Study: Marketers say AI will revolutionize industry even though most don't understand it

Dive Brief:

  • A survey from Demandbase done in conjunction with Wakefield Research shows 80% of B2B marketing executives believe artificial intelligence technology will “revolutionize” the marketing industry by 2020, according to a press release.
  • Despite the excitement, only 26% of those surveyed were confident they understand how AI is applied to marketing and only 10% currently even use it within their business.
  • In terms of other obstacles, 60% pointed to integrating the technology, 56% said training staff and 46% said difficulties in interpreting results. The survey also found an overall lack of understanding about which AI technologies are now available and how to begin using them.

Dive Insight:

The Demandbase-Wakefield survey highlights how media buzz around certain technologies often doesn’t translate to either literacy or application at the industry level. Brands overeager to test out bleeding edge tools like AI without fully comprehending how to apply them might be their wasting time, money or, potentially worse, setting themselves up for a major PR embarrassment.

If Demandbase's report is accurate, around three-fourths of B2B marketers have a ways to go before properly figuring out what can be done with AI, meaning that the expected "revolution" may have a steep learning curve. 


AI, in particular, has lofty science fiction associations with autonomous robots, but the reality is the technology mostly serves as a number crunching tool that can automate rote and repetitive aspects of business. The ability for machine learning algorithms to ingest and analyze vast swaths of consumer data with inhuman efficiency will ultimately allow marketers to glean deeper insights from campaigns and also free up more time that can be put toward creative innovation.

Email marketers and sales teams, for example, can tap predictive analytics from platforms like Salesforce’s Einstein to gauge which email leads are more likely to close and then get suggestions on next best business actions, as well as areas to dedicate more time and spend. Stemming from that, 59% of those surveyed by Demandbase said they will not view AI as a success without better close rates for sales, with another 52% saying the same of higher conversion rates for leads. 


As more AI tools open up from big tech players like Salesforce and IBM, marketers should take the time now to experiment with the technology and educate their teams on best uses to stay ahead of the curve. Industry non-profit initiatives like the recently launched Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society, which includes Microsoft, Google, IBM and others, might become key resources during this early testing and integration phase.

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Filed Under: Marketing Tech Trends
Top image credit: David Goehring