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AiThority Interview Series With Michael McGuire, VP Research, Gartner for Marketing Leaders

Interview with Michael McGuire, VP Research at Gartner_Cue Card

Accept the reality that the AI-for-marketing techniques and technologies they are checking out today are going to change rapidly and frequently over the next 10 years.

Know My Company

Tell us about your journey into building technologies. What galvanized you to join Gartner?

Joining Gartner was an outgrowth of my previous work as a news reporter and late-‘80s work in marketing roles at mobile pioneers such as GRiD Computing and Geoworks. The overall mission of Gartner is to help end-user enterprises understand the rapid evolution of technologies and how they could harness new and emerging technologies for their businesses.  For manufacturers, it is about helping them understand the requirements of their prospects: businesses and consumers.

How do you prepare CMOs and other marketing leaders for an AI-driven world?

There are three main factors that all CMOs and marketing leaders need to keep in mind when it comes to AI:

  • Acknowledgment

Acknowledge and make sure your team acknowledges that they are engaging with these tools at a very, very early stage in their development. That means accepting the reality that the AI-for-marketing techniques and technologies they are checking out today are going to change rapidly and frequently over the next 10 years.  This ‘reality’ should be viewed as a truly wide-open opportunity for the right sort of marketer: one who is open to experimentation and has no concerns about working without a net, so to speak.

  • Focus

When prepping for an AI-influenced world, focus on getting small projects right first. Do not try to solve all of the problems or challenges your marketing department has. These “small things” should be those tasks that require a lot of manual analysis and data-wrangling: think building/maintaining customer personas and segment building.

  • Reach

Reach beyond marketing to other business units when beginning your path to AI-assisted marketing. The utilization of all customer data within an organization is crucial to developing effective AI-for-marketing strategies.

Your marketing “emerging trends” team should include reps from Customer Service, Finance (we always need the CFO to be involved early), Sales and, of course, IT. Getting input from multiple stakeholders might seem counterintuitive at this stage but you need these units to be part of the planning and investigation.

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What are your top marketing predictions and must-watch technologies for 2018-2022? How much of these technologies would be influenced by the adoption of AI/Machine Learning?

Real-time and event-triggered marketing engagements, conversational marketing, and predictive marketing engagements. Each of these requires the ability to effectively extract and recognize patterns in customer behavior and expectations in huge amounts of information — a task that’s just beyond any number of humans (maybe, even data scientists!).

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In particular, I would say, that the natural-language processing requirements for driving voice interactions on mobile apps and, ultimately, web apps or through chatbots (aka conversational marketing) don’t happen without investments in AI/Machine Learning.

How is AI/ML transforming Marketing and Sales Practices?

Right now the impact is a mix of deer-in-the-headlights fear (the machines are taking over!) and wildly utopian fantasy (AI/ML will solve all problems!).

But, we’re also seeing a growing sense that AI/ML represent a new set of tools to deploy. And that’s the right approach. The meme of big data that consumed so many for the past few years is now meeting the reality that AI/ML techniques and technologies can help marketers wrestle the big-data beast to the ground and isolate the data points that matters.

That’s heartening…

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What impact will AI have on key roles within the marketing organization?

AI will ultimately free marketers to focus on creating the best environment for sales to occur, freeing them from the challenges of assembling, analyzing, and deriving actionable insights from the mass of data their companies are collecting.  Will some current job titles be at risk?


But, smart marketing teams will see this and look for ways to redeploy the people in these roles.

Why is mastering data and analytics so critical today for all businesses?

Accountability and the ability to use a fact base — not guesswork or “hunches” — to determine business strategies and tactics.

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Who are best suited to adopt and measure the business outcomes of deploying AI?

Initially, I would say marketing, customer service, and sales, further out, as technology and models mature, product development.

Would we see the creation of a specific AI-related Executive/Office — like Chief AI Officer?

I hope not!

I mean if you play that out, you’d actually need an AI engine to be a “Chief AI Officer.”  I don’t think adding another C-suite position is necessary. AI/ML techniques and technology are tools.

Do we need governance? Absolutely. But, it should be multidisciplinary, not the provenance of a single officer or department.

Elaborate on your playbook for company-customer interaction. How would digital transformation journeys change with the newer technologies? 

Relevance (for personalization) and predictive engagements (convenience and consistency, which have knock-on benefit of being better at delivering what customers actually need/want, as opposed to what you hope they need or want).

How potent is the Human-Machine intelligence for businesses and society? Who owns machine learning results?

Seriously, that’s way beyond my pay grade!

The potential for human-machine intelligence is significant — good and bad. As marketers, we have to start with the notion that the consumer’s data isn’t owned by anybody other than the consumer. The data is exploited by us as marketers, organizations, governments, etc., but it’s the customers who own it. We are only borrowing it. That’s why the GDPR is so important.

The Crystal Gaze

What AI/intelligent tech start-ups and labs are you keenly following?

Some of those at the top of our lists are in this report – “Cool Vendors in AI for Marketing”. Computer vision — particularly for visual search and AR applications.

What technologies within AI and computing are you interested in?

Natural Language Processing (NLP), Computer Vision, Neural Networks, and Deep-Learning Systems. And of course, Machine Learning.

Which industries do you think would be fastest at adopting AI/ML with smooth efficiency? What are the new emerging markets for AI technology markets?

Besides marketing? Financial services use AI/ML for assessing risk, while manufacturing/supply chain for process improvements.

What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?

You’re definitely asking the wrong guy!!! 🙂

Delegate intelligently. Collaborate freely.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Tim Cook.

Outside the industry? Brian Eno.

Thank you, Michael! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.

Michael McGuire is a research vice president for Gartner’s digital marketing research group, Gartner for Marketing Leaders, where he is responsible for the mobile marketing research agenda. Mike specializes in mobile marketing, guiding digital marketers on how context, community, location and time — combined with a consumer’s purchase history and purchase intent — are changing the relationship between consumers and brands. Previously, Mike worked with mobile computing startups in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California.

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