A Guide to AI Marketing and Ethics: Navigating the Future
This year, digital marketing professionals made history — they entered an era of AI marketing and a new term was coined: AI Marketers. Over two decades, I have led and transitioned my agency and clients through major digital transformations. As an early adopter of social media since 2005, shortly after I founded my agency in 2003 at age 24, I knew change was and would continue to be constant. I witnessed veteran marketers struggling with all of the changes. However, to me, it was the best thing that could have happened — the ability to track and report data and analytics in real-time.
Digital Marketing Ethics
Fast forward to 2023, generative AI enters the scene, and marketers begin experimenting with its capabilities. For some, it’s clear the opportunities are endless; for others, it seems like the end of a professional era. For me, it’s a crossroads. While tools like ChatGPT are extremely beneficial to expediting tasks such as ideation, persona development and data science, they are also extremely dangerous to our profession.
As a trained journalist, I know that content without attribution is bad news. The biases and prejudices that exist are everywhere, but it’s hard to know where they’re coming from. The slippery slope of relying on undocumented facts and information as truth is an undeniable ethics violation. It also violates the integrity and values journalists and public relations professionals should uphold in our profession.
How Do We Embrace AI In The Future?
At JSMM, we circulated an AI policy to our team. Tools like ChatGPT are not a replacement for writing, fact-checking and quality journalism. Those who want to use AI as a replacement for their talents and creativity will not be permitted to stay on our team. We have always prided our success on maintaining a strong and competitive strategy for our clients, attributing to an average client retention rate of six years, with some spanning as long as 15 years. The quality we produce is extremely important to me and our leadership team.
As an agency, we will continue our philosophy of testing and adopting new technologies to lead our clients to success. However, like all good things, we must use them in moderation, study, test and re-test. I used this same approach in 2005 when I introduced social media to clients. A/B testing remains key to success.
How AI Helps Marketers
Generative AI expedites tasks, supports ideation and can analyze data quickly for marketers. However, you must ensure the data you feed AI tools with is healthy and valid. Not utilizing accurate data in your prompts will result in inaccurate and biased outputs.
Always confirm with clients their customer demographic, behavioral, geographical and any other pertinent information before generating buyer personas.
Buyer persona and buyer journeys are some of the easiest and fastest ways to create more strategic value in your content marketing.
What is Buyer Persona and How Does it Help?
A buyer persona represents your ideal customer, built on actual data and buyers. For example, a buyer persona for a person looking to buy a private jet might include details like age range, income level, lifestyle preferences and buying motivations. This persona guides the AI in crafting messages that can more effectively influence this specific group to buy, saving marketers a lot of time spent on what used to be manual research and guesswork.
The buyer journey is a customer’s transition from being aware of a need or product to actually deciding to buy the product or service. Each stage is crucial and requires tailored marketing strategies to guide the customer along their journey effectively. By feeding AI detailed, accurate buyer personas and journey maps, marketers can create highly targeted and effective campaigns based on real-time data and insights.
A study by Cintell, a SaaS customer intelligence company, as reported by BusinessWire, concluded, “Organizations that exceed revenue and lead goals are more effective at creating, using, and consistently maintaining personas than companies that miss lead and revenue targets. Companies that exceed lead and revenue goals are 2.2X more likely to have and document personas than companies that miss these targets.”
AI-Enhanced Social Media and Influencer Marketing Strategies
AI Marketing and Content Pillars
Content pillars, according to Semrush, are the key themes or clusters that guide all content initiatives of a brand across different platforms. When AI enters the picture, it transforms these pillars from static to evolving concepts. With its capacity to analyze and interpret large amounts of data, AI becomes an ally in uncovering shifting market trends and consumer behaviors.
Consider the power of AI in identifying emerging trends and aligning them with your brand’s messaging. For example, according to Deloitte’s 2024 banking and capital markets outlook, “sustainable finance” has emerged as a new theme in the finance industry. An investment firm, armed with AI insights, can switch its content strategy to “green investments” to stay relevant and resonate deeply with its environment-conscious audience.
AI’s role is to identify and weave themes into the firm’s content strategy across various channels. This could be shown in a series of articles on sustainable investment practices, social media campaigns highlighting green initiatives or insightful webinars discussing the future of eco-friendly finance. AI also helps determine the most effective ways to communicate them so that each piece of content is informative and aligned with the audience’s evolving interests.
Editorial Calendars in the Age of AI
Once static and inflexible, editorial calendars are now dynamic and responsive thanks to AI integration. AI’s transformative power extends to planning editorial calendars with tools that analyze trends, user engagement and content performance to suggest themes and the most opportune times for publication.
For instance, drawing insights from the same recent Deloitte report on digital finance trends, an AI system could identify a rising wave of interest in digital finance solutions, prompting a financial services firm to align its content strategy accordingly. This could result in a series of targeted articles, and social media campaigns timed perfectly to capture the peak of audience interest. This AI-driven alignment ensures that the content that reaches its audience resonates with them, enhances engagement and reinforces brand positioning.
The Art of Crafting Ethical AI Prompts
Prompts are instructions or inputs given to an AI system to generate content, ideas or insights relevant to a specific marketing goal. You also need photos, videos, infographics, brand voice and styling to create substance in your content. The crafting of these prompts demands creativity and an ethical compass that only humans can provide. Marketers must ensure that AI-generated content adheres to ethical guidelines and reflects brand values. AI expedites the process, but you still need people to polish, provide human-likeness, edit and make sure that everything creates a cohesive strategy.
Let’s look at an example involving blog topic generation:
- Prompt: “Write article topics for the awareness stage for the buyer persona looking to buy a private jet: aged 52, male, married with two college children, living in Connecticut, CEO of a multinational corporation.”
- AI Output:
- The True Cost of Time: How Private Jet Travel Can Boost Productivity for Executives
- Beyond First Class: Discovering the Benefits of Private Jet Ownership
Suppose the marketer chose the first topic since this fits their marketing goals better. When writing the blog, they can add the client’s photos or videos, quotes from your client or reputable sources about the topic, and relevant information from the client’s website. It’s important that the information you put is as accurate as possible, and you don’t copy and paste your articles from ChatGPT, or you’ll lose personalization. We do these sessions live with our clients and make sure that we’re getting the best data on what our buyer personas look like.
Using AI in Digital Advertising to Maximize ROI and Efficiency
AI: A Double-Edged Sword in Digital Advertising
AI is a powerful yet nuanced tool that promises unparalleled optimization of ROI. However, this transformation is not without its challenges.
Revelations from the documentary The Social Dilemma shed light on the ethical implications of AI and social media. The manipulative practices and psychological impacts of algorithms draw a compelling parallel to our ethical responsibilities in AI marketing. It highlights the need for transparency and the moral use of AI, which underscores JSMM’s commitment to employing these technologies to respect user autonomy and promote mental well-being. Just as The Social Dilemma urges users to be mindful of their digital consumption, our agency’s approach is grounded in ethical engagement and consumer awareness.
The University of Massachusetts Amherst published a comprehensive review of available literature regarding the ethical challenges of AI in marketing. “Algorithm errors in marketing harm consumers and/or violate consumers’ expectations of the brand values, leading to brand harm crises and researchers’ concern about brand accountability in algorithmic marketing. For example, the Google auto-complete algorithm makes incorrect, defamatory associations about groups of people (Badger, 2019),“ their findings concluded.
In an article about generative AI, experts at Gartner warn that “A wide array of threat actors have already used the technology to create “deep fakes” or copies of products and generate artifacts to support increasingly complex scams. ChatGPT and other tools like it are trained on large amounts of publicly available data. They are not designed to be compliant with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other copyright laws, so it’s imperative to pay close attention to your enterprises’ uses of the platforms.”
At JSMM, we support the humane and ethical use of technology. We are always educating ourselves on the latest AI and social media platforms to understand and use them in ways that are moral for all.
How does this impact the quality of the agency’s content? Our position has always been conservative but very methodical with our approach. We don’t want to throw out what we know works, but we also test new and emerging technologies.
Utilizing Generative AI for Competitor Analysis and Market Insights
Gathering valuable insights without ethical infringement is the goal of AI in this context. According to Forbes, AI can analyze competitors’ content, campaigns and customer interactions, identifying gaps or areas of improvement. The AI then helps identify patterns or missing elements that could be opportunities for your brand to address uniquely.
For example, suppose a competitor focuses heavily on product-based content. In that case, AI might reveal an opportunity for your brand to explore more customer experience or educational content, thus differentiating your approach. Don’t copy what competitors are doing, but create a distinct path that aligns with your brand’s values. This way, you offer something useful and different from what’s already out there.
As an agency, getting data back faster and in a very automated manner improves our work by helping us quantify our success to our clients, explain results, double down on things that are working, and take out things that may not be performing well. We use data to pivot and make consultative recommendations back to the clients, who then use it to grow their businesses.
The Future of AI in Marketing and Ethical Marketing Practices
The intersection of AI technology and marketing ethics will continuously shape the future of this industry in ways we cannot imagine. AI isn’t just a game-changer; it’s a deal-breaker for those who choose not to embrace it for digital marketing. No one should think AI will do their jobs or replace them. However, the race to understand and adapt to the changing demands of our industry and the pace we are on is time-consuming — learning the prompts and hacks is key to achieving a competitive advantage.
All of these technologies have pros and cons. ChatGPT and other AI writing tools help expedite the background research and pull all that content together. But they don’t always attribute sources, so you must fact-check.
Marketers and brands have the opportunity and the responsibility to set the tone for how AI is used, ensuring it’s a force for good. The future of AI in marketing is not just about what technology can do; it’s about what it should do, fostering a marketing world that is not only more intelligent and efficient but also more ethical and humane.