Marketers ‘must invest in creativity to get AI to shine’

workplace_1Marketers and their agencies might be adopting generative AI tools at breakneck speed but the quest for deeper, more valuable connections between customers and brands will force them to increase their investment in creativity – not reduce it – or risk losing out to rivals.

That is just one of five key forecasts to emerge from Gartner’s “Marketing Trends and Predictions for 2024 and Beyond” report, designed to highlight the pivotal trends that will shape the industry’s efforts to truly take advantage of the technology and successfully navigate the future.

Prediction 1: AI will increase creative talent spending, not reduce it
By 2026, 80% of advanced creative roles will be tasked with harnessing GenAI to achieve differentiated results, requiring CMOs to spend more on talent.

Nearly two-thirds of marketing teams (64%) are already leveraging AI to create campaigns. However, Gartner reckons that initial digital experiences created with the help of GenAI are lacklustre, fuelling the need for a more strategic approach to help in-house and outsourced creatives explore new ways to adopt GenAI to enhance their work.

With GenAI having the potential to expand the development of more concepts and creative variations, CMO spending on agency and in-house creative talent will have to rise to allow them to focus on more strategic endeavours and orchestrate new ways of using GenAI to stay ahead of the competition.

With this in mid, Gartner says brands should upskill in-house creatives to use GenAI responsibly to augment their work and update job descriptions and career pathing for future GenAI- enabled creative talent. Finally, they should experiment using GenAI for creative briefs, ideation, cross-functional conversation facilitation and concept visualisation.

Prediction 2: CMOs must guard brands against deception unleashed by GenAI
By 2026, 60% of CMOs will adopt measures such as content authenticity technology, enhanced monitoring and brand endorsed user generated content to protect their brands from misinformation.

Gartner maintains that 55% of brand reputation leaders are concerned about the risks associated with GenAI, yet only 21% of organisations have in-depth guidance on how people outside of the organisation can use GenAI in a way that causes reputation risks.

To safeguard their brands, organisations must prioritise the implementation of content authenticity measures and establish responsible use guidelines for GenAI.

The lack of existing frameworks and best practices necessitates transparency and trust-building mechanisms, compelling brands to demand clear policies from vendors and agency partners, while integrating content authenticity features into technology.

Prediction 3: Half of consumers will significantly limit interactions on social media
By 2025, a perceived decay in the quality of social media sites will push 50% of consumers to significantly limit their use of major platforms.

Gartner’s own research has found that 53% of consumers already believe the current state of social media has decayed compared to either the prior year or to five years ago. The spread of misinformation, toxic user bases and the prevalence of fake accounts/bots were top reasons listed for this perceived decay.

Consumer concern over GenAI spreading misinformation on social platforms remains high and over 70% of consumers expect AI to negatively impact social channels. Many social channels have already begun to incorporate AI, which has the potential to hasten the perception of diminished quality and consumer abandonment.

To combat this, Gartner maintains that brands should monitor consumer concerns on a channel-by-channel basis to determine which to maintain investment in. They should also refocus customer acquisition and loyalty retention strategies to channels beyond social media.

Gartner senior director analyst Mike Froggatt said: “Social media advertising is an indispensable tool in the marketing leader’s kit, but not the only one. Keep an eye on emerging platforms, but invest in content marketing and opportunities to connect directly with your audience, like loyalty programmes, to head off social media’s declining reach and impact.”

Prediction 4: “Acoustic brands” will differentiate themselves as AI-free
By 2027, 20% of brands will lean into positioning and differentiation predicated on the absence of AI in their business and products.

Consumer concerns are already widespread, with 72% of believing AI-based content generators could spread false or misleading information, while others fear content bias, discrimination, security risks, jobs and other issues.

And, with more AI prevalence in marketing, addressing consumer trust and confidence issues will be a significant challenge. A segment of customers may seek out AI-free brands that prioritise authenticity and ethics. Brands that embrace acoustic positioning can differentiate themselves and potentially target premium or safety-focused markets.

Gartner says those brands who want avoid an exodus should identify where customers are most wary of AI-powered experiences and content to determine potential brand-damaging risks. They should also be clear, cautious and strategic about customer-facing AI and where AI will be beneficial in enabling operations compared to customer-facing experiences.

Finally, they should test how “acoustic” positioning and AI-free experiences impact customer engagement and behaviour.

Prediction 5: AI will reduce brand visibility in search engine results pages
By 2028, brands’ organic search traffic will decrease by 50% or more as consumers embrace GenAI-powered search.

Search Generative Experience (SGE), a GenAI Q&A form, takes the top organic position in over 90% of popular search queries and almost half of consumers prefer SGE over traditional search results.

The Gartner Digital IQ Index also identified that brands experienced a 9.5% decline in organic site traffic this year.

This means the expansion of GenAI in search engines, including Google and Bing, is likely to reduce organic search traffic for brands even further.

Gartner insists CMOs must prepare for the disruption to revenue and lead generation by adapting channel investments and focusing on conversion-focused keywords, gated content and potentially repositioning traditional channels like email.

They should also test channels like advertorial or mobile marketing to diversify customer acquisition and retention.

The report states: “Marketing leaders are bracing for an AI-powered future. AI will radically reshape social media and search landscapes, creative work, brand positioning and perceptions of truth.”

However, it concludes that there will be opportunities “created by social media’s decay, an AI-free approach to communicating brand value and the myriad ways in which GenAI will change the landscape of everything from search behaviour to staffing considerations”.

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