A Guide to Thoughtful AI in Marketing

By Phase 3
January 18, 2024



2023 was the year of artificial intelligence (AI). In a study of more than 2,400 business leaders, Twilio found that 88% of businesses already use AI in their marketing, and more than half (54%) plan to spend more on AI-powered marketing in 2024. Also, 90% of those leaders expect the tools to deliver either time or cost savings for their companies. They expect AI tools to increase their team's efficiency in day-to-day tasks and provide data and insights into their target audiences and the customer journey.

While these expectations are not unreasonable, leaders must fully understand the strengths and weaknesses of today's AI tools. When identified, the limitations can be overcome or worked around to make AI a better investment and the strengths can be leveraged for maximum impact

Having a strong brand foundation in place is also critical to better inform any AI tool used. Think of AI in this way. At its core, AI is a machine. Although it is "smart," it is not human. Successful marketing strategies are driven by human behavior, preferences, and decision-making. The machine needs human direction to provide usable and actionable marketing outputs.

There are a lot of articles and research in the marketplace about the benefits of AI for marketing purposes. In this article, we'll review some of the specific limitations of AI tools in the market right now. Then, we'll discuss how to use cohesive and strong brand elements to create more strategic and effective marketing strategies and campaigns using AI.

Today's Limitations of AI in Marketing

While AI has fostered significant advancements in marketing, it is not without limitations. Here are some key limitations and challenges associated with using AI in marketing today.


Lack of Creativity

This may seem obvious, but we tend to forget that creativity is a critical element of impactful marketing. AI lacks the creative intuition and out-of-the-box thinking that humans bring to the table. The creative aspects of marketing, such as designing brand-driven visuals or messaging, are often better handled by human professionals. Once the visuals or messaging is created, AI can then be leveraged for content versioning, like changing image sizes or changing dynamic content.


Human Touch and Empathy

Marketing involves building customer relationships that provide value and drive brand loyalty and engagement. This requires a human touch and empathy that AI cannot authentically produce in marketing campaigns. Understanding the customer's needs and how to drive that emotional context in marketing messages can be challenging for any AI content-producing tool.


Data Privacy Concerns

AI relies heavily on data, and using personal customer data for targeted marketing raises privacy concerns. Striking a balance between personalized messaging and respecting customer privacy regulations can be challenging. The mismanagement of customer data can lead to legal consequences and damage brand reputation.


Unpredictability of Consumer Behavior

Consumer behavior is inherently unpredictable. AI models may not be able to capture the full complexity of human decision-making in real-time. Sudden shifts in trends or unexpected market dynamics will challenge the predictive capabilities of many AI tools.


Bias in AI Algorithms

AI algorithms are based on historical data, which may contain biases. These biases can drive marketing decisions if not carefully addressed through ongoing "training" of an AI tool. This can lead to unfair targeting or discriminatory outcomes. Ensuring transparency and fairness in AI is a constant challenge, even for generative AI tools.


Need for Continuous Learning

Generative AI tools must be continually "trained" to stay relevant, not just to overcome bias. The marketing landscape evolves rapidly, and AI systems may become less worthwhile if they do not adapt to changing trends. Continuous investment in tool training and updates is necessary to maintain optimal performance. That takes time and resources away from a busy marketing team and can slow the campaign planning and creation processes.


Complex Implementation

Implementing AI solutions requires expertise in data science and technology. Many marketing teams may lack the skills to implement and manage AI systems effectively. Integrating AI tools into existing workflows can be complex and time-consuming.


Overreliance on Data

While data-driven decision-making is crucial, an overreliance on AI-generated insights may lead your team to focus too much on quantifiable metrics. There is still a place for human intuition, qualitative insights, and contextual understanding in holistic marketing strategies.


The Path Forward with AI 

Despite these limitations, AI can bring substantial benefits to a marketing team. Successful implementation involves understanding the strengths and weaknesses of AI technologies and leveraging them along with human expertise to create engaging and ethical marketing campaigns.

It also helps to have a strong brand and a solid strategic marketing plan to inform an AI tool. Think of it this way. If you don't understand or can't articulate your brand, how can a piece of software?


The Importance of a Strong Brand

A strong marketing foundation and clear brand guidelines guide how you train, deploy, and integrate an AI tool into your team's day-to-day activities. It ensures that all AI outputs (strategies, messaging, visuals) align with your brand's identity. This consistency also helps your team feel a sense of familiarity and trust when engaging with AI tools, contributing to a positive experience.


Using Brand Guidelines to Enhance the Use of AI

A brand with well-defined guidelines can extend those guidelines to AI interactions. This includes language, tone, and style considerations, ensuring that AI-generated content aligns with the brand's established communication standards.

Brand guidelines are a comprehensive document that outlines the essential elements of a brand. It should cover elements such as brand values, mission, vision, tone of voice, visual identity (including color palette, logo usage, and typography), and any other rules governing brand representation. A brand guidelines document is a reference tool for anyone (or any AI-driven software) involved in creating content, designing materials, or representing your brand in any capacity. For more information, read our recent article on brand guidelines.

You can use elements of your brand guidelines to guide AI tools in generating strategies and content that is consistent, on-brand, and aligned with your company's identity. This approach ensures that AI becomes a seamless extension of your marketing efforts. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to use brand guidelines to shape AI-generated content.


Consistent Brand Tone and Voice

Train AI tools like ChatGPT to always produce content in your brand's voice and tone by inputting examples from your brand guidelines into the tool. This ensures that your brand's unique personality always shines through, no matter the content, channel, or audience.


Brand-right Style and Design Elements

Similarly, train AI design tools by inputting your brand's visual guidelines, including logos, fonts, brand colors, approved images, and other visual styles your brand uses. This ensures that any AI-generated designs are consistent with your brand aesthetics.


Brand Messaging and Values

AI-generated marketing content should reinforce your brand's core messages and values. Make sure to train your tools to reflect these critical brand points. For example, if one of your brand's core values is sustainability, any language generated by AI tools should echo that commitment.


Targeting Specific Personas

Brand guidelines often include target audience personas and instructions on personalizing marketing messages for each audience segment. AI tools use this information to tailor content based on user preferences, demographics, or behavior. The content will align with your brand's personalization strategies. For example, you may prompt ChatGPT by inputting "Write this email for a CEO of a small manufacturing company" or "What blog topics would be of interest to [persona]."


Content Strategy

Current AI solutions are not ready to build a comprehensive marketing content campaign or strategy. Still, it can help your team develop content topic ideas and generate content outlines to get started. Specific AI tools can also help you build content templates based on key brand messaging. Tailor each template for different types of content, such as social media posts, product descriptions, or in-store signage. Work with an agency like Phase 3 to use these pieces of the puzzle to build your overall marketing content strategy and calendar.


SEO Optimization

Using the relevant keywords in your brand guidelines, AI tools can analyze your website's content, provide suggestions for on-page optimizations, and generate SEO elements like meta descriptions. AI-powered content generation tools can also create web page content, blog posts, and articles based on identified keywords. These tools ensure that your content is keyword-rich but also engaging and informative.


Adaptation to Different Channels

AI can be a game-changer in helping your team repurpose existing content. For example, your team can write a blog post and then ask ChatGPT to rewrite it into five shorter LinkedIn posts, using brand guidelines to fit the nuances of the specific channel and maintaining brand consistency.


The Bottom Line

AI tools should make your job easier, not more difficult. Before jumping onto the AI bandwagon, ensure the AI-generated content aligns with your brand identity, creating a consistent and engaging user experience across various touchpoints. Integrating AI into your marketing efforts should simplify tasks, enhance efficiency, and provide valuable insights to make you and your team more successful.


If you’d like to learn more about building a strong brand utilizing marketing tools such as AI, contact the Phase 3 team today.