Ubaid Zargar

AI is here to stay, but the buck stops with marketers

Experts from beauty, travel and FMCG industries dissect the dichotomy between the rise of new tech and the need for human character.

Artificial intelligence has steadily transformed various industries since its conceptual inception in the mid-20th century. Initially limited to theoretical frameworks and experimental applications, AI has advanced significantly over the past few years. Today, it stands as a cornerstone of innovation in marketing, driving unprecedented capabilities in data analysis, customer insights, and personalised consumer outreach. But does too much automation diminish the humanness of effective communication? 

In Gurugram, marketing professionals, tech enthusiasts, and industry leaders gathered for MMA IMPACT India 2024, an event dedicated to exploring the transformative power of artificial intelligence in marketing. Under the theme "Marketing in the Age of AI - Inspire, Innovate, Integrate," the event showcased AI's potential to revolutionise consumer engagement, enhance operational efficiencies, and elevate creative strategies.

afaqs! spoke to some key industry voices on the sidelines of the event, to get their two cents on the growing use of AI versus the need for human intervention, and the up-and-coming use cases of AI for marketers.

Sukhleen Aneja, who is the CEO of The Good Glamm Group, a personal care and cosmetics company, says that there this plenty of discussion around what AI can do for marketers, but not enough on what it can’t do. 

Sukhleen Aneja
Sukhleen Aneja

“Amongst many things AI can do, it is also important to recognise what AI can’t do. People need to understand what separates us as humans. Our prefrontal cortex, our cognitive abilities, and the fact that we can learn and react to new situations with creativity. AI is an ally, but what sets us apart is our human intelligence,” she says.

Having said that, Aneja also opines that with AI, just like any other new technology, there is a need for a new set of skills amongst its human counterparts. “AI has created a market for a new kind of skillset. People will have to fundamentally evolve to be able to make themselves relevant in this new world order,” she adds.

From a utility standpoint, Raj Rishi Singh, chief marketing officer and CBO - corporate, MakeMyTrip, says that the better way to look at AI’s marketing prowess is from a consumer's perspective, where it solves their problems, which inevitably solves the brand’s objectives. 

Raj Rishi Singh
Raj Rishi Singh

He says, “You can’t let the consumers’ context go. That is where Gen-AI is pathbreaking because suddenly you’re ready to read the context and churn out creatives which are personalised. When you’re trying to solve a problem for a consumer and not for yourself, it is a winning conversation.”

MakeMyTrip, being an online travel agency, acquires a lot of first-party consumer data on its platform. With the entire industry traversing away from the third-party data, Singh also points out that the utility of AI to optimise first-party data is going to be paramount. 

“We aggregate the travel audience in India, so we have a first-party data play. What AI does is it helps us understand the consumers better. A consumer might have a footprint across our platforms such as our app, desktop app, our website. Accumulating data from across these channels helps us understand consumer behaviour better.”

While AI continues to be the talk of the town, its application remains largely experimental as marketers navigate the complex landscape of AI capabilities and limitations. Companies are still refining their approaches, testing AI-driven campaigns, and learning how best to leverage machine learning algorithms to optimise customer engagement and enhance ROI. Moreover, the legal and ethical considerations surrounding AI usage, such as data privacy, algorithmic transparency, and potential biases, add a layer of caution for marketers. 

As per Shashishekhar Mukherjee, head of digital marketing, Reckitt, a British multinational consumer goods company, the adoption of AI has increased, but the threshold is there to be broken. 

Shashishekhar Mukherjee
Shashishekhar Mukherjee

He says, “As AI is maturing, so is the discussion of data security and privacy. Both things have to go hand-in-hand. A lot of us aren’t fully onboard because there is a looming data security crisis. The development of security and the compliance part of it need to be up to the mark for a wider adoption.”

The majority of discussions surrounding AI have largely focused on its implications for marketers. However, this perspective often overlooks the profound consumer-facing implications of AI. For consumers, AI promises more intuitive and personalised interactions with technology, as per Mukherjee.

He says, "With time, consumer experiences will be enhanced with AI, especially after the distinction between real and AI-generated content is minimal. This will also enable more tailored and custom experiences for consumers."

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