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As machine learning advances what role will humans play in marketing?

(MARKETING) As computers and bots continue to take over tasks an learn new people skills, what will happen to humans in marketing?

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Say Hello to your AI marketing guru

A complete revolution in the marketing industry is around the corner.

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Dubbed by some as the “fourth industrial revolution,” AI bots will dominate this new marketing landscape in every conceivable way. Equipped with advanced machine learning technology, they will come up with holistic, data driven digital campaigns. From effective copywriting to lead scoring and churn prediction, bots will do it all.

Marketing of the future

So huge are the marketing potential, that tech giants are betting big on this new technology. At the recently held f8 developer conference, Zuckerberg talked about Facebook’s next big bet on smartphone camera augmented reality (AR) platform as the company’s “Act two.” Amazon, Uber, and Google have all big investments into AI as well.

Even smaller companies now want in. The American Genius already covered how Whisper, the anonymous messaging app launched “Perspective,” AI powered bot to provide readers with easy access to additional articles or videos of unique relevance when they are on a certain site.

In other words, bots will guide humans in every aspect of life.

Tesla’s Elon Musk went a step further. Humans must merge with AI machines in the near future, he said, or risk becoming irrelevant in a data-driven world.

Marketing strategies will be the first step in this merging process: future ads would merge many customers with their product experience in an effort to lure them into buying it.

Tech-tonic shifts will destroy employment

Technology will affect 30 percent of all marketing jobs in the next several years. Many jobs will simply dry up. For the few roles that do survive, performing the tasks would require highly specialized skills—in a drastic paradigm shift.

Experts predict increased leverage of two types of candidates —
1- those who are very good at mathematics, i.e., physicists, mathematicians and computer engineers;
or
2- neuroscientists with research work in human psychology or speech & language patterns.

The AI Achilles’ heel

But here are two important things to realize for employees who stand to lose their job to automation.

First, Very few people in the world can come up with sophisticated machine learning algorithms and the process is often inaccurate. The AI system requires constant tweaking of formulas, testing of parameters, and research into better metrics. Those require analytical skills beyond the computational capacity of bots.

Secondly, by no means shall this bot-powered, data driven world be foolproof. The ethical ambiguities and social implications of machines manipulating human emotions remain especially uncertain.

Here is one instance. Facebook researchers carried out a simple psychological test, unannounced. They tweaked their word count software to manipulate the News Feeds of 689,003 users. The goal—to secretly experiment whether simply viewing positive posts vis-à-vis negative posts could alter viewer’s emotional state.

The after-the-fact revelation led to this experiment being highly derided as manipulative, and the company apologized.

It underscored the inherent dangers of machine learning.

According to Carl Schmidt, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Unbounce, “Where we are really going to run into ethical issues is with extreme personalization. We’re going to teach machines how to be the ultimate salespeople, and they’re not going to care about whether you have a compulsive personality… They’re just going to care about success.”

The bot-resistant jobs

That is where the new era of non-technical marketing jobs would mostly be concentrated in—jobs that require strong cognitive and analytical thinking.

Do not freak out about the future if you are not a “math person.”

The industry would still require human emotional input at some level, and judgment calls based on complex sociological considerations and cultural sensibilities. That is where you would show your magic.

Thinking like a human would be the greatest asset for a marketing landscape driven by machine-learned bots.

#BotMarketing

Barnil is a Staff Writer at The American Genius. With a Master's Degree in International Relations, Barnil is a Research Assistant at UT, Austin. When he hikes, he falls. When he swims, he sinks. When he drives, others honk. But when he writes, people read.

Business Marketing

The science behind using pictures of people in marketing to convert more leads

(MARKETING) People fear using their picture in social networking profiles, but we make the case not only for using pictures of yourself, but of scrapping stock graphics for photos of people that studies show improve conversion rates in marketing.

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To avatar or not to avatar?

After all of these years of people using the web, the debate continues about whether or not people should use their headshots as their profile pictures and avatars on their blogs and their social networks. Many people are uncomfortable with the way they look in photos, and some are never satisfied with their picture, so they settle for their company logo, a cartoon image, or a random photo to share something about who they are. While some believe the argument is subjective, we would argue otherwise.

It is advisable to use a photo of yourself as your profile picture wherever you go, no matter how unsatisfied you are and how uncomfortable. There are many reasons from making it easier to connect with people offline after talking online, to giving people a better way to connect with you, but a personal side has become expected on social networks and blogs, making a profile picture culturally mandatory.

Throw culture out of the window

So let’s say you’re still uncomfortable advertising your face. I personally hate every picture of me taken since I was 11 and had a bad perm, I get it. Profile pictures can send some people into full fledged panic, and at that point, who cares if web culture dictates a photo?

You should, and here’s why… science.

Science? Yep. Any parent knows intuitively, and scientists have studied for years that babies love pictures of other babies, and part of socializing a child is giving them books with pictures of other babies to connect with, learn from, and see other ethnicities. Babies love looking at other babies, it helps them connect and learn, and believe it or not, many studies show that we don’t evolve past that point in our lives, so, adults love looking at other adults.

More science

If that isn’t enough to convince you to use a profile picture, a recent study shows that a website’s conversion rate can be skyrocketed by using human faces. According to KISSmetrics.com, using human faces “get your prospects to focus more and this causes them to draw towards a common point of interest. It doesn’t get more real than that.”

The company cites an A/B test on Medalia.net, an online art shop, which presented paintings from artists on their homepage, and during testing, they swapped out the photos of the paintings with photos of the artists hoping to increase user engagement. KISSmetrics said, “Making this small but relevant change sent their conversion rate through the roof – something they didn’t expect. Their site experienced a whopping 95% increase in conversions!.”

Reading between the lines

Using a photo in your profile pictures is important, it allows people to connect with you, just like babies connect with other babies through photos, and website viewers are converted by human photos. But, read between the lines here – using photos of people in marketing is a concept as old as the idea of marketing, and your using people in your blog photos and marketing can improve your conversion over outdated stock graphics. There are legal ways to obtain photos of people (through creative commons), and using photos of your own can have the most meaningful impact.

Whether you’re nervous to share your face with the world or not, web culture dictates that you should and studies show that a percentage of people distrust social networkers without a face shot. Independent of all of that, conversion rates improve when people see other people, as it is easier to connect with over stock graphics or abstract images, so take a leap of faith and put your picture out there, and while you’re at it, try to find ways of using photos of humans in your marketing and blogs.

Just remember – babies love looking at pictures of babies, and we’re all just babies when you boil it down.

This story originally ran here on March 6, 2012.

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Business Marketing

YouTube monetization change crushes smaller content creators

(SOCIAL MEDIA) YouTube has made some cavalier changes to their monetization strategy, kicking the underdog in the gut.

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Amidst much controversy, YouTube has revised the qualifications for monetization through its Partner Program, sparking harsh criticism from lesser-known content creators. YouTube says the new rules are necessary to “curb bad actors, stabilize creator revenue and provide greater assurances to advertisers around where their ads are placed.”

In mid-January, YouTube quietly changed its guidelines, requiring that content creators’ channels accumulate at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time in the past year in order to qualify for monetization. Previous rules allowed any channel with at least 10,000 views over its lifetime to qualify, allowing creators to earn money on ads.

The rule change comes amidst a backlash from advertisers, who have been fearful that their ads may appear alongside disturbing and controversial videos, such as the much-publicized Logan Paul video in which the YouTube star finds and mocks the corpse of a person who had committed suicide.

To appease advertisers, YouTube is putting into place monitoring systems in which more videos will be reviewed by human viewers before being paired with ads. In order to streamline this process, YouTube is tightening up the qualifications for partnership.

Creators who do not meet the qualifications received an email from YouTube explaining that the site is putting in place “safeguards… to protect creator revenue across the YouTube ecosystem.” Small creators were given a 30-day grace period to attempt to meet qualifications and reapply.

As you might expect, small content creators were disappointed by the rule. Many have posted angry and sometimes tearful videos, some going so far as to beg users to run their videos in the background while going about their day to help the channel accrue watch hours.

The company admits that many creators will be affected, but that the vast majority of those who will no longer qualify were earning less than $100 a year. They say that 90 percent earned less than $2.50 last month (which proves how difficult it already was to earn on their platform).

YouTube, and many popular content creators with large followings, say that the change was inevitable to keep the site in business. If advertisers lose faith in the site, they argue, they will also lose their biggest content creators.

But many small creators say it’s not about the money. Creator Christine Barger explained “I’ve been a part of YouTube for a really long time, and I’ve finally tried to be part of this platform, just to feel like they don’t care about small creators.”

Other creators encouraged their fellow YouTubers not to be discouraged, and not to focus on the money. Said creator Kiara Nelson in a heartfelt video, “Don’t let the new rules of YouTube keep you from creating the amazing content that you do. Please don’t give up.”

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Business Marketing

MLB Cleveland Indians to finally nix controversial Chief Wahoo logo

(BRANDING) After much dispute, the Cleveland Indians will no longer don the offensive logo on the field – but is such limited progress laudable?

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Major League Baseball and the Cleveland Indians have announced an agreement that spells the end of the on-field uniform presence of the caricature known as “Chief Wahoo” (a cartoon-like depiction of a Native American that has been directly affiliated with the club since 1947), beginning in 2019. A similar version of the caricature appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1932 and it was a popular accompaniment to news of the Indians for decades. It, along with the 1947 version of the Indians logo, is considered to be far more offensive than the current version of the logo.

A polarizing figure in recent years, “Chief Wahoo” continued the tradition of associating the Cleveland major league baseball team with Native American figures since their name change to the Indians in 1915. The Indians, called such diverse names as the Infants, Spiders, Naps, and Blues throughout their early history, are alleged to have changed their name to honor the contributions to Cleveland baseball by Louis Sockalexis, a Native American from the Penobscot tribe, who played baseball in Cleveland from 1887 to 1899.

In recent years, many groups across the nation had protested the continued use of the logo, with little interest expressed by the team in changing either the “Chief Wahoo” logo or its profile on team uniforms and on in-stadium displays. In 2014, then-team president Mark Shapiro, began to reduce the exposure of the “Chief Wahoo” logo, replacing it with a capital-C, in block format. But that reduction did not lead to outright termination, with “Chief Wahoo” displayed on the Cleveland uniform and in-stadium in high profile games, including the 2016 World Series.

After national debate was renewed during that October postseason regarding the appropriateness of the logo, Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred promised at the time to speak to the ownership group about the logo’s future. In April of 2017, Manfred made good on that promise, making public his intention to press the Cleveland ownership to eliminate the logo altogether. After months of discussion, today’s announcement identified the results of those conversations. In a joint statement, Cleveland owner Paul Dolan said “”We have consistently maintained that we are cognizant and sensitive to both sides of the discussion. While we recognize many of our fans have a long-standing attachment to Chief Wahoo, I’m ultimately in agreement with Commissioner Manfred’s desire to remove the logo from our uniforms in 2019.”

So this is the point in the story where we can all feel good that a business, which the Cleveland Indians most assuredly are, realized that greater forces than remaining static in the face of history exist, right?

Wrong. It’s like the old adage, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

While the logo won’t be seen on the uniforms or in-stadium displays beginning in 2019, “Chief Wahoo” hasn’t left the building or the public consciousness just yet. The Indians will still maintain the trademark, which means that, with the approval of Major League Baseball, they still control how the logo is used.

Maintaining the trademark to the logo is a prudent move for Cleveland—if they abandoned it, the logo could be claimed by another business or organization and be used in nefarious ways. But because they maintain control of the trademark and the logo, they can still create and sell merchandise with the “Chief Wahoo” logo on it. Which they are planning to do, profiting off of items with the “Chief Wahoo” logo on them available for sale at the souvenir shops located inside their home stadium, as well as retail outlets in the northern Ohio area. Major League Baseball has no current plans to make items bearing the “Chief Wahoo” logo available at their fan shops at MLB.com.

So, should we applaud the Indians and Major League Baseball for coming to grips with an outrageously out-of-place logo and banishing it from the field? Only if you think that limited progress is better than none.

While you won’t see it on or around the field in 2019, you can still buy it in the stadium, wear it, and thus continue to propagate a harmful stereotype in the name of team history, fan loyalty, or any one of a number of other worn excuses. The Indians move allows them to continue to profit, and to do so handsomely, thus doing nothing more than sweeping the issue aside in the name of corporate uncomfortability, when what was called for was corporate courage.

Doing the right thing isn’t easy, or popular, it remains the right thing. There’s a difference between worrying about political correctness gone amok and understanding that the times have changed from when your logo was created and deciding to reflect those changes for the better. And the Indians, and by extension Major League Baseball, chose to do the expedient thing and hope that everyone is satisfied, or at least quiet.

And that moribund silence and misplaced satisfaction is the last thing that we can afford.

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