MAICON: AI conference recap

I had the great opportunity to attend this year’s Marketing AI Conference (MAICON) hosted by the Marketing AI Institute in Cleveland on July 28-29. I was one of 700 early AI adopters present at the two-day event in which top pros discussed how AI is affecting marketing and the overall business landscape, and what we need to be thinking about for the quickly approaching future.

The conference was opened by Paul Roetzer, founder and CEO of the Marketing AI Institute, who presented his 10 things to know about the state of AI for marketing and business. Leading off, he discussed how the awareness and adoption of AI, and more specifically Generative AI, are accelerating. It began with the public release of ChatGPT in November 2022 and has only continued to grow. Now Big Tech—like Microsoft and Google—has been betting on the systems, investing millions into these tools which is only going to ensure that Generative AI will continue to grow.

As the event continued a few common themes emerged:

This is only the early stages of generative AI.

This statement goes without much explanation. What we are working with right now is the earliest forms of Generative AI. With more time and large tech companies adding millions in investments, these technologies will only get better. Therefore, we are only seeing the beginning of what these technologies can do, and they will only continue to get better and smarter.

AI is ultimately a tool.

Like anything else that we may use in our marketing/business arsenal, AI is ultimately a technology that can help us do our jobs better and, in turn, make the business better. How we use the tool is what will really decide how useful it is to us. Which leads to the next point …

The current workforce won’t be replaced by AI.

Because AI is only a tool, there will still be workers needed to use that tool. As Paul Roetzer said, “Every single knowledge worker will be affected by AI in the next one to two years.” It is estimated that around 80% of what marketers currently do will be automated thanks to the capabilities of AI, Paul continued. This means there will be more time available to add value to our businesses in the form of strategy, creativity and ideation instead of being bogged down by the mundane, tedious tasks that AI can accomplish, a sentiment that Cassie Kozyrkov, chief decision scientist at Google, spoke on to open day two of the conference. She coined a word for this type of work, thunking.

Whether you know it or not, employees are already using AI.

The introduction of ChatGPT to the public in November 2022 kicked off an age of exploration and curiosity that many haven’t experienced since the release of the internet back in the 90s. Whether you want to believe it or not, employees at your business are already using AI in some capacity to assist with their work. Use of AI should be accepted by leadership, but guidelines must be established and communicated to employees to help protect your business and to set parameters around how the tools can be used. Furthermore, if your organization doesn’t have an internal AI council established, you can work with these employees to create one. They will be your biggest asset when it comes to understanding the technology and pushing initiatives forward.

We cannot fear AI.

Olivia Gambelin, an AI Ethicist, said it best, “We hold the key to keeping fear away with our ethics. Regulation won’t help.” This was the focal point of her keynote address, Ethics in AI Marketing: Bringing the Human Back into the Equation. It’s up to us to determine how helpful or harmful AI as a tool will be. We, as people and businesses, already have an ethical code we follow, so how can we build a responsible AI initiative that best drives us to our business goals? It is this determination that will ultimately decide how useful AI will be to us and our organizations.

MAICON 2023 was a whirlwind two days of learning and discussing how AI is going to affect not only marketing, but our general business. While AI isn’t new (it was invented in the 1950s), the way Generative AI has emerged is new to business operations. We should not be afraid to dive into using it, because it will eventually become part of our everyday workflow. And it is the ones who adopt it sooner rather than later who will get ahead.