Recently, I attended the Denver Digital Summit - a wonderful collection of marketers, vendors, and high-quality presenters from industry, publishers, technical, and everywhere in-between. (Including Morgan Spurlock – of whom I’m a huge fan!)
CONTRASTING THEMES ABOUND
Throughout the event, there were two themes that came up repeatedly: The first one was getting attention through authentic stories, and the second was artificial intelligence (or "machine learning" for those people who were less bombastic). I cannot imagine two more disparate themes - on one hand, a push for great and thoughtful content, and on the other, harnessing an array of “robots” to do a variety of amazing things with data - big and small alike.
The authentic stories are a little outside of my comfort zone, but statistics and machine learning (I am proud to include myself among the more precise and less bombastic people at the summit) could not be more within my areas of passion.
Every product, it seemed, had a dose of machine learning. Not always legitimate machine learning – in some instances it was actually carefully branded statistics and multiple regressions (as opposed to a trained system), but even there, the concept was the harnessing of data to drive results. And what results? In addition to the Big Data examples from the likes of Uber and Amazon, there were also demonstrations of advanced statistics on a very small scale - such as automated split testing and surveys - things very much within reach of individuals.
THE FUTURE: SPECIALIZED SMART SYSTEMS
This is where I believe the action will be for the next few years. While the technical giants have long led the way, we are now seeing these tools get down to very affordable levels. And rather than monolithic implementations of huge databases and custom designed tools, I believe marketers will begin encountering these smarts in their everyday work: Each tool with a very specialized sort of machine learning, and a very custom set of aggregated training data, that make it ideal for a singular purpose. Not the whole campaign run by machine, (although I do not think that day is far off), but a campaign run by a series of specialized smart systems, orchestrated by the savvy technical marketer.
In order to see this in action, just go through your Google tools on your phone some time. You can now ask natural language questions of your spreadsheets, for example, and Google Analytics will surface truly useful insights without your having to prompt it at all. Such things may seem simple, but in concert with all your other tools, they can be incredibly transformative.
As everyday artificial intelligence continues to evolve, I’ll be fascinated to monitor how it will transform the role of digital marketing. Later, I’ll be stepping outside my comfort zone to discuss the implications of presenting authentic stories to an audience with a very limited attention span.