Marketing and public relations at the forefront of GenAI transformation
Generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) has become a household name, thanks in large part to the meteoric rise of ChatGPT. The unprecedented growth in AI capabilities has captured the world’s collective imagination, fundamentally altering the way we interact with technology and transforming our daily lives. Marketing and public relations (PR) departments have found themselves at the forefront of this transformative wave, as they navigate through a multitude of challenges while simultaneously seizing exciting opportunities. Creating or altering realistic images within seconds, editing the tonality and style of texts, or converting audio and video content into different languages are surely just the beginning of the use cases for this GenAI playing field.
To better grasp the future of GenAI’s role in marketing and PR, Porsche Consulting conducted a survey involving nearly 100 thought leaders from both departments in the United States, Germany, and China, across various sectors (i.e., automotive, transportation, consumer goods, industrial goods, and financial services).* Spoiler alert: Whether it is about shaping the reputation (PR) or a brand’s image (marketing), all heads of departments agree that GenAI will play a pivotal role in shaping future marketing and PR strategies. Their perspectives offer a unique outlook on how the current technological wave is shaping future agendas, providing valuable insights for companies to proactively navigate and conquer this transformative wave.
GenAI has already arrived in marketing and PR departments
The survey results confirmed that GenAI is not only a concept for marketing strategies in the future, but it is already a present reality. A substantial 68 percent of the surveyed heads of marketing and PR have already integrated GenAI into their daily operations, and 92 percent of those already using it plan to take even further integration steps in the future. Not only is GenAI already being put to use, an overwhelming 88 percent attest to its significant influence on their everyday work operations. According to the survey, GenAI's applications within marketing are quite diverse: the most widely adopted GenAI tools are being used for predictive analytics and chatbots (62%), customer segmentation and targeting (61%), natural language processing (NLP) and personalization engines (54%), and programmatic advertising (44%). For example, predictive analytics is anticipating customer churn by analyzing historical data, allowing businesses to proactively engage and retain at-risk customers. Furthermore, predictive analytics in PR is monitoring companies in real time, helping them prepare for and effectively respond to positive or negative events. Remarkably, there are no significant differences in GenAI usage across Germany, the US, and China, underscoring the global nature of this technological shift.
GenAI is set to revolutionize the future approach of marketing and PR
But what does the future look like? As the findings underscore the growing prevalence of GenAI in marketing and PR, it is evident that it’s not just a passing trend, but firmly entrenched in the industry and here to stay. An overwhelming 93 percent of all respondents, with a remarkable 100 percent agreement from those in China, strongly believe that GenAI will be instrumental in shaping the future of marketing.
In the past, GenAI was primarily used to maximize reach, but the landscape is swiftly changing. Industry experts are signaling a strategic shift, highlighting the increasing importance of precise audience targeting and personalization (often referred to as microtargeting in the realm of marketing and PR). This microtargeting strategy involves the intricate segmentation of audiences based on psycho-geographic factors.1 Employing algorithms to analyze demographic and attitudinal traits, it effectively identifies and distinguishes individuals within each targeted segment, enabling tailored messaging and content delivery for a highly personalized engagement, otherwise known as “hyper-personalization.”
While personalization involves tailoring messages and interactions based on basic customer information like name, gender, and location to create individualized engagement,2;3 hyper-personalization goes even further by incorporating detailed data such as browsing history and behavioral information. It uses real-time data and AI to craft highly relevant messages and experiences for individual users.4 For example, Netflix is already employing hyper-personalization by using GenAI algorithms to align viewing recommendations with user thought processes. Future content providers are expected to deepen symbiotic user relationships by personalizing the product experience itself. Moving beyond basic data like viewing or purchasing history, they will leverage user-entered preferences, time of day, and advanced tools such as facial recognition software to decipher user emotions for highly accurate recommendations.5 Is this really where the future of marketing and PR is heading?
This appears to be the case: the insights gathered from the survey strongly advocate for GenAI's poised role in significantly enhancing personalization and individualization in marketing and communication within the coming five years. An impressive 88 percent of respondents, including unanimous support from China, express their optimism regarding this transition towards hyper-personalization. This shift promises to deliver enriched customer experiences and drive increased engagement.
Survey respondents were also asked how far they think personalization will go in GenAI-driven campaigns in the future. While the majority envision highly personalized promotions targeting specific audience segments based on interests and behaviors (42 percent), a significant 27 percent foresee hyper-individualized promotions that dynamically adapt to each viewer's preferences and context in real time. On the other side of the coin, less than 10 percent of heads in marketing and PR departments anticipate mass appeal to remain a primary focus in future agendas, signaling a clear trend towards increased personalization and tailored communication strategies.
If marketing and PR are shifting away from mass appeal, will we see fewer advertisements and publicity initiatives in the future? Probably not, given GenAI's rapid content production capabilities. The emphasis, however, may shift towards prioritizing (hyper-)personalized content in marketing and PR agendas. In a saturated information landscape, professionals must ensure their content stands out, potentially defining the future of marketing as the challenge of distinguishing oneself in a growing crowd.
From lack of expertise to resistance: current challenges encountered in adopting GenAI
Navigating uncharted technological territory naturally brings forth a spectrum of challenges. Heads of marketing and PR emphasized the array of obstacles they currently confront, including concerns about data privacy and compliance (47.3 percent), integrating new systems with existing ones (47.3 percent), a lack of expertise or talent in GenAI (46.2 percent), and the financial costs of implementing GenAI technologies (41.8 percent). Companies are not only struggling with external barriers, but they must also deal with internal hurdles as well — a notable 33 percent of respondents acknowledged internal resistance to change within their organizations.
Another internal fear that companies are dealing with is concerns about potential job cuts. Will GenAI write social media posts and press releases on its own? Many may ask: “Who even needs me anymore?”6 While the technology will likely have a significant impact on the day-to-day lives of marketing and PR professionals, many such concerns about GenAI are misplaced, as the jobs most likely to be impacted are mundane tasks that many individuals are not keen on performing. It's crucial to recognize that while GenAI excels in natural language communication and information recall, it doesn't possess the same creative thinking ability as humans.7 So far, GenAI works most effectively alongside humans, acting as a catalyst to augment human creativity rather than replacing it entirely, thus providing reassurance that GenAI can enhance job roles rather than replace them.
Embracing GenAI: overcoming obstacles for maximum impact in marketing and PR
To overcome the multitude of challenges and achieve success in adopting GenAI, companies must implement a diverse range of solutions rather than relying on a single approach. Obstacles can be overcome by actively taking steps to embrace GenAI in an organization – not resisting it. Department heads already report that they are investing in GenAI training programs (42 percent); leveraging external partnerships with GenAI specialized companies (40 percent); establishing GenAI knowledge-sharing platforms (39 percent); and forming dedicated GenAI expertise teams (39 percent). By tackling these challenges head-on, organizations are positioning themselves to maximize the benefits of GenAI in their marketing and PR efforts.
To avoid being left behind, a phased approach for integrating GenAI into a company's operations is recommended. First, (1) establish the groundwork by defining governance, selecting internal AI enthusiasts, and forming a small initial team to be responsible for AI topics. Once this foundation is set, it is easier to (2) initiate a pilot use case for marketing and/or PR strategies. The subsequent steps involve testing and expanding the pilot use case and building trust through change management. Additionally, a knowledge-sharing platform supports transparency and makes current results accessible. To develop further, (3) deepen the company’s AI and data strategy in collaboration with external partners, while establishing GenAI expertise teams as a necessary next step. It is crucial to integrate the PR and marketing GenAI approach into the company's overarching data and AI strategy for optimal functionality.
The rise and disruption of GenAI in marketing and PR is undeniable in the same way as the influence of search engines and business platforms in the past. The survey of thought leaders from marketing and PR departments across diverse industries in three different countries illuminates the current state, potential future evolution, challenges, and solutions related to GenAI. With the integration of GenAI, the marketing and PR landscape is not just evolving; it's on the brink of a revolution, one that promises to offer customers more personalized experiences and help businesses thrive in a data-driven future. Companies that effectively integrate GenAI into their daily operations are poised to lead the revolution and avoid falling behind.
*Acknowledging the unique objectives of both marketing and PR departments, the survey questions were tailored to closely reflect the specific goals of each role. Despite these customized approaches, there are no significant differences between the two departments in their perceptions of the future; therefore, the results are discussed collectively.
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Will AI Lead To The End Of Marketing Jobs? (forbes.com)
Here's why AI cannot be a replacement for human creativity | World Economic Forum (weforum.org)