become a detriment to your brand if you aren’t careful.

Data scientists may tell you the best way forward is to lead with the machines. But despite the technology’s strengths, developing your customer personas or brand voice can’t be forgotten. You can’t just sit back and let the machines dictate everything about the brand message and creative too…. can you?

Human vs. Machine?

Despite the massive promise AI and machine learning will ultimately fulfill, even “Google and Microsoft [are] warn [ing] investors that bad AI could harm their brand…’ as referenced by the online publication, The Verge.

So, what’s the best course of action? As is the case with most things, the “truth” or optimal solution lies somewhere in the middle.  Here are a few recommendations:

  • A great way to think about AI and machine learning is as a valuable “helper” to traditional approaches, and not as a replacement for human teams. For instance, instead of manually making changes to your myriad of creative assets, let the AI do that work for you, so your teams can focus more on strategy.
  • Make sure you put creative guiderails in place (brand standards and approved messaging options for instance) before you go too far, too fast, in AI. In other words, take the necessary time to train AI engines to understand what your brand stands for, and resist the urge to take your hands off the wheel until you are sure the brand vision is being met.
  • Leverage AI tools such as sentiment analysis to inform your messaging, and even to automatically optimize your media mix. But take the time to share and discuss the data with creative and strategy teams to gain insights that could help generate new big ideas, or product enhancements.

Despite some of the cautionary advice, keep forging ahead with AI. Jumping in without any human direction doesn’t make sense. For instance, an AI solution won’t know about a current event, a macro-trend or even what a competitor is doing on any given day. But neither does standing on the sidelines doing nothing while AI is reshaping the entire customer acquisition industry. Solutions that bring the power of technology, with the strategic sense of humans will be the way forward.