AI’s Role in Marketing: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

By Kayla Beardsley & Emily Griesing | July 13, 2023

In 2023, we’ve become accustomed to artificial intelligence and its role in our everyday lives (for the most part). But let’s think back to 2014, nearly 10 years ago, when a revolutionary device called Alexa hit store shelves. At the time, the news of its capabilities spread like wildfire, triggering both panic and excitement among consumers: Is there anything Alexa can’t answer? Is Alexa constantly listening to our every word? Will it develop emotions and ignite the robot apocalypse?

Fast forward to today and Alexa has become a trusted household staple. No robots have taken over the world (yet), and Alexa remains as emotionally sentient as a paper clip. But Alexa was just the beginning of what was to come, as now a new wave of artificial intelligence has emerged, known as generative AI, which can produce content ranging from written articles to graphics to video.

As AI continues to evolve, it reignites debates (and concerns) about such things as a student’s ability to write (and think) on their own, how automation will disrupt the workforce, or even what happens when many job functions can be completely replaced by AI. With the ability to streamline tasks that would normally require human interaction, it is no surprise that every industry is starting to examine how to integrate AI to be more economical and efficient while also identifying those areas that AI cannot compete against the human mind. As marketers, we found ourselves captivated by these inquiries and embarked on a mission to uncover the nuances of generative AI, especially the purported impact it will have on the marketing industry.

A top player in the world of generative AI that has created a fresh wave of interest and concern is none other than ChatGPT. In case you missed the recent frenzy around whether there is anything ChatGPT can’t answer or do, ChatGPT is a type of generative AI that, when provided an instructional prompt, can generate text responses, and engage in a back-and-forth “conversation” with the user. To gain a 360-degree perspective, we conducted interviews with trusted peers, attended workshops, and explored the benefits of the ChatGPT Plus plan. The main takeaway? Generative AI is nothing without skilled people using it. Below we detail the good, the bad, and the ugly on what everyone needs to know when it comes to generative AI like ChatGPT and its role in marketing.

The Good:

Let’s kick things off with the positives. Like many new technologies, ChatGPT brings some fantastic advantages to the table. Its main selling point: quick content creation. Eli Coulton, owner of Elios Marketing, first pondered the future of SEO in this AI-driven era: “With ChatGPT, you can effortlessly whip up long-form content and infuse it with SEO keywords from top to bottom. Need multiple blogs for SEO purposes? Consider it done in a matter of minutes.” 

ChatGPT also proves to be a valuable ally when it comes to market research or other forms of preliminary research (but beware of using ChatGPT for more serious academic or legal research as evidenced by high-profile instances where lawyers were sanctioned after citing fabricated caselaw that ChatGPT provided). If you already rely on asking Alexa or Siri for quick info, ChatGPT takes it up a notch, providing detailed text responses in an easily digestible format. ChatGPT’s usefulness also extends to idea generation and brainstorming sessions. When you find yourself in a creative rut or merely lack the time, ChatGPT can become your virtual soundboard—just remember to take its suggestions with a grain of salt (hint, hint: it really can’t do it all). Additionally, ChatGPT doubles as a virtual proofreader, however, in our opinion, if you’re looking for a serious grammar and writing improvement tool, we recommend Grammarly.  

The Bad:

Surprise, surprise, ChatGPT isn’t without its drawbacks (yes, perfection still isn’t attainable even in artificial intelligence). For starters, AI-generated content can be as bland and generic as day-old cereal, cookie-cutter content that lacks that special spark. Bonita Austin, Professor at the University of Utah’s Eccles School of Business, asked ChatGPT to help come up with a good streetwear brand name but it gave her names that “were terrible… I had it generate about 15 names – all equally boring and most importantly, undifferentiated.”   

And let’s not forget about design. ChatGPT’s design sibling, DALL-E, often falls short in image creation, making humans look, well, inhuman. Laci Roth, Lead Designer at RothStokes, aptly states, “DALL-E’s end result is in the hands of the prompter. As I become better at communicating my needs to DALL-E, it becomes less of a nightmare manufacturing machine and more of a helpful tool. The future will be in the hands of prompters, which is exciting because prompting is just another way of saying ‘communicating’ and marketing and design all boil down to communicating.” In other words, AI still needs experienced and knowledgeable humans to operate effectively. 

Because AI and humans are inextricably linked it should come as no surprise that conscious and unconscious biases become infused into these programs. As Nicole Threadgill, Area Marketing Manager for PM Hotels, wisely points out: “Much like Wikipedia, it is important to understand that ChatGPT and other AI tools are not without biases. They rely on data fed to them, and they have no control over the origin or selection of that data. Ultimately, it’s up to the creators and owners, which introduces the possibility of skewed information that aligns with their preferences or desired narratives.” 

The Ugly:

We now turn to the dark side. Using generative AI can backfire. The ethics of AI is a complex topic that goes far beyond what we can cover in this piece (cue: deepfakes). However, there are important factors to consider when using generative AI like ChatGPT and DALL-E in your marketing efforts. For one, ChatGPT’s knowledge remains firmly rooted in the past—September 2021, to be precise. So, if you’re in pursuit of the latest insights and trends, ChatGPT currently does not have the most up-to-date information and in fact can provide inaccurate information (remember those lawyers we mentioned earlier?). Without diligent oversight, AI-generated content can cause major reputational damage to your brand. If you tout yourself as a subject matter expert or thought leader in a specific area and your content is not current or factual, your brand could be in serious jeopardy.  

Furthermore, there are a multitude of uncertainties surrounding intellectual property rights as it relates to AI-generated content. For example, if you publish an article or book using AI-generated content, who owns that content, or was it even yours to use in the first place? Can you protect logos and graphics for your product that were AI-generated? Since generative AI like ChatGPT sources from all over, if you’re not careful about what you use and where it comes from, there could be serious legal ramifications. In fact, content creators like comic Sarah Silverman are suing AI tech companies for copyright infringement on the basis that their open-source AI models are pulling data from copyrighted information without permission.  

And lastly, on a more philosophical level, how do AI tools like ChatGPT impact us as human beings? Will we become overly dependent on machines and computers (let’s be honest, how many of us rely on Alexa or Siri to answer most of our questions for us)? And if so, what are the costs? Tamara Gould, owner of Waking State Design, encapsulates this concern: “I believe that our reliance on AI and computer technologies facilitates emptiness. Scientific studies consistently demonstrate the importance of connecting with the tangible nature surrounding us. Engaging in hands-on activities like making food, art, or writing—simple things, like leaving a mark on a piece of paper—helps us feel grounded and centered. AI cannot replace that.” 

So, What Now?

Generative AI offers incredible possibilities in marketing, ranging from time-saving features to creative inspiration and content enhancement. However, it’s crucial to acknowledge its limitations. By embracing AI programs like ChatGPT and DALL-E as creative partners while staying true to our human ingenuity, we can navigate the ever-evolving landscape of AI-powered marketing with excitement and finesse. Just as Professor Bonita Austin suggests, “Differentiation in the future will stem from creative people, not AI.” 

Bossible takes great pride in staying at the forefront of trends and tools in the marketing industry. As avid learners who believe in passing our knowledge on to our clients, we are eager to explore the generative AI movement and how it can streamline our processes, saving us (and you) valuable time and resources where appropriate. However, we want to emphasize a crucial truth that has become evident through our conversations and extensive research: ChatGPT, and any other AI tool for that matter, cannot replicate the unique value humans bring to the table.  

When it comes to crafting a compelling marketing strategy, designing standout logos, or writing compelling stories, call in the experts. Expertise, creativity, and a deep understanding of clients’ unique needs are what allow marketers to craft narratives that resonate with audiences and set brands apart from the competition. While generative AI may offer valuable assistance at times, it cannot replicate the human touch, strategic thinking, and storytelling prowess that define our work.  

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