Did you know the telephone was a first of its kind virtual reality technology? It took us five decades to adopt it as a commodity we use daily. It took a little less time to adopt radios and televisions. But we swiftly embraced the PC and mobile phone in less than ten years. And now, can you imagine your life without a cell phone? I don’t even want to begin answering that.

From Chatbots to Cortana and Siri, today, we interact with machines in ways that were once the exclusive territory of humans. What’s next and how is it going to affect our future as marketers?

Artificial Intelligence? From virtual assistants to image-recognition apps to self-driving cars, which was once fictional has now become a reality. Internet and mobile phones have brought in depths when it comes to targeting an audience. Likewise, AI will change a person’s interaction with information, technology, brands and services.


Why do Digital Marketers need Artificial Intelligence?

Because it brings with it convenience. Marketers depend on tools that automate their work and reduce the overall manual effort. With big data sets examined, segmented and filtered, AI can predict human behaviour to impressive extents. This implies how specific targeting can get while offering individualization and personalization for an end user. Artificial intelligence in digital marketing is all about the ‘segment of one’ and how products and services are marketed to an individual or to a smaller group with more specific interests and goals in mind. Example being Netflix or e-commerce recommendations. Netflix isn’t merely considering what movies a person has watched, it also analyses how many times you have watched it, fast-forwarded it or rewound it. All these behaviours are accessed over millions of other users to come up with the best recommendations. Hence with the help of AI, marketers get the time to innovate and grow their brand, rather than worry about how to automate emails for millions of users at a time.

Artificial Intelligence is improving and evolving in ways that it will be able to select the right message and design for the right individual over the right channel. This will simulate a two-way conversation in real-time. AI will customize content that will allow users to give instant feedback, ask questions about product and services. It’ll be time to say goodbye to plastic and irrelevant ads!

AI in advertising influences how a user engages with your ad and saves brands’ significant advertising spends. This not on works in favour of the firms placing the ads and the sites hosting them but also the user viewing the site. Firms can aim to earn more revenue through fewer ad placements, media owners can trim the number of ads based on its relevance to the user. It not only improves the onsite experience for users but will also increase the likelihood of people engaging with the ads they see.

Cloud giants like Amazon, Microsoft and Salesforce also bow down to the power of AI. Proof being, they are all a part of a $27 million Series C investment in Tact.ai, a start-up that has been trying to change the way sales people interact with information in CRM systems using voice also helping reduce the conflict involved in adding and retrieving information from the database, making life easier for the sales people as they easily get the information they need. Hence more potential sales, and all that through a virtual assistant? Fabulous!


Is AI a one-man army?

Algorithms are like an engine, which means you still need someone to turn the ignition on. Creative minds (humans) are still very much needed to plan, design and run the marketing campaigns because they are the ones feeding the AI system with all the new information required for them in the first place. AI is basically under “supervised learning” by human, they cannot mimic the way a human learns & thinks naturally. AI can only do what it is “programmed” to do, unlike humans it is unable to make split-second judgements based on a gut feeling.

There isn’t any doubt that virtual assistants are transforming the sales process by answering the questions and providing the information to the customer. But what if a customer isn’t responding positively to the service, the strategy will backfire. It’s difficult to narrow down humans and our likeness towards things. A human support is required as a backup because a computer program or piece of software is only helpful as the information it’s given.

AI promises to help sales and marketers with the most mundane, time-consuming and logic-driven tasks. This means more time on you to focus your effort on subjective matters. Artificial Intelligence will and is driving exceptional experiences.

To quote Noam Chomsky: “Thinking is a human feature. Will AI someday really think? That’s like asking if submarines swim. If you call it swimming then robots will think, yes.”

How Does Location-Based Marketing Benefit Marketers?

DREAMS! From the dearth of the dire straits to the grandeur of the greatest Mahals (Palaces)! It is the one true common denominator of Humans that goes beyond the discrimination on Religion, Race, Sex and even Wealth! Every wo/man has a dream! A Dream to establish their presence and perhaps achieve the impossible!

Well, it’s this dream that every Brand wants to tap into. Achieve an emotional connect with the Target Audience, appeal to that emotion with the best of communication and once the ‘Share of Mind’ and the ‘Share of Heart’ are obtained, eventually tap into the ‘Share of WALLET’!

Sounds simple, right? Well, most of the brands go wrong at the very first step – Identifying the right TARGET AUDIENCE! All the Communication can go to waste if the right audience is not mapped. Here’s an inside joke at marketing agencies –

‘In the traditional medium of advertising; half of the marketing communication doesn’t reach the right audience. The Irony is no one knows which half!’

Well, with advances in technology, achieving the right target audience is getting refined every day. One such advances is the user’s ‘Real Time Location Data’.

All the advertising of any brand boils down to just one thing – Relevance
How relevant is the advertisement to the end user. Location data adds another level of filter to the existing filters of TG. Deriving Location Intelligence from the Location Data is of utmost importance. Following are the few insights that can help brands map the data to refine their target audience –

  1. Offline-Online Behavior Mapping 
    1. Better understanding the user’s 
    2. For standalone stores, location data can be further used to map the purchase behavior
      For example – A McDonald’s can map a customer’s purchase pattern from the CRM to the time spent at the outlet. After analyzing the patterns, a highly personalized messaged can be sent to the customer thereby increasing the chances of conversion.
      So, the next time the customer drops in the vicinity, a personalized invite can be shared through push notifications thereby increasing his LTV
    3. Furthermore, the brand gains an exact mapping of the ‘Bang’ for the ‘Buck’ solving the perennial question of mapping Marketing expenses to the Revenues generated
  2. Promotions
    1. Every brand offers some promotions to their customers in some point in time. For any event promotion, the likelihood of a customer in the vicinity to visit/convert for any tactical event/promotion increases manifolds 
  3. Competitive insights
    1. In today’s world where the brand loyalty is a metrics of Price, having insight of a customer’s behavior is an added incentive for a brand to push its communications
    2. Well, obtaining the sales data of a neighboring McDonald’s store might not be ethically feasible for a Burger King but to get the location data of the customer and after mapping the behavioral patterns, it takes very little marketing for Burger King to tip the tides in their favor

Well, a few cautions to keep in mind while accessing the location data of a user. As we increase the relevance of ads by tapping into a user’s location, it always borders on the thin line separating the ‘Wow’ from the ‘Creepy’. With the roll-out of GDPR law in EU, it is crucial to inform the customer about the data s/he has shared with the brand.

Though the technology advancements are happening every day & more and more access to end user’s data is available, Zero spillage, the bounces and all other deterrent factors will still remain a distant dream!
Or Will It?

The Great European GDPR

Glazing from a distance, all you see is a spark! It was 16th of April 2016; the flames of Data Protection that was started in 1998 by the EU had suddenly grown from just sparks to the fiery flames! As these flames of GDPR are now rekindled on 25th May, 2018; the otherwise complacent companies, now started feeling the heat.

The eternal questions beckon –




Well, as a brand or an advertiser, before we start taking any swings at the EU’s directive, let’s try and decode the crux of GDPR!

What is GDPR?

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is EU’s regulation to provide complete control of one’s privacy settings to its citizens. The intricacies of GDPR’s impact on citizens are covered in my last article

How should the brands adapt to the GDPR regulations?

Every Business, Every company, Every Brand is always in search of one true currency. Perhaps not the cryptic ones of the recent past but the eternal currency which defined the rules of the Business – Audience’s Data.

As we all exploited this data, GDPR plans to curb its abusive usage.

The highlight of the above sentence is probably not the GDPR directive or the exploitation. The one stand-out is the abusive usage.

Data always was and will be the true currency!

Here are the few steps to stay prepared & adhere to the GDPR directive –

    1. Data here, Data there
      Every Brand gathers data at multiple junctures (interactive Brand Touch points). The first step is to map all the data available in the organization.
    2. Delete or Shift+Delete?
      Map the necessary and unnecessary fields of data of a consumer that is available. Many times a lot of data is collected without any real benefit. (Many data fields become moot because of other data fields) Instead of archiving such data it is advised to delete the unnecessary fields.
      In business terms, is the opportunity cost of deleting more than the costs of encrypting the data?
    3. Secure is the Only Cure!
      Prevent any breaches! Security is the base of preventing hassles! Any data that is available with the brand should be shared / accessible to select individuals only. Lesser the number of individuals having access to the data, lower are the chances of the data breach.
      One of the most common liabilities pertaining to data security is when it is outsourced. The GDPR directive doesn’t grant any exemptions or any leeway for data breach.
      Well, no system is perfect and GDPR directive gives us a provision – In case of a breach, report it within 72 hours of the breach! (This breach has to be conveyed to the individuals as well as the authorities).
    4. I Do!
      Explicit free consent of the customer is of utmost importance. Most of the forms that accept data have pre-checked boxes. All these boxes and implied consents will no longer be considered valid under the GDPR directive. As a practice, it is advised to revisit the privacy documents & disclosures. Modify / Edit / Adjust those documents to meet the guidelines. Establish procedures and policies for an individual who tries to search for his or her data. FAQs are a great example of answering questions. Have a few interactive FAQs for the individuals to map and see their own data –

      1. What data is available with *Brand/Organization’s name*?
      2. How/Where have I given my consent for the data?
      3. How can I delete my data?
        These FAQs not only make the organization compliant to the GDPR directive but also help in building trust with the end user.
    5. My way or Highway!
      Considering the complex nature of the GDPR directive, there raises the question – What if we don’t adhere to the GDPR directive?
      The subtle nuances of ‘Its fine’ and it will attract ‘A FINE’
      Strict policies and very high penalties are huge deterrent for not adhering to the GDPR directive.
      A hefty fine of 20 Million Euros or 4% of Global Annual Revenue whichever is higher is levied on brands
      As we strongly recommend starting the journey of adhering to the GDPR directive for EU directives, we look at the macro perspective for the markets beyond the EU, it is a Brand’s perspective to look at GDPR!

Is it just a spark at a long distance or are they the flames which are going to travel beyond European waters?

Coordinate with your adtech partner and work closely with your legal and privacy teams to monitor your approach. Convert the implications of GDPR as ways to win the trust of your customers and better engage them in the future.