If you’ve paid any attention to technology trends (and I know you have), you know artificial intelligence is the next frontier. Last year, Microsoft formed its AI and Research Group, and just one year later, that group employs 8,000 people. IBM is gearing up to spend $240 million on a Watson-branded research lab that will focus on developing more AI. And that’s not including efforts from Google, Apple, Amazon, and hundreds of startups.
What does this mean for marketers? Besides new technology to learn, we will also have new, cutting-edge software to market. How do we cast the vision for a future that still seems like science fiction to the average user?
Marketing the Future Before It Happens
AI is on the rise, but its potential is not fully realized yet. Much like the Internet in the early days, users see it as a novelty—something for tech geeks rather than a useful tool for the future.
As you begin marketing your company’s AI products, there will be some challenges to tackle. For one, it’s the hot new trend, and that means everyone is doing it. Competition for this market will be fierce.
Every technology has a learning curve, and AI will be no different. Users who do explore AI products will expect them to do everything. The challenge for marketers will be casting the future vision while also staying honest about today’s realities.
If you’re thinking about putting time and effort into marketing an AI product, it has to be a core part of your company’s innovation charter or growth strategy. This is the only way you’ll be able to position it, as the whole company will understand the direction and differentiation strategy.
While challenges certainly exist when it comes to marketing AI, don’t let them stop you. The winners of this race will be rewarded. As you think about your marketing strategy, keep these tips in mind:
1. Start with your brand.
Always start with what you have. Competition will be severe, so getting the right positioning and differentiation is key.
Ultimately, it’s about having a brand presence that’s identifiable—one with an identity that has strong attributes linked to the company’s strategic direction. Marketers struggle with this, but it will play the strongest role in helping the company move toward the next generation of innovation and leadership.
Know your brand. Make it strong. And be thoughtful about how AI fits into that picture.
2. Lean on the ecosystem.
One company’s AI product is not a stand-alone entity. A successful AI approach leverages heavily on an “ecosystem approach” rather than a siloed one.
This means working with partners, startups, and the innovation and gig economies, as well as constantly learning about the AI space. This will keep the positioning of your AI product from being confusing. When determining how to market it, ask: How does it play with other companies? How does each entity in the ecosystem complement the others? An exacted ecosystem strategy will hasten the rise of AI and propel a company toward exponential success.
3. Answer the question “what next?”
You want to craft relevant use cases and application stories that strike a chord with users. Your job is to help them envision what AI can do in their lives. Answering “what next” is often the biggest challenge in new technology. Users expect AI to do everything, so your tightrope is casting a vision and keeping things realistic.
4. Keep it real.
While marketing’s job is to ensure customers understand the end state of what an AI product can do, you must also provide a realistic picture of where and how the journey starts. If an AI product is capable of doing only X, say so. Position it strongly as the leader for X, and play to those strengths. Make it clear that AI isn’t a super being that can solve every problem from day one. It’s man-made and has its own learning curve.
Users will appreciate this approach of managing hype versus reality. When you’re honest, the market understands limitations and growing technology.