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How CMOs can embrace the Generative AI opportunity

How CMOs can embrace the Generative AI opportunity

Looking beyond the hype, Jim Misener, CEO, 50,000feet offers practical advice for brand leaders on the challenges and opportunities of generative AI.

Chief marketing officers have long faced a dilemma concerning emerging technologies: how and when to adopt and intelligently apply newer approaches and tools. No CMO wants to fall behind while their peers and competitors rapidly adopt technologies that transform their businesses. Yet, they also can’t afford missteps. Remember the metaverse? Generative AI poses a similar challenge and a unique opportunity.

The generative AI wild card

According to a recent edition of The CMO Survey, CMOs are proceeding cautiously with generative AI: the technology has been applied to only 7 percent of marketing activities.

However, those who have embraced generative AI are already reaping the benefits: sales productivity and customer satisfaction have increased by more than 5 and 6 percent, respectively, while marketing costs have reduced by 7 percent. 

The statistics are unsurprising. Within less than two years, generative AI has repeatedly proven its value. Early-adopter CMOs have used generative AI to improve personalization, create content more effectively, and segment their customers more precisely, according to BCG.

Generative AI is a wild card, though, carrying risks such as potential brand safety issues, privacy violations, and legal liabilities.

Yet, unlike the metaverse, generative AI is seeing widespread adoption within enterprises, whether CMOs realize it or not. A staggering 78 percent of AI users independently source their tools at work, as revealed by the Microsoft/LinkedIn 2024 Work Trend Index.

Here’s how CMOs can harness the power and popularity of generative AI.

Transform processes before scaling

Generative AI holds the potential to achieve brand transformation, or make a fundamental shift in how people perceive and interact with a brand. This change doesn’t have to be seismic; it can happen one business process at a time. We already see this with businesses leaning into AI to create more human, engaging chatbots, improving the customer service experience.

Businesses are also using AI to enhance workflows and improve content creation through A/B testing. One particularly intriguing application is developing digital customers, enabling brands to test products and personalize marketing more effectively than traditional personas.

To achieve these benefits, CMOs and their teams should fine-tune small language models, or generative AI applications for specific tasks such as social listening, keyword analysis and personalized advertising. For example, David Sandstrom, CMO of Klarna, recently shared with The Wall Street Journal that his company reduced marketing spending by 11 percent in the first quarter of 2024 by applying generative AI tasks like content translation and production. He is not alone; Gartner reports that generative AI is helping CMOs grow even as budgets tighten in 2024.

Mine golden nuggets from your employees

A surge of employee-driven AI innovation is a goldmine for CMOs. By leveraging the insights of your employees, companies can become exceptional brand stewards, transforming their brand identity and customer experience.

Imagine crowdsourcing product ideas with generative AI, taking a page from LEGO Ideas’ fan-designed concepts. Businesses can tap into their own employee base for product brainstorming, generating options that align with company goals and market needs. This approach can help CMOs identify key processes to enhance with generative AI. 

Employees using generative AI can make brand building more organic. They can dissect customer sentiment, spot emerging trends, and develop marketing strategies. This crowdsourced

AI approach can refine brand messaging, helping it resonate with a wider audience and foster a more authentic, customer-focused brand.

Brand transformation and stewardship always need market research. If CMOs can harness the collective wisdom of AI-empowered employees, they can gain access to valuable research from the inside out.

Protect your brand, and accept imperfection

Brand safety remains paramount with generative AI. CMOs can manage the risks through collaboration with stakeholders such as legal and HR to understand the risks and guide employees. For example, setting guidelines on what kind of data can and cannot be used to provide prompts to generative AI and requiring review of AI-generated content before external publication.

In this regard, generative AI is similar to the early days of social media. Savvy marketers learned to develop guidelines and standards to align social media with the brand. Generative AI shares another commonality with social media: both are imperfect. Despite the safeguards you have in place with generative AI, you’re going to make mistakes. Accept the imperfect nature of generative AI and have a process in place for how to respond in order to protect your reputation.

Experiment and innovate

The beauty of generative AI is its accessibility. Anyone can use off-the-shelf tools like ChatGPT and Gemini. CMOs should immerse themselves in these tools to appreciate their potential and connect with experts, expanding their ecosystem of ideas.

With generative AI, agile innovation principles are more relevant than ever. Improving business processes can start with small-scale AI projects to solve specific problems. CMOs should move quickly and embrace continuous improvement, as AI enhances itself daily. Those who adopt AI sooner will advance faster than those who don’t. There is no time like the present to start.


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