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Marketers and AI: get started, and future-proof your skillset

By John Koetsier May 8, 2024

If “marketers and AI” were in a relationship, their Facebook status would probably be “it’s complicated.”


According to a recent survey of 1,200 marketers, only 37% see AI as becoming an integral part of their overall skillset as a marketer. In spite of that, 9 in 10 expressed concern that “I will have to learn how to use AI to maintain my value as a marketer.”

4 out of those 10 were “very concerned.”

And yet, at the very same time, according to the same survey, 91% of marketers surveyed are currently using AI on a daily basis, both professionally and personally.

So yeah: it’s complicated. And there’s way too much fear and FOMO.

Marketers and AI: what marketers think

So how do marketers feel about AI?

Marketers have a lot of ideas about AI, many of them positive. And most of them are already using AI both in their jobs and in their personal lives. But some are worried about job loss just as much as warehouse workers looking at automation, or short-order cooks seeing Flippy, the hamburger-making robot.

The data highlights on marketers and AI:

  • 91% of marketers are already using AI in their jobs
  • 69% say AI is creating new job opportunities
  • 67% say AI is a transformative tech revolution
  • 49% say AI will help them do better work
  • 47% say AI will make them more efficient
  • 45% say AI will boost their skills
  • 31% say AI will replace workers and take jobs

While there are thousands of AI tools, apparently there aren’t enough. Or at least enough of the right kind.

Here’s what marketers want more of:

  • 57% want more optimization-focused AI that will automatically recommend campaign improvements
  • 53% want more automation (I’m not sure if these include any of the 31% that say AI will take jobs)
  • 50% want more predictions for customers or users who are most likely to convert
  • 49% want more generative AI … probably safe and connected to brand standards

All of which makes sense, but the hard part is the integrations between all the different systems using AI to create a seamless whole. 

AI and marketing: where’s it going?

Search for “prompt engineer” on LinkedIn and you’ll find more than a few jobs pop up. And according to this Time article, prompt engineering pays up to $335,000. My guess is there’s literally 1 job in the world that advertised that salary, and it’s more tied to training AI than generating output from AI.

But increasingly we’re seeing job postings that explicitly tie marketers and AI together

I recently saw one for an “AI Marketing Artist.”

The role was about generating and testing pieces of content weekly, including images and video. Applications needed to be able to create art in AI tools like, Midjourney, and Dalle-3. The interesting thing: old-school skills like Photoshop and After Effects, plus ideally some knowledge of coding in Unity, were also important.

So clearly, AI skills and AI familiarity are a plus, but you might not be able to just get a job pulling a virtual slot machine handle on a bunch of AI tools and throwing the results over the wall at your boss or internal customer. 

There’s more to it: polishing, finishing, adjusting.

Increasingly what you need is comfort and knowledge of how to use AI tools to help create content, build art, manage and optimize campaigns, segment users and customers, and help with communications and alerts. For example, it’s easy to create crappy content using an AI-generated text tool. Scalenut can create an instant SEO-optimized article on pretty much any topic you might imagine, but out of the box it will suck. It will likely contain duplicate, simplistic content, and it might actually contain errors.

It takes more skill and time to carefully edit that post, add a human voice, fix any errors, and intelligently add what’s missing. But by doing so, you can create a higher volume of fairly good quality content. You’re mixing generative AI with a human voice and human intelligence.

In a similar way, it’s also easy to create art that’s cool but can’t really be used in marketing via AI. It’s harder to add generative AI to a creative workflow that adapts the AI output into something that fits your needs precisely.

Increasingly, marketing is about finding that balance.

AI as table stakes, and increasing FOMO

AI in marketing is also increasingly about AI as table stakes. 

Ultimately, for many of us, the volume of output we need to generate will only go up, and AI will be essential for us to maintain the level of production that we’re required to deliver. Plus, we continually hear FOMO-generating comments like “you’re missing the party if you haven’t joined the conversation around AI in marketing.

The key is to not panic.

AI is all around you, and you’re using it already for many things, including Singular.

In fact, there’s AI tools that you use, and there’s AI tools that use you. Dark AI, for instance, artificial intelligence working behind the scenes at big ad platforms makes targeting, delivery, and optimization decisions for ad campaigns. It’s there and it’s working, but not in a transparent way. The reality is that marketers will never see most of the inputs or direct outputs of the decisions dark AI makes on their behalf, but it’s using your dollars, your assets, and your copy — in sometimes mixed up and generative ways — to get better at figuring out customer behavior.

But AI is also embedded in the tools you use everyday that are modeling SKAN conversions, suggesting the next message to send to users, and optimizing your live ops.

Marketers and AI: how to get started

If you’re not actively using AI, it’s easy and cheap to get started.

It’s about picking the right tools and adapting your processes, but you don’t have to dive into the deep end all at once. You don’t have to immediately toss out your basic in-app user/player segmentation tool to one that uses AI to learn about each individual user and personalizes offers to them.

That might be where you end up, but an easier starting step is to subscribe to OpenAI and use GPT-4 as the starting point for some of your next emails, or to suggest a recipe. Or, if you’re more into art and design, jump over to Dream Studio, load up your account with $10, and start making art. 

It’s easy and it’s cheap to play.

And playing is how humans learn best, with minimal downside or risk.

Ultimately, it is important to bring AI in your personal and professional workflows. Let’s face it, there’s going to be an increased expectation with AI-powered tools (if there isn’t already). When we can produce more output — or higher quality output — there’s going to be an expectation that we do so.

Ultimately, to really make a difference in your role, you’ll need both marketing-specific AI tools that fit into your tech stack and new processes to make good use of them.

But developing a first-hand appreciation for what AI tools can do in your specific marketing role is a great starting point before you start making 4-figure or 6-figure buying decisions.

The key is ROI

The key is boosting ROI: both from you and from the marketing organization that you’re part of. Only by doing that increasingly over time do you future-proof yourself and your skill-set.

Testing personal tools yourself is critical to doing that, because you need to have a realistic sense of what AI can and can’t accomplish before you make the much bigger buying decisions around software platforms and tools.

AI is powerful, and generative AI is amazing. But both are still incredibly fallible, and building them into your processes with deep knowledge of that borne from experience is critical to using them appropriately.

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