Generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) is taking the business world by storm — including the marketing departments of some healthcare providers. 

Although public access to GenAI is relatively new, its launch and rapid adoption has far outpaced the likes of Apple, Facebook, and Netflix. 

“Over the course of 2022 and early 2023, tech innovators unleashed generative AI en masse, dazzling business leaders, investors, and society at large with the technology’s ability to create entirely new and seemingly human-made text and images,” global consulting firm McKinsey & Co said in a recent post.

Referring to the response as “unprecedented,” the firm noted that it took just five days for ChatGPT, OpenAI’s generative AI language model, to gain one million users. 

“It took Apple more than two months to reach the same level of adoption for its iPhone,” McKinsey & Co said. “Facebook had to wait ten months and Netflix more than three years to build the same user base.”

Here, we’ll look at what a few recent studies indicate regarding what marketers think about GenAI — and potential applications for its use.

How is GenAI different from traditional AI?

Basically, GenAI differs from traditional AI due to its ability to create entirely new content — which can be delivered in “multiple modalities” — rather than merely analyzing information that is already available to make predictions and recommendations, McKinsey & Co said.

“All of this is made possible by training neural networks (a type of deep learning algorithm) on enormous volumes of data and applying ‘attention mechanisms,’ a technique that helps AI models understand what to focus on,” the firm explained. “With these mechanisms, a generative AI system can identify word patterns, relationships, and the context of a user’s prompt… Traditional AI also might use neural networks and attention mechanisms, but these models aren’t designed to create new content. They can only describe, predict, or prescribe something based on existing content.”

What do CMOs think of GenAI?

According to the recently-released results of a survey by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), marketing leaders around the world are excited about what GenAI can do for their organizations.  

For its new report, How CMOs Are Succeeding with Generative AI, BCG conducted a cross-sector survey of more than 200 Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) across Asia, Europe, and North America.  

Results indicated that when it comes to GenAI, “most CMOs are already seeing positive results, with 93% reporting positive or very positive improvements in how they organize their work and 91% reporting a positive or very positive impact on their efficiency.”

Noting that respondents are “overwhelmingly optimistic and confident about the power of generative AI (GenAI) to enhance productivity and create competitive advantage,” BCG said it asked them to select words that “best describe their feelings about GenAI.” 

The CMOs who participated chose:

  • Optimism (74%)
  • Confidence (71%)
  • Curiosity (63%)
  • Worry (35%)
  • Anxiety (11%)

“The CMOs expressed overwhelming confidence that GenAI can make a wide range of operational tasks faster, less risky, and more efficient,” BCG said. “It can also reduce the time employees spend on tedious tasks, freeing them to spend more time on value-added work.”

Additional findings include:

  • “Some 70% of respondents said their organizations already implement GenAI to address a wide range of marketing challenges, and another 19% said that their organizations are testing it.”
  • “The greatest focus area is personalization, with roughly two-thirds (67%) pursuing efforts there, followed by insight generation (51%) and content creation (49%).”
  • “Most of the CMOs surveyed feel that Gen AI will future-proof their business, with 84% reporting that they plan to launch new products and business modes enabled by GenAI technology. Half of the CMOs see GenAI as a tool that will enable them to accomplish both simultaneously.”
  • “Most CMOs surveyed (81%) believe that regulation of generative AI is necessary, and 77% believe that their company will be subject to regulations within the next two years.”
  • “A vast majority of CMOs (94%) report that their organizations have implemented responsible AI programs to mitigate the numerous risks of unmanaged AI, including proprietary data leaks, copyright infringement, biased outputs, sophisticated fraud, and shadow AI, a situation that arises when people use external tools without proper guidance and supervision.”

“CMOs are redefining the baselines for speed, efficiency, customization, and quality for a wide range of marketing tasks with generative AI, and they see opportunities for it to future-proof their business,” said Jessica Apotheker, BCG global CMO and report coauthor. 

She added that the “last big disruption to marketing was the transition to digital consumer journeys in the early 2000s. Today, however, the disruptive power of generative AI is changing the role of marketers and marketing itself.”

“It is now a given that GenAI will drive disruption and innovation for CMOs. We have entered a generational change in marketing,” said Nicolas De Bellefonds, global leader of AI and Software at BCG X, BCG’s tech build and design unit, and a coauthor of the research. “Agility, innovation, and responsibility will set apart the CMOs who embrace GenAI successfully—and they will gain significant competitive advantage over those who don’t.”

A “game-changer” for marketers

With its potential to increase efficiency and productivity, Salesforce said in a recent post that GenAI is a “game-changer” for marketers.

“With customer expectations rising and personalisation now an expectation, marketers can use generative AI to help maintain customer loyalty and gain insights in a post-cookie world,” the company said. “We’ve already seen how AI can help marketers, commerce teams, salespeople, and more make informed decisions. This merely scratches the surface on how brands can use AI in their marketing to become more efficient and productive.”

As part of its Generative AI Snapshot Series, Salesforce recently surveyed more than 1,000 marketers in the United States, UK, and Australia and discovered that when it comes to GenAI:

  • 51%  are using it currently
  • 22% are planning to use it “very soon” 
  • 39% say they don’t know how to “safely” use it

Some of the safety concerns related to accuracy, which is why the majority of respondents said human oversight is needed. 

“Many (71%) marketers also believe generative AI’s lack of human creativity and contextual knowledge is a potential barrier to successfully using generative AI in the workplace,” Salesforce said. “As a result, 66% percent of marketers say human oversight is needed to successfully use generative AI in their role.”

Marketers also indicated they need to receive the appropriate training to use GenAI to its full potential.

“While marketers are excited about the opportunities of generative AI to transform their work, many feel unprepared to take full advantage of it, with 43% saying they don’t know how to get the most value out of the technology,” Salesforce said. “And while 54% of marketers believe generative AI training programs are important for them to successfully use generative AI in their role, 70% say their employer does not yet provide generative AI training.”

Trust in data was also a concern. 

“Accuracy and quality depend on data,” Salesforce explained. “However, 67% of marketers say their company’s data is not properly set up for generative AI — despite a similar number (63%) saying trusted customer data is important for the successful use of generative AI at work.” 

Among the marketers who said they are already using GenAI, current applications included:

  • Basic content creation (76%)
  • Writing copy (76%)
  • Inspiring creative thinking (71%)
  • Analyzing market data (63%)
  • Generating image assets (62%)

But Salesforce said many of those polled envision a “wholesale overhaul of their work on the horizon, with 53% saying generative AI is a ‘game changer.’ Respondents cite reasons for this that include its ability to transform the way they analyze data, personalize messaging content, build marketing campaigns, and build/optimize SEO strategy.”

In this context, respondents said GenAI can “transform” a marketer’s job by being used to:

  • Analyze market data (58%)
  • Analyze performance data (58%)
  • Create groups or segments for marketing campaigns (57%)
  • Create marketing campaign and journey plans (55%)
  • Personalize messaging content (54%)
  • Conduct copy testing and experimentation (53%)
  • Build and optimize SEO strategy (53%)

The marketers surveyed said that by using GenAI, they expect to experience time savings and gain the ability to focus on “more strategic work.” 

“In fact, they estimate generative AI will save them over five hours per week…” Salesforce said. 

“Generative AI has the potential to transform how marketers connect with their customers by powering more personalized, automated, and effective campaigns — quickly and at scale,” said Stephen Hammond, EVP and GM, Marketing Cloud at Salesforce in the post. “But as companies look to adopt the technology, they need to unify their first-party data and leverage trusted AI innovations to ensure safety and accuracy.”

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