CMSWire Editor-in-Chief Dom Nicastro meets CMSWire Contributor Kathleen Schaub on the human side of AI in marketing.
In Stephen King’s cheesy (awesome?) 1980s horror film “Maximum Overdrive,” an asteroid passes Earth and the machinery around a desolate North Carolina truck stop comes to life. Electric knives make ghostly attacks, soda vending machines fire deadly drinks at Little League baseball players, and demon trucks stage against humans with intense – if sometimes hilarious – ferocity.
While King has one of the most vivid imaginations of “wrong ways to go” of any American writer, in “Maximum Overdrive” he tapped into the intrinsic fear many people seem to have that machines become intelligent and dangerous for humanity.
However, according to Kathleen Schaub, our CMSWire Q&A guest, the general idea that intelligent machines pose a threat is a highly unlikely scenario. As a marketing expert, she points out that AI is extremely literal and needs the human touch to be used effectively. Here, she explains how marketing won’t deliver on the promise of AI unless the human side of the equation receives the same attention as the technical side.
Schaub, a marketing and organizations management strategist and former head of IDC CMO Advisory, considers this and more in her recent article If You Want to Succeed with Artificial Intelligence in Marketing, Invest in People.
We caught up with her for a CMSWire Q&A.
Editor’s Note: This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Nicastro House: Hello, this is Dom Nicastro, editor of CMSWire. And we’re with our latest CMSWire contributor, Kathleen Schaub. She’s a writer and strategist and a marketer at heart. Kathleen, new contributor. Welcome.
Kathleen Schaub: Well, thank you, Dom. I am excited and eager to engage with your audience.
Nickastro: Yes, we are so glad to have you, thank you. Our contributors are, you know, the heartbeat, really of CMSWire, people who are in the trenches and the marketers, the experience, and then just tell us what they think. So that’s great. To that end, however, being new to you, I’d like to know a bit more about yourself, and you know, how did you come to be in your current professional role?
The future of marketing in an ever-changing world
Schub: Well, you mentioned that I was a marketer at heart. And I was a marketer at heart as well as a marketer in fact. So I was a marketing director for a big tech company. And I’ve worked in marketing for more years than I can count. And more recently, though, I was the, I ran the IDCs, the CMO consulting service, and IDC works with a lot of technology companies. And so I only had hundreds of mid-level marketers at CMOS, and including other members of the leadership team that I worked with on a regular basis.
We provided research and, you know, all kinds of best practice studies, working with them to try to do everything they could to transition them to modern marketing management. So there are ideas that have fascinated me and that have interested me since I became CMO. And I wanted to spend some time to really go a little further. So right now, I’m doing a lot of writing. I have a blog, of course, now I work with you. And I look forward to exploring some of these ideas that I find fascinating and really exciting for the future of marketing.
Nickastro: Yes, and speaking of the present of marketing, a lot of things happening right now have to do with uncertainty. As we don’t know, we don’t know in which direction the world will turn. You know, day to day, we have pandemics, we have wars, we have societal stuff going on. I mean, there’s a lot at stake right now in the world. It is therefore a priority for you. And obviously a priority for many marketers.
Schub: Yes, and I think anyone who’s been in marketing for any length of time knows that while the last few years have been particularly difficult in terms of change, the idea of an ever-changing world is what marketing lives through every day. And actually, that’s sort of the heartbeat of what I researched and wrote, that was the ever-changing, complex nature of marketing, and are there better ways, and there There are some, from managing marketing to working in marketing, it works better in a very changing environment.
So what I think we’re going to talk about today, because the article that I wrote is one of those tools, which is artificial intelligence. But it’s not the only tool, things like agile, for example, fantastic tools for managing in an ever-changing environment. So that’s the reality of marketing. And there’s been so many things that have emerged over the last 10 or 20 years that we have a big push for change ahead of us, but also some really, really wonderful opportunities.
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The human side of AI marketing
Nickastro: And you mentioned AI, that’s the subject of your first article on CMSWire today, and, you know, that’s something that sounds like great promise for a marketer, like “Are you kidding me, I can automate, I can predict, I can anticipate experiences for my potential”, you know, “prospects and customers”. But at the same time, your assertion in the article is that it’s probably half. The other half is that there is also a human side. I would like to know more about this.
Schub: Yeah. So when we think about the human side of marketing, I think people go to, you know, our hearts, you know, we want to think about humans. We don’t want to get too technical. Our customers are humans, we are humans, or our colleagues are humans. But what I talk about in the article is a bit more specific than that, when it comes to the application of artificial intelligence to marketing.
And what will this mean for the world of work, marketing? Because, on the one hand, a lot of — I don’t think that’s necessarily true for people who work with AI every day — but a lot of society thinks of AI as if it’s going to become a human. And that’s probably not true. I mean, it gets very powerful. But one of the things that we do know is that it’s also very, very, very literal, in addition to its power, it’s very literal.
So, for example, and in one of the books I researched, there was an example of AI being trained to try to get people to the airport as quickly as possible. So, like a kind of autopilot. Yeah. And they had, you know, the AI had absolutely no problem running over a lot of pedestrians, because nobody said that’s not a good thing to do. So being able to jump between contexts is really nigh on impossible for the AI.
Nickastro: AI is like a child in that sense, isn’t it? You can tell him what to do, he will make mistakes and say it or sometimes the kids won’t understand no matter how many times you tell them.
Schub: Children are, I think, no, I don’t think that’s a great analogy. It’s a good analogy, because it’s, you know, the training aspect. But I think kids are a lot smarter on a human level than we probably realize. And that’s part of who we are, what I talk about in my article, what are the three things that besides knowing that our hearts, you know, got warmed with all the people in our lives and aren’t like machines, what are the really specific things that need to be done.
And one of them is to focus on what these uniquely human things that we do are – great at creativity, great at problem solving, great at interpersonal skills – those are the future of employment. And we have to train ourselves and our teams and everything, you know, making sure they’re as strong as possible, because some of the more repetitive stuff is going to go away.
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Some of the caveats of AI marketing
Nickastro: Yeah. And, you know, wrap it up here soon. But looking at some of the caveats you talked about, many of you know, there are caveats to this, that marketers should be aware of, before diving into AI integration in their processes. Give me an example of what a caveat would be for a marketer who needs to know before diving in?
Schub: Well let me go back to those details, you know they are very, very, very literal, which means you have to learn how to ask the right questions. And you have to learn to appreciate what AI can and can’t do. And you need to be able to train it with the right data type and amount of data. For example, in complex situations, things that are long, you know, happened a long time ago, actually have a good impact today, if your dataset only lasts the last two months, you don’t don’t go catch them. So you really have to think about how AI works. And make sure you act in a way that gets the most out of it.
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Making AI Marketing Adoption Smoother
Nickastro: Yeah, that makes sense. And finally, like any sort of future trends from you, that you’re looking at – future article topics, I should say you’re following, and maybe we can look forward to later. Won’t keep you there. But what are you worrying about right now for some upcoming articles?
Schub: Well, as I mentioned, my passion is to learn as much as possible about the great ways – whether it’s methods, technologies, culture, organizational structures – that work very well in a totally changing and unpredictable environment, and to translate them into marketing-speak so that people can adopt them more easily. So that’s what you’ll see from me. Both the technological part but also the human part.
Nickastro: Oh, we’re looking forward to that, but a great opening, an opening day that suits what’s going on in Major League Baseball right now. So good opening day for Kathleen Schaub here, marketing and AI. It’s definitely a topic in the CMSWire wheelhouse, so we appreciate it and look forward to the next pairings.
Schub: Well, with pleasure and I look forward to working with you.
Nickastro: Alright, let’s talk soon. Thanks, Kathleen.
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