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The Biggest Lesson About Artificial Intelligence in Marketing from Google Marketing Live 2023 (Thinks Out Loud Episode 386)

Google executive onstage at Marketing Live 2023 talking about artificial intelligence in marketing

Google’s Marketing Live 2023 event showcased the search giant’s innovations in generative AI for advertising and enticed advertisers to connect more deeply with Google’s ecosystem. Cool, right? Well… maybe not. Because even in an age of artificial intelligence like Bard and ChatGPT, there’s an important role to be played by people. And, more importantly, by your brand. Google’s marketing live offered a huge lesson in why that matters.

What is the biggest lesson about artificial intelligence in marketing revealed by Google’s Marketing Live 2023? How can you put that lesson to work for your business? That’s what this episode of Thinks Out Loud is all about.

Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you.

The Biggest Lesson About Artificial Intelligence in Marketing from Google Marketing Live 2023 (Thinks Out Loud Episode 386) — Headlines and Show Notes

Show Notes and Links

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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Running time: 21m 43s

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Transcript: The Biggest Lesson About Artificial Intelligence in Marketing from Google Marketing Live 2023

Hello again everyone, 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 386 of the Big Show. And I think we’ve got a cool episode for you this week. I don’t know why my voice just went up an octave and a half, but, you know, we’ll go with it.

Thank you so much for tuning in. I think we’ve got some fun stuff to talk about today. One of the things that I want to talk about relates to Google’s Marketing Live 2023 event that they just held a couple weeks back. About a month ago. And in it, they showed their new products just like Apple did with their provision or the Vision Pro headset, rather, that I talked about last week.

And unlike Apple, they talked a lot about AI. They talked a lot about artificial intelligence. They talked a lot about generative AI and how these tools can help advertisers to really be more effective. And that’s kind of what I want to talk about. It’s not really about Google, though. It’s really about you. If you remember a few years back, everyone, and I mean everyone, including me, talked a fair bit about big data.

It was something that we all knew was really, really important. What you’ll notice and what you’ve probably noticed though in the intervening years, and especially over the last year or two, nobody really talks about big data any longer. And the number of important trends contributed to its decline. One of these was regulation, right?

Things like GDPR, things like the California Privacy Rights Act, CPRA, have played a role in diminishing how much data we can reasonably collect. And to be fair, that regulation was driven by consumer concerns, by valid consumer concerns. Given the way many companies treated customer data, I don’t blame consumers for saying, "Hey, I’m not entirely comfortable with companies having this much data around me and my family," right? That’s entirely fair.

There’s also more than a little bit of ladder pulling up, if I can make that a term, by Big Tech, by the AGFAM, by Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft. They have exposed less data, partly because of regulation, partly because of consumer concerns, and partly because it empowers their business, right?

If they’re the ones who hold the data and make that data less accessible, and you want to reach customers on the other side of Google and Facebook and Apple and Microsoft and the like, you have to go through them. And as we all know, as I’ve talked about many times, gatekeepers gonna gate. That’s kind of what they do.

The biggest reason though, that I’ve seen people talk less about big data. It is because of a lack of utility, not of data. You have to have data, and we’re going to talk about this in more in a minute. Big data was a good idea conceptually, but it was very tough for many businesses, especially smaller businesses, to put that data to any real use in practical terms.

Or at least it was until AI came along. As my friend Ed St.Onge, who I’ve mentioned more than once, likes to say, "AI makes big data little." And once we had access to artificial intelligence in any meaningful way, suddenly, whoa, we don’t need to be talking about the data. We need to be talking about its outputs.

That’s why AI has become so important, so quickly, for so many. It gives you insights without you needing to dig into the data yourself. Now, don’t misunderstand, I do not want to diminish the fine, fine work being done by data scientists at large enterprises or at the AGFAM or places like that who are helping to build the algorithms that allow you to unlock some of the power in that data.

The data can be incredibly useful in terms of predictive analytics and in terms of predictive personalization. However, you need a fair amount amount of data to make that work, and you need some pretty sophisticated algorithms and some pretty sophisticated training to make that work. Which is why you are seeing a lot of the work happen at the enterprise level or with software providers.

You know, think about what Adobe is doing. If you look at what WordPress is doing, if you look at what companies like that are doing or what you’re seeing in Big Tech, what you’re seeing at the AGFAM, again, it allows them to reassert their gatekeeping role if they hold and host the AIs — Bard at Google, Microsoft’s investments in ChatGPT and Bing Chat — they continue to hold the power as gatekeepers as well.

Again, if Microsoft takes the commercial lead away from Google, we are just trading one gatekeeper for another. And as I’ve noted before, in this case, the scary call is coming from inside the house.

That’s just the reality we’re faced with. Which brings me back to Google Marketing Live, as they talked about a number of innovations. They all were predicated on you as an advertiser using Google’s advertising tools.

Just as Apple talked about with their headset and the benefits to the customer, so Google talked about the benefits that AI provides to their customer. Just in reality, their customer is the advertiser. I’m totally okay with this. I buy advertising on Google for many of my clients. I’m sure many of you buy advertising on Google. They are making powerful tools that allow us to tap into Google’s generative AI capabilities like, like what ChatGPT does on the other side, to create ads on the fly or to create images within ads on the fly or to proactively adjust spend in campaigns to reach certain targets like conversion rates and the like. It’s all pretty cool. It’s all pretty sophisticated. And much of it is available to you at the touch of a button or in the case of one of the things that they demoed at Marketing Live, you can just talk conversationally to the artificial intelligence and it will generate ads for you. That’s genuinely cool. That’s a really cool feature and it’s a really cool benefit, particularly for smaller advertisers who may not have the expertise in how to create the right ad.

There are also lots of valid criticisms in this in terms of "will it help you extend your brand? Will it help you grow your brand?" And I think that’s really fair. And I think it’s a point worth considering at some length.

If I’ve seen any one mistake consistently across lots of different companies and lots of different industries in my work and in the work of my team, it’s companies becoming dependent on any one part of Big Tech, any one gatekeeper, any one member of the AGFAM for a significant source of traffic or revenues or profits. That’s a really dangerous place to be.

And Google doing what they ought to do. This is not evil. They’re doing what they’re supposed to do for their shareholders. Google is trying to create products that create a degree of lock-in for advertisers that you become so dependent on what their AI can do for you that you wouldn’t dream of advertising any place else. The risk is that you become dependent upon Google for your traffic and your revenues and your profits. Then the gatekeepers got you, you’re caught in their web and can’t get out.

Again, that’s just good business for them. It’s not good business for you though if you let it happen.

What I want to talk about now is how you actually turn this reality to your advantage. I want to be really fair. Many people who listen to this show aren’t going to have big data. You’re not going to have data scientists. Some of you will. I know who the listeners are who will, not everything I’m about to say applies to you, but certainly the principles do. The first principles do.

You want to build a relationship with your customers over the long term, not just because you were able to put a really effective ad in front of somebody one time. So one of the first principles that’s so important that is increasingly important is not to pay for every customer you get or every purchase you get. It’s okay if you pay the first time somebody interacts with you. Strategically, that’s fine. Sometimes it’s not easy for you to reach new people, and if you have to pay Google or you have to pay Bing, or you have to pay Amazon, or you have to pay Apple’s App Store to reach customers the first time, fine.

What you also have to do is begin to build a relationship with that person so that the next time they don’t go to Google to look for something, they go to your website to look for you. I’ve talked lots of times about the hub and spoke strategy idea where the spokes are things that you use to reach out to people. They are Amazon, they are Facebook, they are Google. They are Expedia. They are They are Yelp. Those are all fine as spokes, but they need to direct people, those spokes need to direct people, back to the hub, to your website. To your email list. You have to have some way to get people to want to engage with you in the longer term.

Now, obviously, I’m a big fan of content for that, but you have to make sure there’s something you’re offering them that makes it worthwhile for them to connect with you directly. Are they willing to give you an email address? Are they willing to give you their phone number? Are they willing to connect with you on social in a way that you can talk to them organically — with the caveat that yes, the organic gatekeepers can change the rules too, right?

If you’re using TikTok right now and you’re getting great traction, that’s great, but what happens if TikTok’s algorithm decides to preference somebody else’s content tomorrow? How do your customers find you?

We know that the AGFAM — Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft — are the ones who are going to have the most powerful artificial intelligence tools. They’re going to have really sophisticated data sets from which to draw, so you’re going to need to partner with them again. That’s okay. That’s a valuable spoke. You need to make sure that your hub though does a job of giving customers a reason to join into. Your message is for the longer term.

And you know, my friend Mark Schaeffer likes to talk about building community. I think that’s exactly right in terms of how do you get people who actually care about what you do and what you offer, not just as a discount, not just as a sale, not just as a coupon. But as part of something to which they feel they belong. Think about what bands do all the time. Pop stars and musical artists and all kinds of other celebrities.

They don’t have customers, they have fans. They have people who want to participate in everything that they do. That’s what you’re trying to build here. You’re trying to build a deeper relationship with your customers, so they seek you out by name. They look for you specifically. So that’s the first principle.

Don’t pay multiple times for the same customer. If they pay once, great, but connect with them.

Second, you want to increase share of wallet. Now, this is somewhat related. But it’s not just, "Can I get them to buy from me more than once?" It’s, "Can I get them to buy more from me each time?"

What can you offer them in terms of value ads? What can you offer them in terms of things that are special that include them? Because that will help attract them in into your community as well. And again, have them go, "Oh man, I love when I work with these guys."

I will give you a real world scenario. Somebody who I work with all the time. They’re not a client, they’re just a company I like is a company called Sweetwater. They sell musical gear. They’re up in Indiana and every time you order from them, they send a little gift within the box of whatever you bought. You know, could be some candies, some stickers. It’s all simple stuff, but it helps me feel more connected to them. I also get a call from my sales rep. I have a sales rep. I don’t even buy that much stuff from them. But I get a call from my sales rep to see how I’m doing and if I liked what I got.

Now, obviously this may not scale for some businesses, and you may have to think about what you’re doing here, but they’ve built a connection with me that makes me feel part of their community like I belong.

Not just that I’m somebody who they, you know, not just some number. They’re not thinking in terms of big data. They’re thinking in terms of deep connections. And they’re not thinking in terms of artificial intelligence. They’re thinking in terms of real humanity.

I’m sure they’re using AI tools. I’m sure they’re using some of the things that Google introduced at Marketing Live. I’m sure that they’re using the AI tools that are made available to them through other platforms like Facebook for marketing. I have no doubt that’s true. This is not an "either/or" scenario. It is a "both/and" scenario.

I’ve told this story before I’m sure, but you know, I’ve said Usain Bolt, it can outrun me any day of the week. Much faster runner than I am, obviously. But if you put me in a mediocre car over any reasonable distance, I’m going to kick his butt. Because I’m using the tools as well as doing other things to try to win, right? It’s that kind of idea. These are tools. Use them as tools, use Big Tech, the AGFAM and what they offer to connect with your customers.

But also use what you can do to be authentically human, to be genuine, to be real, to be concerned about what your customers are concerned about. To build a community, to build a connection, so that they’ll want to come back to you again and again and again. We know that gatekeepers are going to gate. We know that that’s something that we’re going to have to deal with, but we’re not going to win by trying to compete head to head purely on a technology basis.

We’re going to win by getting our customers to want to work with us as people, as human beings, as individuals. And to bring this full circle. That’s really what Google Marketing live and Apple’s Vision Pro Release both had in common. They didn’t focus on a specific product. Yeah, they talked about features.

Yeah. And they talked about specific cool things it can do, but they ultimately talked about the benefits to the customer. And if you do that with your customers, if you continually focus on the benefits they receive of working with you, then they will want to work with you.

And you won’t need artificial intelligence to connect with them. You’ll succeed because of your genuine humanity.

Show Closing and Credits

Now, looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week. I want to remind you that you can find the show notes for today’s episode, as well as an archive of all past episodes by going to Again, that’s Just look for episode 386.

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Show Outro

Finally, and I know I say this every week, I know I talk about this a lot, but I very much appreciate the fact that you listen. I would not do this show without you. Otherwise, I’d just be sitting here in my office talking to myself! It means so much to me that we get to have a conversation and build this community together.

It means the world to me that you listen. It means the world to me that you comment. It means the world to me that you reach out on social. So please reach out to me on social. Keep pinging me on LinkedIn. Keep pinging me on Twitter. Keep your emails coming. I love hearing from you. I love getting to chat with you about all this crazy business of digital and marketing and technology every single week.

It just makes it a lot of fun for me and I hope for you as well.

With all of that said, I hope you have an amazing rest of the week. I hope you have a wonderful weekend ahead. 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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