At the start of each new year, I typically compose an insight looking at the major marketing trends for the 12 months ahead. Over the last few years, these trends have been largely the same – content marketing and automation, customer engagement and personalization, and the ongoing move to digital transformation. The same holds true for 2023.
But new this year is the buzz around ChatGPT. For anybody who might not know, ChatGPT is the free platform that lets users direct a bot to generate content on almost anything, in a variety of forms and styles. It has vast applications: software engineers can use it to direct coding; bankers can use the tool for market and trading analyses; and yes, marketing and communications professionals can use it to conduct research and draft a range of materials.
So, what does this really mean for marketing and communications? And should ChatGPT be welcomed or feared for those of us working in those fields?
To get a better understanding, I experimented with it, and here’s what I found.
What ChatGPT Can Do
ChatGPT is impressive in its depth. Since conducting competitive research is fundamental to marketing, I decided to gauge its capabilities in this area. As a pie-in-the-sky test, I asked ChatGPT to provide me with the “best” financial advertising campaigns over the last 20 years and show me ad copy for the launch of a wealth manager in the greater Detroit area. The results were fairly impressive.
First, ChatGPT responded by prefacing that my question could only deliver a “subjective” response. It then proceeded to succinctly detail five campaigns that I recall being interesting, if not effective. I appreciated this honest take on reality – nothing artificial about that.
For the ad copy, ChatGPT clearly articulated the foundational issues critical to any wealth management firm. It was also well-written, both from a structural and grammatical perspective.
It sure is fast. Marketing today must move faster than ever. With ever-present looming deadlines and the need to respond at a moment’s notice, ChatGPT’s ability to conduct research and generate baseline copy in a fraction of manhour time provides an invaluable shortcut.
What ChatGPT Can’t Do
ChatGPT’s writing is… well… robotic. Regardless of its strengths, ChatGPT lacks the knowledge and intuition that makes great writing. While I appreciated its output (particularly the quick research), its copy read like very generic marketing prose rather than an ad, and it failed to address my regional market query.
Knowledge reflects the ability to take information, examine it, and then relate it to experience. ChatGPT can collect and interpret data, but it has no real understanding of what happens in our world or how it operates. Nor does it understand context or offer nuance, which at the end of the day, is the essence of good marketing.
A recent tweet I reposted from my colleague @JakeWengroff encapsulates my reaction: “AI writing gets the job done like instant coffee gets the job done.” Or to quote Maureen Dowd in her recent NYT column on AI: “For now, ChatGPT is typing, not writing.”
Accuracy is apparently an issue. As marketers, creativity is often the diamond to our craft, but accuracy is the bedrock.
While it might not generate the most compelling marketing copy, ChatGPT’s writing is convincing enough that inaccuracy can create real problems. As characterized in a piece from Coliabri.ai CRO Nigel Burns, Chat GPT “sometimes writes plausible sounding but incorrect or non-sensical answers.” (To their credit, ChatGPT developer OpenAI acknowledges this criticism, and has publicly committed to mitigating these risks.)
This was not my specific experience, but it stands to reason. Without real knowledge, ChatGPT cannot distinguish fact from fiction in all the data it mines, nor can it recognize paradoxes and ambiguities.
Availability is sketchy. ChatGPT is currently in very high demand, no doubt fueled by all the hype and fascination. At first, I couldn’t access the platform for hours, and lately, it’s been even worse. So, until there is an expansion of its bandwidth, be prepared for a wait when looking to use ChatGPT. (Alternatively, the paid version, ChatGPT Plus, likely eliminates this issue).
What’s Coming Next
ChatGPT is just one product on the AI train that has left the technology station. As the Internet once revolutionized media, marketing and communications, so will AI in the years ahead.
The evidence is clear, as the use of AI has already been hiding in plain sight. Apparently, news outlets such as the Associated Press and newswires like Bloomberg, Dow Jones and Reuters have been experimenting with AI for years to support fact-gathering. Buzzfeed just announced it plans to use ChatGPT to create quizzes on its site. And with Microsoft’s recent investments in OpenAI, ChatGPT is now expected to become part of their suite of business services, potentially making it a ubiquitous office tool.
Greater functionality is only a matter of time, and the applications will get much more specific. As Axios points out, “the real power of AI is expected to come when companies and organizations combine AI tools with their own data.”
Opportunities Abound – as Do Risks
There is considerable fear that the rise of AI will eliminate the need for people and therefore jobs – including those in marketing. I’d be lying if I didn’t think that might present some level of inevitability. But there are a few mitigating factors.
As previously mentioned, the need for human judgment, which AI does not possess, is essential. Remember, airplanes have been flying on autopilot for years but it’s the captain of an aircraft that still oversees the controls. To again quote Maureen Dowd, “The creative spark requires humanity. But soon, A.I. could be sentient.”
For now, ChatGPT is a tool that can help lay the groundwork, informing marketing strategies and supporting the delivery of results. Marketing pros can use it to jumpstart work before applying context and creativity to make their end-products uniquely meaningful to clients. It’s also already clear that the ability to work with AI, just like the ability to work with data analytics, is a needed skill set. There is also a new demand for freelancers to help organizations with proofreading and fact checking.
The Bottom Line
AI is here to stay, and with ChatGPT, the game is on.
If there’s a critical lesson strategic marketers and creatives have learned over the years, it’s that it’s smarter to embrace new technology than ignore it. Don’t fall behind or let yourself be replaced by a new shiny object. Rather, take the time to learn what it can do for you, and then leverage it to make you a better and more skilled practitioner.
Further Advisory helps marketing, product, and sales executives translate their business vision and goals into reality. We support customer segmentation, pricing analysis, personas development, customer/buyer journey mapping, and more, accompanied by pragmatic roadmaps that set plans into motion and drive real results.