Humanity Is Alive and Well in the Machine: Takeaways From Marketo’s Marketing Nation Summit
Marketo hosted 6,000 of its closest friends a couple weeks ago in San Francisco for the Marketing Nation Summit, a sprawling conference that began life as a user event and has over the years become a major industry event.
I was there to join a CMO panel and to deliver a talk called, “The New Da Vinci Code: marrying art and science in modern marketing.” I expected to be a lone brand voice in the tech wilderness, pleading for attendees to remember the less quantifiable arts of branding, creativity, and human insight amidst all the high-powered analytics and technology. I was quite pleasantly surprised to find that the importance of brand and humanity was a powerful theme that ran from the opening keynote through many of the breakout sessions.
For those of us that worry about losing our marketing souls in the growing Borg of martech, it was a most encouraging experience.
Steve Lucas, Marketo’s CEO, established the primacy of human insight and engagement at the opening gun, focusing his comments on the goal of engagement with customers. He stressed that technology can tempt us to overdose on effective tactics and overwhelm prospects with data-driven messages that end up damaging the brand.
Real engagement, Lucas said, is about creating a personalized experience, in any medium, in the way that the customer chooses — which relies upon human insight and understanding. Marketo CMO Chandar Pattabhiram followed suit with a focus on storytelling and connecting with customers emotionally. He stressed the importance of listening, learning and winning share of heart.
James Corden, host of The Late Late Show and creative genius behind Carpool Karaoke, reinforced the theme of authenticity as the most powerful ingredient in effective engagement. Looking at the breakout success of his show, he said, “The bits that fly are the ones where I’m being closest to myself.”
Corden believes that he hit his stride by authentically sharing himself in an enthusiastic and honest fashion. As an aside, it was a pleasure to watch Corden practice the fine art of real-time creative humor, making use of props and actions around him: seizing the PowerPoint clicker from CEO Lucas (“You act like you’re the King of England with this thing!”); insisting that the four chairs on stage did NOT in fact make a “living room”, as Lucas had been calling it; hollering at a departing attendee as he made his way down the aisle (“Where is he going? Come back! What are you doing?!”).
Further adding to the star power — and further stressing the importance of brand — was actress, singer, producer and all-around mogul, Queen Latifah. She attributed much of her enduring success to her vigilance in staying true to her brand. She spoke of making many decisions over the course of her career to forego “bad revenue” — business opportunities that did not authentically fit the Queen Latifah brand.
When Bots Fail
A session entitled “Hot or Bot” from Accenture focused on the increasing role that bots and AI will play in the marketing mix and the customer experience. While there are 30,000 bots operating now, most are failing to deliver on their promise for a mix of reasons that have a distinctly human feel: Lack of a personal touch; shallow context awareness; poor understanding; unsatisfying interaction.
In this hotbed of high-tech dialogue, the speakers kept coming back to cautioning the audience that we must not lose the thread of humanity in all the analytics: “Human creativity is still key. Humans plus AI always beat I alone.”
Coming from a very different perspective but with a very similar agenda, in my session I emphasized the importance of interweaving human insight, judgment and creativity into the use of powerful data, analytics and technology. The ING and Microsoft “Next Rembrandt” project leveraged AI to paint a credible-looking portrait — but I said that we’d not likely be staring at it transfixed 500 years from now, the way we do the Mona Lisa, because there is no human motivation, mystery or “why” lurking in the data-driven brushstrokes.
Throughout the rest of the program, amidst the discussions of bots, analytics and new Marketo features, there appeared sessions on speaking to humans, storytelling, and engagement. There’s no question that the state of the art in marketing technology is more heavily weighted towards the quantifiable and trackable arenas that more directly support the next short-term sale; and we have farther to go in harnessing big data and AI to serve brand and creativity. But the present imbalance seems to be top-of-mind for many of those leading us into the tech-enabled future. And that gives me hope that we’re heading towards a new marketing renaissance where the best of human creativity and machine intelligence will combine to achieve greatness in ways we can’t yet imagine.
Originally posted on TARGET MARKETING.
Peter Horst is chairing FUSION Financial Services, a free, all-inclusive event that brings together select financial services marketing executives who oversee technology strategy. To see more or apply to attend, click here.
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