November 20 2023
Over the past year, artificial intelligence (AI) has taken the world of marketing by storm as it has emerged as a powerful, rapidly evolving tool for automating content creation and other marketing-related tasks. In fact, the global market for AI in marketing is likely to reach $107.5 billion by the year 2028—a more than sevenfold jump from just $15.8 billion in 2021.
While we have only just scratched the surface when it comes to the potential of generative AI, this certainly does not mean that the human element of writing is dead. Content creation is merely experiencing the next wave of its evolution. That means, as content marketers, we must learn how, and when, to effectively leverage AI-assisted content within our marketing strategies.
The key to this mindset shift is learning how to partner with generative AI tools where appropriate—without actually relying on them. Instead of viewing AI as a replacement for content writers, we need to recognize its potential to act as a powerful writing aid that can help boost our efficiency.
A recent HubSpot survey revealed that 75% of marketers who leverage generative AI are creating a higher volume of content. Plus, eight out of 10 report that the quality of their content has improved. While these statistics are certainly interesting, I can’t help but wonder if this has less to do with AI itself being the heavy lifter in the equation—and more to do with marketers’ time being freed up from smaller writing tasks to focus on big-picture strategy and higher-quality content creation.
Although change is certainly an inevitable part of life, it can still be quite challenging—and even intimidating—to adopt new, increasingly more intelligent forms of technology as they emerge in the marketplace. With seemingly limitless potential, generative AI is no doubt the most disruptive player that we’ve seen in the marketing space yet. And we’re all feeling the pressure to embrace these tools.
With all of that said, however, it does beg the question: Does the evolution of generative AI technology threaten to eventually replace marketers and content creators in the years to come?
As a starting point, I think it’s important to acknowledge that algorithm-based language models are far from a new concept. In fact, one of the very first language models—known as ELIZA—was developed in 1966 to simulate real-life conversations between man and machine. Plus, popular marketing AI tools like chatbots, marketing automation and CRM systems have been around for years.
And while it is certainly true that sales and marketing demand a steady stream of content, Paul Roetzer of the Marketing AI Institute reminds us that the experiences behind those words also matter. Even as AI continues to evolve, there will always be something uniquely human about the art of storytelling.
No matter how powerful or disruptive it may be, generative AI simply cannot carry out the strategic thinking, creativity, real-world experience and authenticity that content marketing requires in order to be successfully implemented. These tools still don’t understand the nuances of true storytelling, and they’ve certainly never interacted with your customers on a face-to-face basis.
This is why human knowledge will forever be a necessity. Like a match to a flame, human writers breathe life into brand voices. They have the ability to truly engage with customers, taking the time to understand their unique challenges and desires. Whether in-house or external to your business, subject matter experts possess a distinct perspective and deep expertise that only they can provide.
Can you imagine if we no longer tapped into this powerful network of human knowledge? Every word, every piece of content, every content strategy would begin to look and sound largely redundant. The inherent value in thought leadership and real, human-anchored perspectives is that they give your brand a distinct, competitive edge by ultimately building brand authority and credibility.
The 2023 PAN Brand Experience Report compared how AI is being used by marketers to how customers actually prefer to encounter AI in the marketing they consume. Here’s what that report revealed:
To add to this, a recent LinkedIn study revealed that 64% of B2B buyers place their trust in thought leadership content to assess an organization’s capabilities and competency—preferring a “more human, less formal tone of voice” over an “even-toned, intellectual voice.” Plus, nearly seven out of 10 business executives favor content written by identifiable author-experts expressing their own point of view, rather than a generic brand voice that espouses neutral company beliefs.
So, if human-generated content is still preferred by consumers, why should we care about embracing the AI technology we have at our disposal? Really, it’s more about preparing for the future of content marketing, which will call for a harmonious partnership between human creativity and AI efficiency.
The key to incorporating AI into your content strategy is to embrace it as a helpful aid that can be used to streamline the writing process and maximize your team’s productivity—from brainstorming fresh ideas and generating initial drafts, to repurposing content in new ways. It should not actually replace your content writers, but instead allow them to create higher-quality content more efficiently.
HubSpot’s 2023 State of Artificial Intelligence Report, which surveyed more than 1,350 marketing professionals about their experiences using AI, revealed the following insights:
When used alongside the strategic thinking, expertise and creativity that only human marketers can truly possess, AI has the power to transform content creation as we know it. By optimizing your content workflows, generative AI can provide additional manpower, increase your time-to-market and reduce the impact of budgetary constraints. Plus, it can even enable a wider range of subject matter experts within your business to produce content that aligns with your brand guidelines.
From Writer and ChatGPT to Jasper and Copysmith, there are seemingly endless options for generative AI tools already out in the marketplace. That said, it’s important to start small and strategic. By testing out just one tool at a time, this will allow your team to determine which tools are the right fit for your business.
As Winston Churchill has echoed throughout time, “Where this is great power, there is a great responsibility.” And although it’s important that we learn—and perhaps even embrace—AI in a largely digital world, we must also understand both the limitations and pitfalls of generative AI.
While I certainly don’t doubt the future potential of generative AI for content creation, it is still in the very early stages of development and is more about experimentation at this point. Even with prompt engineering, much of the content is still largely generic and devoid of emotional marketing value.
Here are several limitations that we’ve seen across different generative AI models in our work so far:
Sure, it is true that generative AI can churn out decent outlines and initial content drafts. However, it hasn’t yet mastered the art of data-backed storytelling—especially when it comes to producing highly niche content for complex brands, such as those in the B2B and professional services spaces.
In fact, I’ve noticed that when generative AI tools are prompted to write anything longer than about 500 words, the content begins to sound more like a regurgitation of information than anything with a specific perspective. Plus, as powerful as AI is, it cannot conduct original research or gather proprietary data that longer pieces of content often require. Only human writers truly know what questions must be asked in order to elicit key data points that will resonate with target audiences.
Not only that, but a machine simply cannot replace the human experience. Creative thinking and innovation are what separate great marketing from mediocre, run-of-the-mill marketing. While useful in certain applications, generative AI can inadvertently stifle our scope for originality, imagination and experimentation if marketers rely too heavily on it to drive their content creation efforts.
As AI continues to evolve in the coming years, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if we start to more authentic, human-generated content—such as editorials, podcasts and live events—take on far greater value among consumers as AI-generated content increasingly floods our feeds.
All of that said, I’m not against the use of AI in content creation. I believe AI has its place and that it’s important we, as marketers, understand how to use it. Yet, I still think the brightest future will lie with those who know how to create engaging, value-added content—with OR without the use of AI.