In Stephen King's cheesy (awesome?) 1980s horror flick "Maximum Overdrive," an asteroid passes by Earth and the machines around a desolate North Carolina truck stop come to life. Electric knives make ghostly attacks, soda vending machines shoot deadly drinks at Little League baseball players and demonic trucks organize against humans with intense — though admittedly sometimes hilarious — ferocity.
While true that King has one of the most vivid imaginations of "bad ways to go" of any American writer, in "Maximum Overdrive" he tapped into the intrinsic fear many people seem to have that machines will become intelligent and dangerous to humanity.
However, according to our CMSWire Q&A guest Kathleen Schaub, the general idea that intelligent machines pose a threat is a very unlikely scenario. As a marketing expert, she points out that artificial intelligence is extremely literal and needs the human touch to be used effectively. Here, she discusses how marketing won’t deliver on AI’s promise unless the human side of the equation is given the same attention as the tech side.
Schaub, marketing management and organizations strategist and former IDC CMO Advisory leader, considers this and more in her recent piece If You Want to Succeed With Artificial Intelligence in Marketing, Invest in People.
We caught up with her for a CMSWire Q&A.
Editor's Note: This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Dom Nicastro: Hi, Dom Nicastro here, managing editor of CMSWire. And we're with our latest CMSWire contributor, Kathleen Schaub. She's a writer and strategist and a marketer at heart. Kathleen, new contributor. Welcome.
Kathleen Schaub: Well, thanks, Dom. I'm excited and looking forward to engage with your audience.
Nicastro: Yeah, we're so happy to have you, thank you. Our contributors are, you know, the heartbeat, really of CMSWire, people that are in the trenches and marketers, experience, then just telling us what's on their mind. So this is great. To that end, though, you being new, I would love to know a little bit about yourself, and you know, how you have arrived in your current professional role?
The Future of Marketing in a Constantly Changing World
Schaub: Well, you mentioned that I was a marketer at heart. And I've been a marketer at heart as well as a marketer in fact. So I was a chief marketing officer for a large technology company. And I've worked in marketing for more years than I can count. And most recently, though, I was the, I led the IDCs, CMO Advisory service, and IDC works with a lot of technology companies. And so I had just hundreds of marketers midlevel to CMOS, and including other people on the executive staff that I regularly worked with.
We provided research and, you know, all sorts of different kinds of best practice studies, working with them to try to do as much as they possibly could to move them into modern marketing management. So there were some ideas that I have been passionate about and interested in since I was a CMO. And I wanted to spend some time to really take those a little bit further. So right now I am doing lots of writing. I've got a blog, of course, now I'm working with you guys. And looking forward to exploring some of these ideas that I find fascinating and really exciting for the future of marketing.
Nicastro: Yeah, and speaking of the present of marketing, a lot of things that are happening right now has to do with uncertainty. Like we don't know, we don't know which way the world is going to turn. You know, day to day, we got pandemics, we got wars, we got societal stuff going on. I mean, there's a lot at stake right now in the world. So that's top of mind for you. And obviously top of mind for a lot of marketers.
Schaub: Yeah, and I think anybody who's been in marketing for any amount of time, knows that while the last few years have been particularly difficult in terms of changing, the idea of a constantly changing world is what marketing lives with every day. And in fact, this is kind of the heartbeat of what I have been studying and writing about, was the complex, constantly changing nature of marketing, and are there better ways, and there are, to manage marketing to work in marketing, that works better in a highly changing environment.
So what I think what we're going to talk about today, because the article that I wrote is one of those tools, which is artificial intelligence. But it's not the only tool, things like agile, for example, fantastic tools for managing in a constantly changing environment. So that's the reality of marketing. And there's been so much that has emerged over the last 10 or 20 years, that we have a big change effort ahead of us, but also some really, really wonderful opportunities.
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The Human Side of AI Marketing
Nicastro: And you mentioned AI, that's the topic of your first article at CMSWire today, and, you know, that is something that the promise of that it looks great, like for a marketer, like, "Are you kidding me, I get to automate, I get to predict, I get to anticipate experiences for my potential," you know, "prospects and customers." But at the same time, your contention in the article is that's probably half of it. The other half is there's a human side, too. I would love to hear more about that.
Schaub: Yeah. So when we think about the human side of marketing, I think people go to, you know, our hearts, you know, we want to think about humans. We don't want to be too technical. Our customers are humans are, we are humans or our co workers are humans. But what I'm talking about in the article is a little bit more specific than that, when it comes to the application of artificial intelligence to marketing.
And what will this mean to the working world of, of marketing? Because, for one thing, a lot of — I don't think this is necessarily true for people who work every day with AI — but a lot of society thinks about AI as though it's going to become a human. And that's probably not true. I mean, it's getting very powerful. But one of the things that we do know is that it's also very, very, very literal, in addition to its power, it's very literal.
So for example, and one of the books that I did some research on, there was an example of an AI that was being trained for trying to get people to the airport as quickly as possible. So like an automatic pilot kind of thing. Yeah. And they had, you know, the, the AI had absolutely no problem running over a lot of pedestrians, because no one had told it, that's not a good thing to do. So being able to jump from context to context is really virtually impossible for AI.
Nicastro: AI is like a child in that sense, right? You can tell it what to do, it will make mistakes and tell it or sometimes children don't get it, no matter how many times you tell them.
Schaub: Children are, I think, no, I don't think that's a great analogy. It's a good analogy, because it's, you know, the training aspect of it. But I think that children are a lot more human smart, than we probably give them credit for. And that's part of what we're, what I'm talking about in my article, what are the three things that besides just to know having our hearts, you know, warmed up to all the people in our lives and not being to machinelike, what are the really specific things that have to be done.
And one of them is to focus on what are those uniquely human things that we do — great at creativity, great at problem solving, great at interpersonal skills —those are the future of where jobs are going to go. And we need to train ourselves as well as our teams and stuff on, you know, making sure that those are as strong as possible, because some of the more repetitive things, those are going to go away.
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Some of the Caveats of AI Marketing
Nicastro: Yeah. And, you know, wrap it up here soon. But looking at some of the caveats you talked about a lot of you know, there are caveats to this, that marketers should know about, before diving into infusing AI into their processes. Give me one example of what a caveat would be for a marketer needing to know before they dive in?
Schaub: Well, let me go back to this specifics of you know that they're very, very, very literal, which means that you have to learn how to ask the right questions. And you have to learn to appreciate what AI can and can't do. And you have to be able to train it with the right kind of data and the amount of data. For example, in complex situations, things that are long, you know, happened a long time ago, actually impact have good impact today, if your dataset only goes for the last couple of months, you're not going to catch those. So you really have to think about the way that AI works. And make sure that you are acting in a way that brings the best out.
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Making AI Marketing Adoption Smoother
Nicastro: Yeah, makes sense. And lastly, like any sort of future trends from you, that you're watching — future article topics, I should say that you're tracking, and maybe we can expect down the road. Won't hold you down to it. But what's top of mind for you right now for some future articles?
Schaub: Well, as I mentioned, my passion is to learn as much as I possibly can about great ways of — whether it's methods, technologies, culture, organizational structures — that work really good in a entirely changing, unpredictable environment, and to translate those into marketing-speak so that people can adopt them more readily. So that's what you'll be seeing from me. Both the technology piece but also the people piece.
Nicastro: Oh, we're looking forward to that but great opening, opening day that's like appropriate for what's going on now in Major League Baseball. So good opening day for Kathleen Schaub here, marketing and AI. That's definitely a topic right in CMSWire's wheelhouse, so we appreciate it and we'll look forward to the next couple.
Schaub: Well, my pleasure and I'm looking forward to working with you.
Nicastro: All right, chat soon. Thanks, Kathleen.