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10 Practices To Prepare Marketing For GenAI’s Disruptive Impact

Revolutionizing Marketing with Major Impacts on Productivity and Staffing
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Marketing has been a hotbed of digital transformation for more than a decade but with the recent emergence of Generative AI (GenAI), the most profound changes lie ahead. GenAI improves continuously on a logarithmic/exponential curve of competency mastery. Its potential is limited only by the availability and cost of computing and whatever governance can be applied to control it. While we are amazed at its current abilities, it is just getting started and the rate of acceleration means that in three to five years it will be phenomenally more proficient at everything we teach it to do, and the more people use AI to do their jobs, the faster AI will learn to do everyone’s job.

GenAI has many use cases for marketing like creating personalized emails, social posts, product imagery, audience segments, and much more. However, in a few years, we will no longer think of AI in terms of use cases because single prompts will automatically generate, manage, and optimize processes, projects, and campaigns at orders of magnitude less cost and greater scale. That will have a profound impact on the nature of marketing work for people. GenAI will reduce the need to hire additional marketing staff, collapse some roles, and expand others. Ultimately the result will be fewer people working in marketing in the next five years. Ultimately the result will be fewer people working in marketing in the next five years.

The impact of course is not limited to marketing, it will affect most white-collar jobs up the org chart. Despite this, it is important to remember that fewer humans in the loop does not mean zero humans in the loop. AI may always be better at creating something out of everything, people will always be better at creating something out of nothing.

Furthermore, there will be important new go-to-market challenges and opportunities as AI Super Agents enable programmatic shopping. Marketers will need new methods to influence not only how people coach their AI agents to shop for them, but also how AI agents coach their human owners on what products and services to choose. That said, due to the acceleration of AI capabilities, now is the time for marketing leaders to begin planning how they will redefine their organizations, roles, skills, and practices.

How We Estimated The Productivity Impact Of AI

IDC modeled the work of 24 key marketing roles across five main categories of work.

  1. Management and Planning
  2. Branding and Creative Services
  3. Campaign and Engagement
  4. Analytics and Reporting
  5. Other

We then estimated how much of each category of work can be delegated to GenAI over the next five years, which admittedly may be conservative. The model accounts for a step function of work delegation to AI in 2025, but there may be additional step functions in capabilities that have yet to be revealed in the evolution of AI. Of note, Sam Altman is on record estimating that once Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) becomes available in the early 2030s, it will automate 95% of all the creative work of marketing and all the creative work marketers hire outside service firms to do for them.

We then combined staffing levels and fully loaded cost estimates to calculate the productivity impact of adopting GenAI throughout a marketing team of 56 employees. The result is that in the next five years, GenAI will advance to the point where it can handle more than 40% of the collective work of marketing teams and potentially 100% of specific marketing tasks. Now is the time to start scenario planning for such a huge shift in the nature of work happening so fast.

Preparing For Fundamental Organizational Restructuring

Some key takeaways for marketing leaders to prepare their organization to take advantage of GenAI include:

  1. Every marketing team is different: It is critical to plan for your specific marketing mission, team structure, operating environment, and technology infrastructure. Some marketing teams are overweight on branding, advertising, direct marketing, lead generation, etc. Therefore, your plan needs to be uniquely designed around how much of what kind of work is assigned to each of your staff roles.
  2. Review work processes and data flows: GenAI solutions will consolidate into multi-modal platforms that can create, automate, and analyze whole projects, processes, and campaigns. But they will need vast amounts of data that is structured and tagged for training and retrieval augmentation as well as strong governance and security for optimal performance in the context of your business.
  3. Assess vendor roadmaps: Buyers should focus on the breadth and depth of use cases vendors support not only within marketing but across all customer-facing functions. Use cases will initially translate into business outcomes and create strong economic justification for future investment.
  4. Rapid roadmap: Buyers should also focus on how effectively the vendor’s architecture, tooling, and service resources accelerate the journey of operationalizing the use case roadmap.
  5. Determine the level of infrastructure required to support each type of work: Successful AI deployments will require significant infrastructure – whether provided by the vendor or the user. Marketing technology buyers should work with vendors to determine the required resources and partner with IT counterparts to determine the organization’s readiness to support each type of work. In some cases, the governance, security, data architecture, etc. may not be mature enough to support full GenAI enablement across the martech stack.
  6. No AI Islands: AI capabilities should be implemented from the data layer up not from the task automation layer down. While many GenAI apps exist, every instance of GenAI in a commercial enterprise should share common services for data, governance, security, etc.
  7. Prepare staff (and organizations) for fundamental job changes: Marketing leaders should assess how much work will be delegated to GenAI, and across which roles, based on the applicable use cases. They should prepare staff for significant changes to their roles which may necessitate upskilling, re-organization, elimination of some job titles, expansion of others, and the creation of entirely new career paths. While innovations, historically, are additive to the job market, the transition is inevitably challenging. Marketing leaders will need to consider organizational impact if they wish to successfully deploy GenAI with minimal disruption.
  8. Prepare your data: GenAI is fueled by data. Organizations that do not have real-time, clean, governed, data sets will not be able to take full advantage of this new generation of marketing technology. Martech buyers should partner immediately with IT counterparts to ensure CDP (customer data platforms), or similar Data Lake structures are in place to capture all customer interactions and deliver customer data as an enterprise service on which to base AI decisions across all departments.
  9. Audit your current vendors but be prepared to initiate RFPs (Request for Proposals): It may not be necessary for buyers to rush out and buy the latest and greatest AI tools – especially not individual, disconnected, point solutions. Marketing platform vendors have or will infuse GenAI capabilities into their solutions and as AI evolves from task to process many discrete AI capabilities will consolidate into marketing platforms.
  10. Ingenuity over Innovation: While GenAI will increase the productivity of various marketing functions by 40%-100%, sheer output is not the final measure of a marketing team’s success. As GenAI creates almost limitless personalization capacity, issues of brand identity, market positioning, differentiation, novel messaging, and anticipating cultural trends will soon become the new attributes of best-in-class marketing organizations.

Gerry Murray is a Research Director with IDC’s Marketing and Sales Technology service where he covers marketing technology and related solutions. He produces competitive assessments, market forecasts, innovator reports, maturity models, case studies, and thought leadership research.