The Power and Promise of AI in Digital Marketing


The Gist

  • AI challenge. AI in digital marketing faces trust issues due to its vastness.
  • Content conundrum. AI in content marketing is both embraced and distrusted.
  • Trust duality. AI in marketing can both enhance and erode brand trust.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is simultaneously winning and losing the battle for public trust. We happily buy products, watch movies and binge social media recommended by AI. Yet surveys suggest that we don’t trust it. 

No wonder: We’re warned almost daily that AI is dangerous, unregulated, violating copyrights, destroying academic integrity, perpetuating biases, lying to users, and, of course, threatening human existence. 

Scary robot army ready for taking over humanity, in piece concerning trust of AI in digital marketing.
AI in digital marketing: In certain contexts, AIs have clear utility and engender trust. Out of context, though, AI is suspicious.Juha Saastamoinen on Adobe Stock Photos

We marketers usually work with benign technologies, not ones that draw comparisons to nuclear power and dystopian sci-fi. So how do we maintain trust in our brands while using this helpful but controversial technology? 

Let’s take a look at the status of AI in digital marketing and content marketing.

AI in Digital Marketing: Sprawling Technologies and Trust

AI is a sprawling category of technologies, not a technology. Talking about “AI” is about as specific as talking about “clothing” or “footwear.” That is crucial to the trust challenge.  

The AI that generates “deep fake” videos is not the AI computer vision that navigates a self-driving car, not the AI that generates intelligible writing and not the AI that makes ecommerce recommendations. It is not the AI that identifies mineral deposits underground, the one that detects wildfires to save lives, or the AI fraud detector that stops cybercriminals from using our credit cards.

In certain contexts, AIs have clear utility and engender trust. Out of context, though, AI is suspicious. That partly explains our contradictory attitudes toward it.

Related Article: AI in Marketing: More Personalization in the Next Decade

The Trust Contradictions of AI in Marketing

Survey data suggests that people trust and mistrust AI for the wrong reasons — an important realization for using AI in ways that protect and increase brand trust.

A July poll by the Artificial Intelligence Policy Institute found that 62% of Americans are concerned about AI while only 21% are excited. Lopsided, right? Meanwhile, in a survey commissioned by database provider DataStax, 72% of consumers indicated they “… trust a company more when they receive relevant recommendations.” Almost two-thirds of respondents didn’t realize that AI in content marketing powers recommendations from their online retailers and streaming services! 

It gets even murkier with generative AI. A shocking 73% of consumers trust AI in content marketing written by generative AI according to a multinational survey by Capgemini Research Institute. Yet ChatGPT itself warns that it “…may produce inaccurate information about people, places, or facts.” Indeed, the anti-misinformation outfit NewsGuard fed ChatGPT 100 false narratives and asked it to write content supporting and expanding upon them. ChatGPT complied 80% of the time.

But that flaw in generative AI doesn’t absolve us of responsibility as marketers. If we use AI in digital marketing, our brands own the outcome.

Related Article: Machine Learning and Generative AI in Marketing: Critical Differences

4 Rules for AI Trust

What do the nuances of AIs and the survey data tell us? Many people trust the value they receive from AI but mistrust the abstract nature of an unregulated technology mimicking human models, communicators and decision-makers. People often like AI best when they don’t know it’s AI. So, what should and shouldn’t you disclose about your AI use?  

Brand trust is normally straightforward: Be transparent, be true to your values, be your word, and be respectful, and make things right when you mess up. 


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