First published by Marketing Communication News, 2021.
By Brianna Millar.
When we read the word ‘future’, a few obvious things come to mind: robots, automation, sci-fi inspired machinery and absolutely no jobs. It’s a common fear, and it’s understandable too, especially in the world of advertising. Technology is becoming smarter and smarter; subject lines and emails can be generated in an instant, social media posts and even movie scripts (at a push) can be developed by AI already. Copywriters scream from the roof-tops and designers despair; Why oh why must the innately human quality of creativity be stolen from us by the machines!
Yet, we mustn’t fear. With big data growing evermore dominant in digital marketing, and the big wheel of progress pushing tech further than we thought it could go in our lifetimes, something is hatching for the human creatives in the world: opportunity. We don’t need to fear the impact of AI on creativity in CRM advertising, we need to harness the beast and rear it to our advantage.
Whilst my inbox fills up with artificially generated brand emails, I find myself becoming sick of them all. It’s clear a human hasn’t put their heart and soul into the words or visuals – no passion for the brand they’re representing, it’s just been banged out by some software. How can you build a brand relationship between consumer and machine? (Sorry, Turing, it’s not quite happened yet). This is actually damaging my own relationships with the brands I liked enough to subscribe to in the first place – the total opposite of the core purpose of CRM. We still need good old fashioned human creatives to inject some passion and fun into digital comms to keep the actual humans we’re talking to involved. However, we can’t disregard tech’s advantages either. The insight we can gain from AI paired with our innate creative ability could help guide us to the most effective creative we’ve ever produced in CRM.
In fact, many people think the same thing; that behavioural science will have a much bigger role in advertising and marketing. Jo Evershed, Behavioural Scientist and co-creator for the Gorilla Experiment Builder discussed with ITPro how agencies are investing in AI systems to collect “cold, hard data” to help steer their creative direction. Creativity no longer needs to be left to gut instinct or small sample focus groups (which contains a sizable portion of risk from human error and bias). These AI tools from behavioural testing can help guide the creative brief for us humans to look at. This ‘cold, hard data’ is exactly what we CRM creatives crave, as it will guide our own decision making and lead to far more successful consumer journeys. And the best part? We’ll have the data to back our ideas up when presenting to clients.
Going back to my embarrassingly full inbox, the AI generated emails reminded me of a famous Howard Luck Gossage quote, “Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad.” I think this is a truth which can be applied directly to CRM campaigns and leads right into my predictions for the future role of creativity in this corner of marketing. No one wants to read an automatically generated bulletin knowing their being advertised at. People respond to things that involve them, even if they’re still being advertised at below the line. So, we need to become more innovative, more creative with CRM campaigns as fresh opportunities are opened by new technology. Plus, with this useful data provided by AI behavioural testing, we can be confident in the creative ideas we choose to pitch. However, with all these useful AI tools and possibilities available to agencies and brands, the importance to stand out against competitors is growing even more.
So, how can brands stand out in new, innovative ways using both AI tools and conceptual creative roles? The list is endless, and really, it’s down to your human imagination. Developers are magicians and no matter how big your idea is, someone is going to do it someday. So why not work with your team to try and be the first?
We could use interactive emails which engage our subscribers, rather than barking at them. This will grab their interest and draw them in, which is the essential first step we need to take in any consumer journey – especially in email and other digital comms. In many small ways, this is already being done, with built-in games and quizzes, interactive images and touchpoints etc. Rather than just getting updates, subscribers will want to be entertained by the brand emails they receive, and a machine can’t come up with a concept like that yet, but it can help collect the data and make it all possible.
Plus, think about all the emerging technology outside of email which we can collect data from and still drive journeys and sales. Ever thought about voice recognition? Forbes reports this emerging tech will “arm marketing teams with tons of opportunities to get creative with customer engagement” and will allow CRM teams to interact with their customers in more conversational ways. The campaigns we could bring to life using voice recognition is endless: partnering with Alexa for fun ways to order certain products, brand-themed games you can play with Siri, creating brand inspired Spotify playlists that you can access through a secret password used through voice-activated bots. All viral gimmicks, all trackable, all using tech and creatives, all important for CRM agencies.
Augmented Reality is another growing area where CRM campaigns can thrive, and the ideas behind those come from good old-fashioned human creativity. Selfie filters on social media could be linked with data collection, games which link to your camera app that place visuals in the world around you. All of these can boost brand awareness and bring in useful data whilst using human ideas, including opens, captures, shares, click-through sales and saves as well as the number of impressions the filter is making. When used within CRM, Commerce reports investing in AR can “[enhance] engagement with customers, revamping the customer experience, and equipping your team with more efficient tools.”
The future of human creativity behind CRM is a fruitful one if you allow your mind to break free of the restrictions we’re facing today. It’s not all email, it’s not all subject lines and CTAs. It’s not all going to be generated automatically by bots. It’s limitless. With it, our roles as human creatives is adapting into a supercharged, data-driven version of our original selves. So instead of fearing job-replacing ultra-advanced AI tech, let’s join them and create something unstoppable.