This week, BBC Radio is tackling a difficult subject: “Will a robot take your job?”
With the BBC Radio show in mind, direct mail guru and Marketing Manager of WDM mailing house, Jason Sullock, is looking at the question.
At this year’s Festival of Marketing in London’s Tobacco Dock, I encountered the same question. The latest buzz words were ‘machine learning” and “Artificial Intelligence,” so it seems an apt time to consider these thoughts. Will a robot take my – and by extension ‘your’ – marketing or creative job?
For me, the danger of automated marketing taking on a marketer or creative’s job, anywhere other than in a large Corporate, is, in my view, negligible. The real danger lies in uncontrolled access to the market by Enterprise level businesses, with the resources to install Artificial Intelligence. They could then use these for competitive advantage, muscling out smaller companies.
Fully integrated marketing and automated marketing, i.e., something that could be termed robotic marketing, has always been the Holy Grail of the Marketing Industry within e-commerce and Enterprise level businesses.
Integrated marketing and automated marketing is where all marketing strategies come together to create one smooth-flowing system, all measured and analysed from a Single Customer View by the best and brightest techno-marketers. Effectively held together by an integrated marketing strategy.
Ten years ago, I’d have laughed off integrated marketing as a pipe-dream. Yet, two years ago, I would have said it was only a matter of time before prices fell to such an extent, that technology would shortly be within reach of every marketer.
Today, my thoughts have changed again. I’m now absolutely certain that, even if the automated technology and machine learning, does become widely available, it won’t be fully utilised outside of corporates and the top end of the Mid-market.
This poses two questions to consider.
Put simply; it’s the practicalities. Smaller business and even some mid-market companies simply lack the resources.
The sheer scale of the investment for an integrated marketing strategy will make the project daunting in the extreme.
Just some of the elements needed to install automated marketing include:
You must also consider the employees when looking at why integrated marketing might not be adopted. To implement an integrated marketing strategy, the senior managers will have to be the driving force. The average working life in the UK is estimated to be 47 years. However, if they are already considered experts in the field and have, say, 15-25 years of working life left; they might not want or understand the need to change so drastically because they will need to re-learn their trade.
The same goes for staff. In simple terms, it’s difficult to imagine a workforce who would happily help put a robot in place for their jobs and, quite possibly, make them redundant. In turn, this could even cause legal queries and bad press for the business.
Larger businesses – those that have the resources and drive to implement a machine learning project – will begin to widen the gap between those that have Artificial Intelligence driven marketing and creatives, and those that haven’t.
It’s plausible to believe that international companies will dominate segments of trade by out-competing smaller, less nimble and less resourced alternatives. In fact, it’s already happening. The likes of Google, Tesco, Facebook and Amazon are all driven by data, using industry-leading technology to understand your needs, wants and buying habits. They can show you what you need, at the right time and in the right place, before their smaller, less well-funded competitors.
The big danger is not about marketers or creatives being put out of work by a robot introduced by their boss, but about marketers or creatives being put out of work by a small group of elite Enterprises rapidly wiping out all competition full stop.
Larger companies are already beginning to put smaller companies out of business. You only have to look at the High Street to witness the number of shops now closed. And that’s before ‘robotics’ even starts to kick in.
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