AI and the Machine Age of Marketing

The Machine Age of Marketing: How Artificial Intelligence Changes the Way People Think, Act, and Decide

Christian Hildebrand


AI, Machine Learning, Digital Transformation, Autonomous Machines


Voice interfaces are becoming everyday companions
Writing with a chatbot is just one channel for connecting with customers. Voice is another, even more natural one. The interview with Jan Neumann, Head of AI at Comcast, reveals how using a voice-based remote control creates loyalty effects, even for customer segments that are typically underserved. Older consumers with poor vision or children who cannot read yet speak directly to their remote control to select their preferred channel, movie, or actor. This industry example highlights how AI can provide not only a different but ultimately an entirely new consumer experience.

  • The adoption of AI hinges on trust
    The use of AI raises a number of trust-related questions. Noah Castelo, Maarten Bos, and Don Lehmann show that consumers are often fairly skeptical about algorithms. The more subjective the task, such as selecting a bottle of wine or even a dating partner, the more we seek the opinion of humans as opposed to machines. Their work illustrates how enhancing the human-likeness of technology can help consumers reduce their skepticism, particularly regarding tasks which are considered more subjective.
  • Ethical considerations and the role of morality
    The most difficult question raised is whether machines can be moral. Edmond Awad, Jean-François Bonnefon, Azim Shariff and Iyad Rahwan conducted a large-scale “moral machine” experiment. Their research highlights the incredible variety of human values, and how those values and beliefs could be built into the algorithms used in autonomous cars. You might want to be a senior citizen in China or Japan and not central Europe or the U.S., where people are more willing to spare the lives of young people than old people. Despite cultural discrepancies, the researchers find a high overlap of values and recommend a broad social discourse for the definition of moral rules that self-driving cars and other intelligent machines should follow.

Stimulate your thinking about AI
It is easy to get confused about the role of AI when you think vaguely and broadly about it (“Will AI disrupt my industry or completely replace my business?”). The same thing applies if you think too narrowly and focus on technology (“Should we build a voice interface using Amazon Alexa or Google Cloud?”). Either way, you will lose track of the larger, relevant questions of how exactly AI affects your business. Figure 3 offers some warmup questions to stimulate your thinking and to help you engage in some initial self-reflection on how to approach AI.  Besides being a useful tool for positioning yourself and your business in the AI world, it also helps with this issue. If you want to get the most out of it, ask yourself these questions again while you read the articles, and make them specific to the context they cover.



Director and Professor of Marketing Analytics, Institute of Marketing (IfM-HSG), University of St. Gallen, Switzerland

Further Reading

Bostrom, Nick (2014): “Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies“, Oxford University Press, Inc., New York
Russell, S.; Dewey, D. & Tegmark, M. (2015): “Research priorities for robust and beneficial artificial intelligence”, AI Magazine, Vol. 36(4), 105-114.
Tegmark, M. (2017): ”Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence“, New York. Knopf.