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29 May 2018

The new mantra of a marketer: become an experience maker

The key message at Adobe's Summit on May 3rd and 4th was that we as marketers should become experience makers. Adobe raised a key question on social media during the Summit: “what does 'experience maker' mean to you?” I liked the following definition: “A true experience maker is only happy when the customer’s life is made a lot easier”. Or like CMO Claire Cronin states: “At Virgin Atlantic, we are memory makers and the customer is the compass”. For example, the crew is empowered to create special experiences, not based on predefined scripts, but on their initiative and with their own creativity. Creating memories is linked to creating relevance for the customer, and the key to unlock this is data, the gold for marketers.

I hear you thinking “this will require a lot of effort and investment”, and it’s true. Research by Forrester1 shows us that these efforts and investments in becoming an experience maker (and the marketing technology needed for it) will not be in vain with e.g. a factor of 1,4 more brand awareness or 1,5 higher average order value.

Making experience your business is good for business

Human or AI???

So we need to create experiences, but how? Most of the companies are faced with the fact that customers are always ahead of what organizations can digitally build. Or in other words, companies are always lagging behind. The solution lies on the one hand in key human elements that computers and Artificial Intelligence don’t possess (yet): creativity and empathy. We can put ourselves in the shoes of our customers, “feel” their pains, problems and needs and create great experiences. But every person is unique and has their own pains, problems and needs that need to be solved. This is where on the other hand data, Artificial Intelligence and a unified profile come into play. The unified profile is all the data about one individual customer, created and enriched by the computational power of AI and machine learning.

Experience system of record

Adobe’s “experience system of record” shows 2 reinforcing loops:

  • The (blue) data loop: The data pipeline collects and centralizes all data. In today’s world we have massive amounts of data (e.g. the Adobe servers process over 3 million transactions a second) and the volume, velocity and variety of data are still increasing. The semantics & control block is the next step in this loop and makes something meaningful out of this raw data. Machine learning helps us to process these insights into real-time actions towards the customers. When the customer interacts, it generates again new data and we are back to the start of this data loop.
  • The (pink) content loop: Data alone will not create great experiences, content will. And content has its own pipeline, where all the content goes into content workflows to trigger action. Machine learning is helping us, marketers, to increase the content velocity by doing things like tagging, image processing or image recognition.

Explore the Artificial Intelligence cave

 “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek” (a quote by Joseph Campbell, Professor of Literature, 1904-1984) is again very actual regarding Artificial Intelligence. During his session at the Summit, Jeremy White, executive editor of Wired UK, gave some facts about AI that made me feel enthusiastic about the future at some moments, but also frightened me at other moments. Here are some:

  • AI has now a 69% accuracy in predicting which people in a hospital will die. The same accuracy as a human doctor.
  • Alexa is at human parity in understanding what someone really means.
  • In Hong Kong there is a hedge fund managed by an AI with a financial return of 25%.
  • Tay was an experimental chatbot of Microsoft, who started randomly insulting people. Still nobody knows why.
  • Facebook experimented to let an AI bot learn to negotiate by letting it analyze 6000 conversations. But in fact the bot learned to lie and deceive.
  • When you ask a question to the bot Viv of Samsung, it doesn’t just do natural language processing or understanding. It writes a program to solve the problem that was put on the table.

Artificial Intelligence will thus be an important addition to the toolkit of marketers. But it will not (yet) be able to compete with our own human creativity and empathy. The capabilities of AI is already impressive, but these systems are also still learning and evolving. We need to handle them with care. For the time being AI is best used as a tool that assists us in decision making: it has huge analytical power and can suggest decisions, but the final call is still better made by a human.

An interesting Adobe example of AI: when you have created a video ad, you are able to know the performance of the ad even before it goes on air. For all of your audiences. That way you can tweak your ad spent to the audiences with the most impact, or you can remaster the ad and check if it has more impact on underperforming audiences. The tool even lets you create, in a fully automated way, short versions (e.g. for Facebook or Instagram) that will have the biggest performance for that channel. Cool, isn’t it?

So now the choice is yours: will you also become an experience maker or not? And will you embrace Artificial Intelligence in your marketing toolkit and combine it with your own human superpower?

PS: If your hunger for content isn’t over yet, you can continue to watch the full keynote about the experience makers or check out the case of Virgin Atlantic.

References: Forrester