Geo 101: What Is Artificial Intelligence?

Forget about the robots of the future — here's what AI can do for marketers today.

From geo-targeting to voice search, technology is opening up a world of possibilities for marketers. But it’s also complicated, as new capabilities and use cases seem to emerge every day.

With the goal of breaking down some of the most important concepts to provide a better understanding of the basics — and a jumping off point for exploring how far technology may take us — we introduce the next installment of our GeoMarketing 101 series: understanding artificial intelligence.

What Is Artificial Intelligence?

Here’s the dictionary definition of artificial intelligence (AI): It is the “theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence.” This includes actions like speech recognition, decision-making, and language translation.

For most people, the term AI is still more likely to conjure up images of sentient robots and an Asimovian future than thoughts of advancements in marketing. But the kind of artificial intelligence that exists today isn’t passing the Turing test; rather, it’s a valuable tool that gets “smarter” about analyzing data, recognizing patterns, and generating insights over time.

Examples of AI in action in the world today — think self-driving cars, chess-playing computers, voice-activated intelligent assistants like Alexa — rely primarily on deep learning (neural networks) and natural language processing, which allow the systems to “learn” how to interpret queries and take simple actions or provide answers.

Why Does AI Matter To Marketers?

By now, most marketers are aware that AI has a role to play in the future of the industry. But the question of how is a bit more nebulous.

The potential applications are diverse. But for today, we can focus on two major points that marketers need to care about today — not tomorrow: AI’s ability to 1. automate learning/discovery through data and 2. Add “intelligence” to products that empower consumers’ lives.

AI can help analyze more and deeper data — and, of course, machines don’t get tired during high-volume tasks. This means that marketers can better understand audience segments and target ads more effectively. AI is making the goal of achieving personalization (and relevance) at scale a reality.

Here’s an example of how Google started putting these tactics into practice with the launch of its Pixel phone: “We turned to a new Doubleclick tool called Custom Algorithm that uses machine learning to increase the number of viewable impressions bought on premium placements,” the company explained in a blog post. “By making sense of historical data, it increases the likelihood that ads are served to the most relevant audience. The results for Pixel were impressive. When compared to other campaigns that didn’t use the tool, impressions on premium inventory more than tripled and viewable CPM fell 34 percent.”

Secondly, marketers should be thinking about AI as it relates to interfaces like Google Home, Amazon Echo, and more. Not only is it important for marketers to develop a voice strategy that takes into account how these “intelligent assistants” surface answers, but, as analytics provider Sas puts it, “conversational platforms, bots and smart machines [in general] can be combined with large amounts of data to improve many technologies at home and in the workplace, from security intelligence to investment analysis.”

As brands like Coca-Cola and Walt Disney explore ways to use AI and machine learning to do everything from engage users on mobile in a smarter way to improving voice-based comprehension and communication, the world of AI isn’t futuristic — it’s today.


About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.