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Is Cognitive Technology the End of Marketing As We Know It?

Cognitive Marketing

“Will artificial intelligence replace marketers in the near future?”

Loren McDonald IMB Watson MarketingThis is the compelling question posted by Loren McDonald of IBM Watson Marketing during his presentation at the recent Digital Summit conference in Los Angeles. While many marketers might consider this a provocative presentation opener, there are some blunt realities marketers need to consider if they want to remain in the field and be competitive.

Consider these stats:

  • ‘Intelligent agents’ or AI will destroy 6% of all jobs in the US by 2021. Forrester Research
  • AI could threaten up to 47% of jobs in two decades. Eric Berger, ars Technica

So what does artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning mean, anyway?

Artificial Intelligence is about the development of computers systems that are able to perform tasks that would normally require human intelligences such as visual identification speech recognition, decision-making and translating between languages. AI performs a role in many of the stems that you use everyday from using Siri on your phone, a chatbot on an ecommerce site like Staples or 1-800-Flowers or every time you use Google.

Machine learning is a subset of AI that allows computers to learn much the same way that people do, only faster and without being explicitly programmed for every task that they can complete.

“In economics, things take longer to happen than you think they will, and then they happen faster than you thought they could.” Rudi Dornbusch, German Economist

With the oncoming ubiquity of AI in our everyday lives, you have to wonder where that trend will intersect with marketing. Loren considered whether marketers will be out of jobs in 10-15 years like Uber & Lyft drivers are expected to be. It’s a reasonable question to consider.

I was able to see a demo of IBM Watson’s Cognitive Technology for marketing at the World of Watson conference and the possibilities were impressive. Outside of considering all the ways AI and machine learning could help with extracting insight from large amounts of data and with ongoing campaign optimization, my big takeaway from the demo was that as with all industries that change, those that adapt will survive and thrive. Those that don’t, won’t.

Things like PPC, social ads and any other kind of online advertising would be ripe for AI. Another immediate and practical example of how AI and machine learning could help marketers is email subject line writing and testing.  Loren suggested that you could use a tool like Phrasee, which can learn from your customer response metrics and then use machine learning to quantify and optimize language for you to use that will best engage your audience.

Thank about all the structured, repetitive and rules based tasks you might do on a regular basis as part of your job as a marketer. They are all open to being completed by an AI service. Not only could they be completed by a computer, but they could be done faster and with fewer errors. That could free marketers up to spend time on managing even more programs without additional staff.

Now, if you’re wondering what roles and tasks are at risk, Loren shared this list:

  • Easily repeatable
  • Data-centric
  • Tasks that improve with learning
  • Rules drive tasks
  • Reporting
  • Customer and segment analysis
  • Campaign automation
  • Media buying
  • Campaign testing

It can certainly cause some tension to think that your job might be replaced by a computer, but Loren suggested that the solution to this impending automation of what many marketers do, is to adopt a “center brain” marketing approach.

Loren says that center-brain marketing melds right brain creativity with left brain analytical thinking with technology to fuel success in a future driven by machine learning.

Traditionally, marketing has been viewed very much as “right brain” and creative. But left brain analytical marketing has been growing fast and most marketing organizations already include a mix of both.

I know within our own agency at TopRank Marketing, we’ve been using analytics and various data types to optimize marketing programs for years. After attending IBMs WoW conference, I’ve been salivating over what one could do with bluemix access to Watson smarts for content recommendations, influencer analysis and finding many interesting correlations to help us provide better recommendations to clients. More on that in the future.

As Loren mentioned in his presentation, the shift towards cognitive will be accelerated as marketing becomes more dominated by left-brain people using machine learning and artificial intelligence for marketing decisions, targeting, creative and conversion optimization. Technologies like IBM’s Watson cognitive marketing tools will help marketers deliver more relevant content and offers at the right time than humans alone ever could.

Ultimately, Loren decided the answer to the question about whether cognitive technology will be the end of marketers and marketing as we know it should be answered in terms of what’s happening with driverless cars and the notion of level 2-4 autonomy.

Level 0 – Human only
Level 1 – Cruise control
Level 2 – Tesla Autopilot
Level 3 – The car makes decisions
Level 4 – Human as back-up
Level 5 – No human involved

You can see that there will be degrees of AI implementation, but it’s not an all or none situation. There will still be human powered marketing assisted with technology along with partially and fully automated marketing programs based on goals.

As pressures to scale competitive marketing programs increases alongside growing competition, it is inevitable that cognitive will become a normal part of marketing. The question is, what are your plans as an organization and as an individual to acquire the knowledge, skills and perspective to stay ahead of the game?

Do you think artificial intelligence and cognitive technology will replace part or all of your job? What are you doing to adapt?

You can connect with Loren McDonald on Twitter: @LorenMcDonald and LinkedIn.

This is the second of two posts from the Digital Summit Los Angeles conference that I’m posting this week. Be sure to take a look at the first one featuring Serena Ehrlich from Business Wire where I summarized her advice on search and social media promotion of news release content.

Loren MdDonald, Serena Ehrlich, Lee Odden

Loren McDonald, Serena Ehrlich, Lee Odden


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The post Is Cognitive Technology the End of Marketing As We Know It? appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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About Daniel Rodgers

A lot of news that you will not see in the paper. A lot of technology that is coming out that will not see in the paper.

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What Content Marketers Can Learn From an Adept Dungeon Master

Content Marketing Lessons from Dungeons & Dragons

Content Marketing Lessons from Dungeons & Dragons

It’s probably not news to you that 91% of B2B brands use content marketing to attract, engage, nurture, and convert their audience. However, it might be surprising to learn that only 9% of those brands rate their content marketing as “sophisticated.” Sophisticated meaning that their content marketing is successful, scales across the organization, and provides accurate measurement to the business. This puts a lot of pressure on content marketers to elevate their game and provide more worthwhile and valuable content experiences.

Patrick PinedaAs an adept Dungeon Master (DM) of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) games, TopRank Marketing’s Motion Graphic Designer, Patrick Pineda, can relate.

It might sound a little odd at first, but Dungeon Masters and content marketers are more alike than you think. Responsible for creating meaningful and memorable experiences through content that takes people on a journey, you can see the similarities arise. Just like content marketers need to help guide people through the buyer journey, the Dungeon Master needs to guide players through a journey of their own.

After serving his friends as the go-to Dungeon Master, Patrick has learned a thing or two from creating lengthy campaigns—some successful, some not—that are both engaging and challenging. Discover Patrick’s lessons from the dungeon and how you can apply them to your content marketing campaigns and programs down below.

What Is a Dungeon Master?

For the unfamiliar, a Dungeon Master is the organizer for the wildly popular, 40-year-old tabletop role-playing game, “Dungeons & Dragons.” Not only do DMs organize the game, but they are also responsible for the game rules, details, and challenges. According to Patrick, the player experience hinges on a DM’s ability to create meaningful content that’s fun to explore.

One thing Dungeon Masters are not responsible for, however, are the players’ actions.

Like the self-directed buyers of today, D&D players are able to choose their own paths. As a result, DMs are challenged to make sure players finish the game. And just like your audience won’t read every piece of content you put in front of them, the same happens in a D&D game. Certain story elements DMs put together will never see the light of day because every player has a different play style, completes tasks in different orders, and takes different actions.

“The best Dungeon Master doesn’t just create a good story, but they also help players reach their goals,” Patrick claims.

Does any of this sound familiar? It certainly resonated for me.

5 Content Marketing Lessons From the Dungeon

Having created D&D campaigns that ruled and bombed, here are Patricks top five tips for developing content that resonate with your audience.

#1 - Your audience values originality.

If Patrick creates a campaign that plays to common tropes like a damsel in distress or small town disappearances, the story becomes predictable. But worse than that, the players feel condescended to as the game starts to feel dumbed down.

“Cliches and stereotypes will make players groan. It’s important when creating a campaign that I shake it up and play against common conventions,” Patrick says.

When examining your content and the story you’re trying to tell, it’s just as important to stay original and play with your audience’s expectations. For example, listicles with social media tips are a dime a dozen. Your audience might be more interested if you flip the idea on its head with social media mistakes. In changing it up, you’re giving your audience something new that they haven’t read before, capturing their interest.

[bctt tweet="When examining your content & the story you’re trying to tell, it’s just as important to stay original & play with your audience’s expectations. - @aleuman4 #ContentMarketing" username="toprank"]

#2 - Appeal to curiosity.

When it comes to creating an adventure for players to navigate, the DM has a seemingly impossible job. They need to create a unique and compelling world that is able to hold players’ attention—something not easily done. In fact, campaigns have taken Patrick days to put together. But that doesn’t come without its drawbacks.

“I’ve spent hours upon hours creating content for a campaign. But 80% of what I create may never see any playtime. It’s ultimately the players’ choice as to what tasks they want to complete and what quests they want to go on,” Patrick points out.

While the D&D world needs to have a unique and compelling narrative, it also needs to appeal to a player’s curiosity to ensure they keep playing the game and play the parts of the game that you want them to.

How does this apply to content marketing? Well, as you know, just because you’re producing content, doesn’t mean that your audience will find it. To find the answers they’re looking for, they might scour the internet, social media, and trusted experts for more information. Having an integrated content strategy that has multiple touch points throughout the buyer journey and an omni-channel approach, helps ensure you’re reaching your target audience whenever and wherever they may be searching.

Weaving SEO, social media, and influencer marketing into your content marketing strategy helps improve the reach and engagement of the content you’re producing. Through SEO, your organic rankings and click-through-rates will start to rise, improving your organic traffic. Social media messages that are well written and value-based help attract larger audiences from their social feeds. And, finally, tapping into industry influencers exposes your content to a wider network of like-minded individuals, as well as adding authority and credibility.

#3 - Avoid corraling your audience.

Nobody likes to be told what to do, including D&D players. While the DM writes the game and serves as a referee, they cannot influence a player’s actions. And if a DM attempts to, they could quickly lose a player’s interest.

“As a DM, it can be tempting to intervene and make sure that your players are playing the game the way you intended. But this is the one thing you cannot do.” Patrick emphasizes.

This is true in content marketing, too, as making calls to action (CTAs) with zero context can be a turn-off for your audience. If you insert a CTA before your audience can learn what’s in it for them, whether it’s downloading an eBook, listening to a podcast, or subscribing to your blog, they’re less likely to do it. In fact, QuickSprout found that placing a CTA above the fold on a page decreased their conversion rate by 17% and attributed it to their audience not fully understanding why they should complete the action.

Instead, make sure that your CTAs have plenty of context and explain what the audience will gain by filling out your form, reading another blog post, etc. This helps ensure that your content satisfies your audience’s quest for knowledge.

#4 - Customize content for your audience, not the other way around.

As we mentioned previously, the players are in charge of their actions and how they choose to play the game, making it impossible for DMs to have control over the game experience. This makes it important for DMs to know their audience ahead of time, so they can include important sought-after details into different game components.

“I’ll ask players before we start what they hope to get out of the game, whether it’s take down an enemy or just to have fun. Knowing this ahead of time, I can tailor the game to what each player wants to have happen,” Patrick says.

For content marketers, this lesson should hit close to home. You need to know your audience well in advance in order to deliver personalized content. If you create content and worry about your audience later, chances are you aren’t engaging the right people.

After taking a look at your own audience’s characteristics and interests in Google Analytics, create unique personas for each of your audience members. This allows you to create content that is tailored for each person you hope to attract and engage. For example, if one of your target personas is a Director of Business Development, creating custom content that addresses a unique pain points like identifying new business opportunities or tips from the experts on how to strengthen their existing client relationships.

[bctt tweet="If you create content and worry about your audience later, chances are you aren’t engaging the right people. - @aleuman4 #ContentMarketing" username="toprank"]

#5 - Chart your course.

There is a lot going on in a D&D game. And for the DM, that number is amplified as you have to remember every detail about your players, what’s been completed, and what could come next.

“To make sure I’m on top of the game and can portray characters well, I chart the game’s relationships instead of story elements. If I focus on the story, it could quickly become useless as players might do things out of order or in a non-linear fashion. By focusing on the relationships and where they fit in the narrative, the game becomes more fluid and flexible for the players and I can keep track of their journey,” Patrick says.

Tracking the journey isn’t the only thing Patrick notes, however. He also documents player strengths, weaknesses, and stats as the game progresses.

“I keep a character sheet that details each player’s play style. For example, if a player is investing their skill points in intelligence, I can tailor future encounters in the game to focus on problem-solving instead of combat. The opposite is true for a player who invests in raw strength,” Patrick notes.

Through detailed charts, maps, and grids, Patrick is able to make sure that his players have a personalized, seamless experience for every campaign they play, regardless of how they play it.

Customer Journey & Dungeons and Dragons Journey

By taking the same approach with your content marketing, you can identify opportunities for customization and develop a strategy for weaving your content into the buyer’s journey. For example, by knowing which pieces of content attract a larger audience or drive more conversions, you can use that information to inform your content development and map your content to different stages of the funnel (see below).

Grid Assigning Content to Buyer Stages

To collect this data on your content and audience, review your Google Analytics behavior and conversion dashboards to find our which pieces of content excel at attracting, engaging, or converting your audience. Metrics like page views and entrances are good indicators for attraction, whereas time on page or number of pages per session can help you understand engagement. And, finally, the number of conversions through conversion tracking is the best way to find your top converting content. Armed with this knowledge you can create content plans that are tailored for your audience’s unique buyer journey.

Your Audience Is the Hero

A good Dungeon Master enables players to become the hero of the story through a personalized game with a compelling, original narrative. As a content marketer, it’s your responsibility to create content that transforms your audience into heroes as well, helping them solve seemingly impossible problems with your expert, best-answer advice.

Through an integrated content strategy with originality, personalization, and “best answer” content that’s mapped to the buyer journey, you can become the perfect Content Master for your audience.

For more ideas on how to become a masterful content marketer, check out these 25 content marketing tips, including how to tackle writer’s block, repurpose content, utilize storytelling, and more.

The post What Content Marketers Can Learn From an Adept Dungeon Master appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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