How will AI revolutionize marketing… and how will it not?

Author: Ben Kuikman, AVP of Digital Marketing

How will AI revolutionize marketing… and how will it not?Here we go again. As a veteran marketer, I’ve seen my share of disruptions: the website moving from optional to essential, the beginning of search and the emergence of Google, analytics moving from fringe to front-and-center, mobile devices and online shopping becoming ubiquitous, and social media’s advent and evolution. And now, we have generative AI (Gen AI): a disruptor, to be certain. But will its impact be all-encompassing? Here’s how I see this playing out — the certainties, the maybes and the “hold up… I don’t think so’s”.

Gen AI and LLMs are surrounded by a massive amount of hype, with some thought leaders and laypeople saying it’s going to change everything, tomorrow. While I do think Gen AI is a game-changer, let’s take a breath and consider some of the disruptors mentioned earlier. None of them changed the game overnight; it took time. In many cases, it took years before the fundamentals of marketing truly shifted permanently. Nobody had these disruptors figured out in the early days. It took an open mind, innovative thinking and a lot of failures to work out how to take full advantage of the previous generation of game-changers.

The hyperactive dynamics of today’s marketing landscape mean that Gen AI will disrupt faster, more deeply, and sometimes differently than its predecessors, but plenty of these changes will not be fully realized next week or next month or even next year. Changes are coming, but there is time to learn and adapt…if you start now.

The Definites

  • SERP evolution: I’ve watched search engines results pages (SERPs) evolve over the years, and it’s clear that Gen AI will spur greater evolution as search results become even more personalized, dynamic and user-friendly.
  • The shift in web traffic: Web traffic patterns have changed before, and with Gen AI, I expect another shift. Traditional web traffic will decrease a little, but this opens new avenues for engagement.
  • Revolution in web page design: Remember when websites were just static pages? Gen AI will lead to a leap forward in dynamic, personalized user experiences.
  • Content and ad format innovations: I’m particularly excited about this one. Gen AI will unleash a tsunami of creative content and ad formats, making marketing more engaging than ever. If Gen AI is used properly, good ads will look and feel like organic content.
  • The timelessness of good content: No matter the technology, quality content always wins. This principle will continue to hold true in the AI era. As Gen AI-enabled search grows, good content may be more critical than ever before.

The Probables

  • Search queries grow: Just like the approach to search queries changed as googling became an everyday task, and voice search led to conversational queries, I expect Gen AI to drive a surge in search queries, but those queries will be different from those that came before. This new approach will influence search engine marketing strategies significantly.
  • SEO’s new direction: If there is one constant in search marketing, it is Google algorithm changes. Lately, what influences Google’s algorithm is as much about the experience as it is about the content. I anticipate SEO will evolve to be less focused on ranking for certain keywords, with a greater focus on ranking for threaded content and user intent.
  • The need for media diversification: In my experience, diversification is key. With Gen AI, maintaining a presence across various platforms will continue to be crucial (and hopefully easier than ever).
  • Social media’s growing ROI: I expect a significant increase in ROI for marketers who can effectively harness Gen AI to address the data goldmine that is social media.
  • Changing website engagement: Gen AI will transform how users interact with websites, making it more critical than ever to understand visitor intent and create experiences that are more intuitive and personalized.
  • The rise of AI chat: I predict Gen AI-driven chat interfaces will become a staple in digital marketing, offering unparalleled real-time engagement. There was once a time when having a website was optional. Now, without one, you are at a fundamental disadvantage. The same will be true for AI chat within the next 1–2 years.

The Unlikelies

  • Total AI domination: While Gen AI will be majorly influential, it is difficult to see it completely taking over marketing in the foreseeable future. There are still too many biases and weaknesses within AI and LLMs that a person has to monitor to prevent failures at best, and PR nightmares at worst.
  • Wild changes to PPC and SEO: Based on my experience, changes in PPC and SEO will be evolutionary, not revolutionary. The fundamentals of search marketing will remain. People will still declare their intent via a query (even if that query includes a picture), and marketers will still assign value to that query through inferred data (i.e., who, where, when and how).
  • Deep dips in search-driven traffic: Despite some predictions, I don’t foresee a total collapse in search-driven traffic for most websites. The nature of traffic generation will evolve, but its importance will remain.
  • Branding gets its crown back: Branding has always been an important factor in marketing, and there was a time when it was the most important factor. But people potentially spending less time on your website doesn’t suddenly take us back to the days of Don Draper. A well-rounded marketing strategy focused on ROI will continue to win out.
  • Big changes to ad inventory and CPCs: Market fluctuations are normal, and the SERP will change, but that doesn’t mean that people are going to search less or that search engines are going to cease their efforts to monetize. I don’t anticipate drastic changes in ad inventory or CPC rates across the traditional players.
  • Trouble for search giants: Having seen Google’s rise, I’m confident in it maintaining a strong market share in the face of new challengers. There will be competitors that arise and carve out sizable niches. That is a good thing for consumers and marketers alike. In the end, Google will protect its ad revenue and is unlikely to face a Yahoo-like decline.

My Take on the AI-Enhanced Marketing Future

As we look ahead, it is clear that AI will bring significant changes in marketing, and that some predictions are unlikely to come true. From my years in the industry, I’ve learned the importance of staying adaptable and embracing new technologies, while also knowing that, in marketing, some things never change.