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AI is the Bear: Learning to Be a Better Marketer in the Age of AI (Thinks Out Loud Episode 422)

MidJourney generated image of an AI-powered bear running through the forest to illustrate how to "outrun the bear" and learn to be a better marketer in the age of AI

The world is changing quickly. Artificial intelligence and Big Tech and changing customer behaviors are advancing rapidly. It can feel like they’re running us down like a hungry bear and that we have to keep running… or face the consequences.

There is a way to ensure you can outrun the bear though. And that’s by continuing to learn. The question is, what are the best ways to improve your learning? How can you keep up with the amount of information necessary to learn, stay informed, and continue to be relevant in your marketing career?

Well, learning and figuring out how to outrun the bear that is AI is what this episode of Thinks Out Loud is all about. Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you.

AI is the Bear: Learning to Be a Better Marketer in the Age of AI — Headlines and Show Notes

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You might also enjoy this webinar I recently participated in with Miles Partnership that looked at "The Power of Generative AI and ChatGPT: What It Means for Tourism & Hospitality" here:

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Recorded using a Shure SM7B Vocal Dynamic Microphone and a Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface into Logic Pro X for the Mac.

Running time: 23m 23s

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Transcript: AI is the Bear: Learning to Be a Better Marketer in the Age of AI

Welcome to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital expertise your business needs. Well hello again everybody and welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital expertise your business needs. My name is Tim Peter. This is episode 422 of The Big Show. And thank you so much for tuning in.

I think we’ve got a really cool show for you. So LinkedIn reminded me this week that this is the 12th anniversary of my teaching at Rutgers Business School Executive Education. I love getting to do this work. It’s so much fun. And I learn a ton from it, which I will talk about in some detail in just a moment.

But Rutgers Business School is mostly adult learners looking to improve their skills or shift to a new era, area, rather, a new area in their career. As well as some folks from the business school proper who want to gain additional knowledge in certain areas. And I teach a variety of classes around strategy, around marketing, around customer experience, and around artificial intelligence.

And obviously one of the things that is so critical that comes up all the time and that we see all the time is that we’re in a period of unbelievably rapid change. Just to pick two topics, obviously AI is massive and changing a lot about what we do in terms of marketing, in terms of customer experience, in terms of customer behavior.

What’s also a big one is we’re seeing the largest competitive threats to major gatekeepers like Google and Facebook that we’ve seen in years. And whether it’s things like AI and ChatGPT, or things like more customers using TikTok for things like search, or shifting customer behaviors generally, It’s immense, immense change, and it can be really tough to keep up.

I was in a meeting earlier this week, and someone asked the group, How do you keep up with everything that’s going on? One person, in response to that, mentioned a podcast called Last Week in AI, and commenting that they were stunned by how much the hosts were able to keep informed on, how much information they were able to gather every single week.

Now, in some ways, how those podcast hosts do it is simple, and I’m putting simple in air quotes here because I don’t want to diminish what they do, but it’s their job. That’s what they do. The thing is It’s also your job, if you want to stay informed, if you want to stay relevant, you have to keep learning.

So it’s always important that we take some time to keep learning and keep growing. As Ferris Bueller famously said, “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” And given that it’s your job, you don’t want to miss it. You need to stay informed, to stay relevant.

I’ve long said that AI won’t steal your job, but smart people who use AI will. I’m increasingly curious whether I got that wrong. There’s plenty of research that shows AI provides the greatest benefit to the weakest performers. Maybe the truth will be that AI won’t steal your job, but dumb people who use AI will.

What I actually think is most likely is that it’s going to be some of both. Or at least it will if you stop learning. You’ve probably heard the joke. I love this joke about two guys who are walking through the woods and are confronted by an angry bear. The first guy immediately pulls running shoes out of his backpack and starts pulling them on.

And the second guy says, Are you crazy? You’ll never outrun that bear. And the first guy says, I don’t have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you. That’s what you’re trying to do. You don’t always have to outrun the bear. You just have to outrun the other guys. And it’s a funny joke, unless you’re one of the people living in the joke.

And sometimes I feel like we are. We are. AI is the bear, or at least one of them. The gatekeepers, they’re the bear, or at least one of them. Your competitors can be a bear too, but hopefully, usually, they’re the other guy in the joke. The alternative, of course, is that you are the other guy. And they’re the ones putting on their running shoes.

Obviously not a place you want to be, right? So the question becomes, how do you outrun the bear, or at least outrun the other guy? And the answer starts, for me, With staying curious, constantly ask, what have you learned lately? What do you want to learn? What are the questions that either get you to jump out of bed in the morning, or, if you’re a bit more pessimistically motivated, keep you up at night?

I’ll share some of mine. I, I question all the time. How will artificial intelligence change customer behaviors? How will our customers needs change in the next 5 to 10 years? What is the future of marketing as a profession? Is AI an existential threat to marketing as we know it? Are the current gatekeepers in trouble?

And if so, which companies will take their place as the next gatekeepers? And of course, the one I come back to again and again and again, How can businesses bypass gatekeepers to lower their cost of customer acquisition? I’m constantly looking for answers to these questions. I’m constantly trying to learn if there are new answers to these questions.

And I thought I might share some of the ways I do that. One of my favorites is Twitter Lists or X if you prefer, but you know that I don’t like to call it X. Lists on Twitter are my favorite feature. I create lists of smart people in the various areas that matter to me and check those more or less every day or so.

It could be a couple times a week, but usually it’s about daily. It’s a self curated feed of these people who I think are smart. And if I see the same headline or topic pop up repeatedly, then I know that it’s something I need to learn more about. It gives me a list of things that I want to learn. It also gives me an archive to search if something comes up later that I want to know more about.

I really wish more social media sites, I wish LinkedIn and Instagram offered something similar. I keep lists for marketing, for search marketing/SEO/Google, for hotel and travel marketing, for startups and entrepreneurs, for technology, for artificial intelligence, and I have some fun ones for things like baseball and comedy and other things like that.

But they help me stay informed. I also use AI to learn. ChatGPT and Google Gemini are two of my favorite tutors these days. Now, I don’t take everything they tell me at face value, but I do use them to collaborate and work through ideas. I ask them questions and, importantly, Get them to recommend trusted resources for deeper learning, things like books and websites and journal articles.

Because then I can go directly to the source and learn more. Speaking of books, have you read any good books lately? You can read physical books or e books or audio books, whichever you prefer. It doesn’t have to be, you know, sitting under a tree like Newton or something, right? But I typically have an audio book and either a physical book or an e book going at the same time.

Though usually only one non fiction book at once. I don’t know about you, but I find it tough to keep the books straight if I’m consuming more than one non fiction book at a time. Some of the things that I’ve read lately that I thought were great were Co-Intelligence, Living and Working with AI by Ethan Mollick, who’s a professor of management at the Wharton School, where he teaches innovation and entrepreneurship.

Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century by Brad DeLong. He’s, his real name is Jay Bradford DeLong. He’s an economic historian at UC Berkeley, but he prefers Brad DeLong.

And I’m currently reading The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution, and the Birth of America by Stephen Johnson.

Which is a fascinating book about the scientific method. And it’s got a really funny story, I hope you’ll, I hope you won’t mind a digression for a moment. But there’s a funny story in the book about the importance of coffee. Apparently, coffee may have played a key role in driving the Enlightenment during the 17th and 18th centuries.

I looked this up on Wikipedia and it said “Coffeehouses were especially important to the spread of knowledge during the Enlightenment because they created a unique environment in which people from many different walks of life gathered and shared ideas.”

It goes on to say, “Coffee houses commonly offered books, journals, and sometimes even popular novels to their customers… [and served a] triple or even quadruple function… reading material was often obtained, read, discussed, and even produced on the premises.” Now the reason I find that fascinating is the people hanging out in the coffee shop were learning from each other. And I’m going to come back to that in just a second.

Here’s the funny part of this story. According to Johnson in his book, coffee may have played a more direct role in the Enlightenment too. By replacing the more common breakfast drinks of the time, lightly watered wine or beer. As Johnson notes, quote, “Those who drank coffee instead of alcohol began the day alert and stimulated, rather than relaxed and inebriated, and the quality and quantity of their work improved.”

Yeah, you think? They switched to coffee from being hammered all the time. And suddenly everybody got, you know, collectively smarter. Shocking, I know, right? But to return to the idea of the coffee house. Think in terms of that. Who are the smart people you surround yourself with?

Who’s your advisory board? Who are your mentors? Who are the people you want to learn from? What are the questions they’re interested in? Are those questions you should be thinking about as well? I am so fortunate that I’ve got a great collection of friends and colleagues and mentors who I can turn to all the time to learn more and ask questions of.

Speaking of questions, don’t be afraid to ask dumb questions. It’s such a valuable skill to cultivate. Too many people, including me, many times in my career, Have worried about, well, I don’t want to ask that question because I’m going to look silly. No, you need to be willing to look silly. It’s one of my favorite things about being a consultant, is that when I go into a new client, I’m allowed to ask anything because I don’t know anything about their business.

I have to learn a lot quickly, and to do that, I need to ask dumb questions. Think with that beginner’s mind, and the dumber the question, the more basic the question, the closer you will get to truth. You’ll learn more, and you’ll learn faster. My next favorite tip is to think like a scientist. As you encounter new ideas, as you think through your ideas, craft a hypothesis, craft a theory of what you think is actually going on.

Then test those hypotheses to see if they hold water. You know, my questions earlier frame some of my current hypotheses, including ones about whether AI will put us all out of work. My hypothesis is that it won’t. And that Google is going to lose market share. Google is going to lose some of its dominance.

My hypothesis is that it will. Except, when I create a hypothesis, I assume I’m wrong. And that’s what scientists do. They assume they’re wrong. Okay. You don’t look for evidence that you’re right, you look for evidence that proves you’re wrong or disproves the hypothesis. If you can’t find evidence that disproves the hypothesis, that increases the likelihood that it’s actually accurate, that it’s actually right.

But you’re, you don’t want to, you don’t want to fall victim to confirmation bias and only find the evidence that shows you’re right. Look for the evidence that disproves the hypothesis. That’s what I’m doing currently. I will tell you, so far for the two that I just mentioned, it’s too soon to tell. I could be wrong.

Isaac Asimov supposedly said that “the most exciting phrase to hear in science is not “Eureka!” but ‘That’s funny…?’” In other words, the things you didn’t expect lead you to the best learning. They lead you to uncover things you might not have encountered otherwise. To be fair, I also tend to do a lot of scenario planning for my clients, so we’re in good shape regardless of whether I’m wrong or right.

But that’s planning, not learning. Learning is “poke a hole in it. Figure out if the thing actually works or not.”

Another favorite learning activity of mine is to conduct action after action reviews, or if you prefer the term post mortems. After you complete a project or a task, or after a given period, for instance, once a month, once per quarter, once per year, take a look back.

What went well? What didn’t go as expected, and what can you learn from that? What will you do differently in the future? People say we learn by experience. People often learn by experience. But we can’t learn from experience if we don’t take a moment to look around and see what we learned. And that’s the point.

Finally, I want to return to my joke from earlier about the two guys and the bear. The problem with that joke, the problem I’ve always had with that joke, and I love the joke, it’s funny. But it’s not the way I see the world. It sees the world as a zero sum game. You either outrun the other guy, or you get eaten by the bear.

Remember how I started this episode by highlighting my Rutgers Business School Exec Ed anniversary? I teach. I love it. Because one of the best ways to learn is to teach other people. I learn as much from teaching as I do from anything else I do. Teaching forces you to really think through what you think you understand.

It forces me to really think through what I think I understand. Plus, students often ask questions I’d never thought of that force me to think deeply about what it is I think, and work to explain what I think. In a way that others can understand. There’s an Einstein quote that says, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

There’s also a long standing practice in medical schools and hospitals called, “See one, do one, teach one.” When there’s a new practice or a new procedure, You see somebody do it, you then do it yourself, And then you teach someone else to do it. You get good quickly because you’re always practicing and you’re always having to break a skill down in a way that you can explain to other people.

The best part about all of this is both you and the person you teach learn more about how to outrun the bear. Ultimately, we both end up in a better place. Remember when I said that your competitors are not the bear in the joke, but the other guy? Don’t always assume that their loss is your gain or vice versa.

Don’t be afraid to learn from each other and help one another outrun the bear. Just because you’re competitors in business, there are places where you can still be buddies in real life. There’s a long standing practice in hotel marketing called sell the destination first. You get your customers interested in the place and then you convince them why your hotel might be a better option.

And you can do this outside of hospitality with services or products. Get customers interested in the category first, then sell them on why you’re the better offering this time around. Obviously, who you partner with matters, but learning from your competitors is a great idea. And learn as much as you can, and maybe you’ll both outrun the bear.

Maybe you’ll grow the overall market, you’ll grow the overall category, and everybody gets a bigger slice of the pie. So to recap, here are the tips:

  1. Stay curious
  2. Keep a list of what you want to learn and the questions you want to answer
  3. Look at twitter lists. they can be super helpful for getting you access to information quickly
  4. Use AI as a tutor
  5. Read widely and regularly
  6. Surround yourself with smart people
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask dumb questions
  8. Think like a scientist
  9. Conduct after action reviews
  10. And, when you can, try and teach others. you’ll never know how much you understand until you have to explain it to someone else.

Again, we are in a period of rapid change. If you’re in marketing or customer service, AI might steal your job. AI is the bear. You’re more likely to get outrun if you don’t keep learning. So keep learning. What are you learning? I’d love to hear from you. I want to hear more about this, so I’d encourage you to check in with us, to stay in touch, and keep me notified of what you’re doing, because I’d love to learn more from you, too.

Show Wrap-Up and Credits

Now, looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week.

And I want to remind you again that you can find the show notes for this episode. As well as an archive of all past episodes by going to Again, that’s Just look for episode 422.

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Show Outro

Finally, and I know I say this a lot, but I want you to know just how thrilled I am that you keep listening to what we do here. It means so very, very much to me. You are the reason we do this show.

You’re the reason that Thinks Out Loud happens every week. You’re the reason we produce a new episode. So please, please keep listening, keep your messages coming on LinkedIn, keep hitting me up on Twitter, sending things via email. I love getting a chance to talk with you, to hear what’s going on in your world, and to learn how we can do a better job building the types of information and insights and content and community that work for you and work for your business.

And with all that said, I hope you have a fantastic rest of your day. I hope you have a wonderful week, and I will look forward to speaking with you here on Thinks Out Loud next time. Until then, please be well, be safe, and as always, take care, everybody.

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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