You don’t eat artificial anymore, why should your marketing budget?

Artificial Intelligence is like artificial food - yack! Biological Intelligence is like organic food - yum!

In marketing technology, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence are to the layman seemingly interchangeable, overused concepts and jargon designed to say a few things:

  1. Our technology is proprietary
  2. Our process is complicated
  3. Our results are superior

And most of all, Artificial Intelligence says a marketing technology company might just have a high-tech solution to marketing’s all-time challenge – how to reach the right person at the right time, with the right message.

Artificial Intelligence has been intriguing us, scaring us, or both on the big screen for decades but it hasn’t been until the last few years that it’s made its way into our businesses as marketers.  For most of us, AI has become synonymous with Ad Tech, accepted as ‘table-stakes’ for being more than just the next platform – especially on the buy-side of advertising.

However, in many recent Ad Tech missteps, Artificial Intelligence has been front and center, delivering anything but the results marketers had hoped for.  While the promise seems great, the reality is not.  How is this so?  It seems simple enough.  Computers love crunching numbers even without artificial intelligence.  Give them AI, lots of ‘Big Data’, many iterations and success should be a given.  That’s the sales pitch at least.

The challenge with Artificial Intelligence in marketing applications is that real business is anything but artificial.  The engine that drives commerce is not a machine, it’s the human heart, forming behavior patterns only nature can explain – not 1’s and 0’s.  In fact it’s those very binary digits that holds AI back from truly connecting with human behavior the way it should.  Those values, along with ‘Truth Values’ (True/False) are major limitations in Artificial Intelligence.  No matter how hard it tries, AI is only as strong as 1 and 0 – with no room in between.  With no intermediary values, traditional AI is archaic when it comes to replicating, or in the pursuit of Ad Tech, ‘predicting’ human behavior.

Enter Biological Intelligence.  ‘BI’ is flexible.  It can adapt to change in the universe in a way ‘Artificial’ never could.  BI sees the world not in 1’s and 0’s but in a fundamentally flexible and adaptive way found in nature – the right way, if you prefer natural over artificial.  With Biological Intelligence, for example, algorithms can solve for the behaviors of people in time and space, relative to who they are, where they are and why they are there.  BI is superior at deciphering such behavior, because like the human brain, it has a continuous range of feelings about things, not just binary values.  Marketers must connect with consumers from all walks of life with varying sentiment about their products; there is no room for a one size fits all approach like Artificial Intelligence.

So, given its flaws, and dubious results, why has AI proliferated throughout Marketing Technology when what we need to better understand humans is BI? Because AI is simpler.  It’s more widely understood in computer science.  It’s easier to program.  And in an ecosystem requiring compatibility, portability and open standards, it’s simply the cheaper way to market.   The scientists programming Artificial Intelligence models best understand computers.  And that’s useful in matters of bits and bytes.  But in matters of consumer preferences, like marketing, marketers who want results, must seek product design built based on more advanced science – human behavior.  It is indeed rare to find a computer scientist who is also a people scientist, but that’s what it’s going to take to understand people as data.

For a really low-tech and ‘common sense’ understanding of the issue at hand, consider turning to another domain – something we all consider on a daily basis – our diet.  While we all enjoy occasional sweets, and most of us occasionally indulge in the fattiest (and tastiest) of hamburgers and the like, we are quickly losing our tolerance for artificial ingredients in our food.  Brands such as Whole Foods have made an industry out of this preference, as we evolve to loathe the cheap, synthetic and toxic ingredients of yesteryear’s food products.  Natural food is grown, prepared and consumed the way nature intended.  It tastes better and it’s better for you – a simple win-win.  In your pursuit of Marketing Technology, it’s time to take the same leap.  It’s time to leave the synthetic, Artificial Intelligence behind and move on to a more natural solution.  Biological Intelligence enables just that, with a natural approach based on real behavior too complex to be calculated by artificial means.  Because in an Ad Tech community that has as many PHDs as marketers, real, human approaches are just what the doctor ordered.