What AI Can — and Can’t — Do for Your Marketing

  • Categories:

    Content Marketing, Creative, Search

  • Date:

    April 11, 2024

What AI Can — and Can’t — Do for Your Marketing

Content Marketing Creative Search

The possibilities of AI technology continue to capture imaginations. In marketing, AI pushes strategic and creative boundaries while helping crunch data, scale work and more. But getting the most out of AI is bigger than deciding which tools to use. What marketing challenges do you need to solve? How can AI help you tackle them — and where does it fall short?

Last month, Wray Ward hosted a webinar to explore these questions and more. The event, presented with our friends at the Home Improvement Research Institute, offered advice on how to harness the potential of AI in marketing. It also showcased real-world examples, including cringeworthy cases of what NOT to do.

I moderated the discussion with other members of the agency’s AI leadership team. If you missed it, don’t worry: While I have yet to locate an AI tool with time-travel powers, the following recap will give you a solid overview of the material we covered. If you’re hungry for more, you can join HIRI and download the materials or contact Wray Ward to set up a call.

How to Use AI in Marketing

AI tools can augment and streamline your home and building product marketing efforts when employed responsibly. The “employed responsibly” part is a big deal, which is why we take a three-pronged approach to the Wild Wild West that is AI technology right now.

  1. Stay safe.

  2. Stay focused.

  3. Stay productive.

Let’s take a closer look at each element.

1. Stay safe.

    It’s impossible to overstate the importance of AI technology usage guidelines and governance. On March 13, the European Union passed the world’s first major act to regulate AI. But many organizations are already self-governing to safeguard against deepfakes, disinformation, data privacy concerns and more.

    If your employees are experimenting with AI (and they probably are, even if you don’t know it), or if you’re evaluating AI technologies for enterprise-level adoption, first establish the level of risk the organization is willing to bear. From there, the company must act as a gatekeeper, establishing and upholding a clear and consistent set of guidelines governing the safe usage of new and existing AI technologies.

    When evaluating an AI tool for a one-time request or broad agency adoption, Wray Ward always starts with a close review of the platform’s terms and conditions. This helps us understand how our data and our clients’ data, or IP, will be used to train the tool and whether other users or third parties will have access to the data. Free AI tools often have weaker security measures than paid tools, which may make them more susceptible to data breaches.

    We also keep up to date with data breaches and follow strict data security protocols, implementing multifactor authentication and single sign-on schemes.

    2. Stay focused.

      Like almost everyone, we want to be early adopters and stay on the cutting edge of AI in marketing. But the landscape is so vast and changes so frequently that it can be hard to know what to do or where to start.

      We experienced these challenges early on. But when we stopped trying to boil the ocean, we started making real progress. By committing to a consistent structure for testing, recommending and implementing AI tools, we’ve been able to prioritize efforts and give people concrete tasks and accountability.

      An effective guiding document outlines the what, why, who, how and when of AI testing and implementation:

      • Define pilot project parameters.

      • Engage working group members and explore.

      • Deliver recommendations to the AI leadership team.

      • Prepare a rollout and adoption plan for executive management approval.

      Once you have your framework, define an internal challenge or problem, identify an AI tool that could provide a solution and take it for a test run.

      3. Stay productive.

        Once you establish guidelines and guardrails, you’re ready for the fun part: using AI to save time and money, elevate human creativity and create better-performing work.

        Here’s a quick look at how we’re using AI at Wray Ward.

        AI for Content Creation

        AI is not a substitute for human creators — in fact, I never call what AI does “writing.” However, the right tools can help streamline the creative process. For example, AI chatbots can help workers brainstorm ideas, do research, build presentations and learn about new topics. Content writers on my team have used AI to help with content outlines, email subject lines and derivative content.

        AI can handle repetitive tasks, giving humans more time to be creative. And AI can help identify patterns in vast troves of data. Even the Treasury Department and the IRS are turning to AI to fight financial crime and find tax cheats.

        Rather than relying on a single tool to do everything, we often combine the different strengths of several AI chatbots to get the best result.

        For example, we might use ChatGPT to come up with three options for a headline or to summarize long documents.

        ChatGPT is probably the most well-known chatbot, at least to the masses. Powered by GPT (a large language model developed by OpenAI), ChatGPT isn’t a good writer. But we’re constantly finding new ways to use the chatbot.

        Another chatbot called Claude Pro allows users to upload large documents. Our SEO team has used Claude Pro to export keyword data from Semrush and group keywords based on themes, analyze keyword trends, ID keywords that are more likely to convert or lead to specific actions, pull keywords with a good balance of high search volume and low competition, and so on.

        We’ve used Gemini to help ideate specific, custom Google Sheets or Excel formulas. The tool helps us analyze keyword data in a certain way, customize a Google Looker Studio report and more.

        AI chatbots can help break a writer out of writer’s block purgatory. They can help marketers speed up the more time-intensive, less creative tasks. But they’re only helpful if the human has experience and skill in their area and understands how to prompt the tool.

        AI for Creative Development

        OpenAI CEO, Sam Altman, predicted that generative AI will eventually take over 95% of tasks currently performed by marketing agencies, strategists and creative professionals. On the other hand, Wray Ward Group Creative Director James Ward doesn’t see AI replacing agencies and creatives for creative development anytime soon — if ever.

        My money’s on James.

        In our testing, we haven’t seen anything from AI tools that comes remotely close to matching humans in concepting, writing or other creative exercises. As James said in our presentation, there’s something about the indomitably pioneering spirit of human beings that can’t be replicated by a machine.

        Think about what makes the creative process work: curious humans dreaming up ideas and bouncing them off one another. Leaning into their lived experiences. Pushing the boundaries of the craft. It’s not too different from what our ancestors did thousands of years ago. You can put creative expression right up there with bipedalism and fire in the category of “things that make us human.”

        With that said, we can and should use AI tools for creative inspiration, testing and more. But keep in mind that even the best tools won’t be effective without guidance from a human who knows what they’re doing. Put AI in the hands of your skilled creative professionals and partners, not a high school junior who is “good at AI.”

        In the webinar, James shared ways AI can augment creative teams. For example, in the past, to propose an original idea, we often had to come up with the skeleton of the idea first then dig around for existing images and create a passable composite or hand-draw individual storyboard frames. These things would take us hours or, sometimes, days. But identifying the right AI tools and putting them in the hands of the right creatives has allowed us to shorten this runway. This, in turn, has saved our clients time and money and elevated the work.

        Closing Thoughts

        If you remember nothing else after reading this post, remember three things:

        1. Establish guardrails.

          Create guidelines that define success, establish safeguards and set clear expectations.

          2. Start with your problem.

            No one built a house because they said to themselves, “I want to use a hammer.” AI is a tool, and you need to have a reason to wield it.

            3. Remember everyone is learning.

              Relax: You aren’t losing the AI race. Except for a few monster tech companies, we’re all in the pack together. To avoid falling behind, pick a manageable goal. Small wins have an uncanny way of building momentum.

              Big thanks to my fellow presenters and AI leadership team members: Technology Senior Director Adam Bartimmo, Project Management and Resourcing Executive Director Justin McKeon and Group Creative Director James Ward.

              Have a question about this material or need help tackling a marketing challenge? Send us a note.

              If you missed this webinar but I managed to pique your interest, the deck, recording and transcript are free to HIRI members. Join HIRI to gain access to our material as well as valuable home improvement industry research.

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