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AI is Shaking Up B2B Marketing

AI in B2B Marketing

Generative AI is already reshaping how B2B CMOs approach content creation. We’ll explore what that looks like today and share anticipated changes that will shake up B2B marketing for good (and in some hands, for bad).


It's hard when you've realized you really know nothing and you're talking to 200 people about something. But they said if we're confident, they wouldn't believe us anyway, so we have no problem with that. We're not going to have a problem with that at all. So Toni, nice to be on stage with you again. And you. Yes. So let's start with the big picture. EY obviously is a professional services firm. You have to advise companies on what to do. How is EY approaching AI from a service to your customer standpoint right now? There are so many different ways. So great question. I would say first, it's not one size fits all. It's probably the 360 degree version of that. So first, it's how do we help on the strategy and consulting side when people say, I want to incorporate some sort of AI into my business, my company. What do I do? We get a lot of questions about risk. I mean, it's kind of in our DNA, right? So we get a lot of questions about risk and exposure and what does that mean? As many questions as we get about forward thinking, we have a whole methodology around future back. And so we were laughing the other day as we were talking through this that, you know, the future is changing and redefining so quickly that understanding what future back looks like even it continues to work in different ways. So that's one way. Then we also look at how we're using, I mean, we do anyway already, but AI machine learning and different tools to use internally to make sure that we're efficient and effective. So, you know, on the tax and audit side where there's just tons of process that could be streamlined and made better, though, now that I see how wrong it is, I think I'm going to go flag that for somebody because that scares me a little bit. But yeah, so just constantly looking at it that way. And then also we do a lot with recruiting. And so we're constantly looking at, you know, we hire tens of thousands of people a year. Our average age is 26. And so just being able to think through, you know, how can we connect with the generation that's coming in and evaluating if they want to go into consulting, if they want to go into tax, they want to come to a big four, then they want to come to EY versus somebody else. So we're using it that way as well. Well, and so it feels like there's competing things here. So as a risk averse company, advising companies, because that's got to be really hard for adoption. Yet from a recruiting standpoint, they all want to see AI, AI, cool, cool, cool stuff. So how are you balancing that? It's making it up as we go along. You know, we have a couple of different working groups. One that's working on the very technical side of it to say, what is it going to take in order to incorporate this into our different processes? And then going through all of the checks and balances, I would say, because we're so focused on making sure everything is right and correct, and that's part of our business, that it actually slows us down a little bit. And at first, you know, as a marketer, like, oh, we have to say something. And we really actually feel like it's been a bit of a benefit, because if we had gone out with some big splash around what we were doing six months ago, I'm not sure it would be valid now. So we look at it that way. And then we just look at what are, from a consulting standpoint, designing the future. What can you use? How do you bring the different information to bear? Because we deal with so many different types of clients. That's really helpful as well. Well, and so that sort of gets us into this question of digital transformation has been a huge business for all the consulting firms. And do you see AI as becoming a practice area? Or is it merged into digital transformation? Or you don't know yet? Well, it's, you know, there's a lot of conversation about this. I think that what we would like to do is figure out what it means. Of course, it will be embedded, right? But figuring out, if you pull out a practice, we don't just want to reframe a practice that exists. So we're seeing that happen a lot, where somebody is going out, and they're so desperate to have a press release out there, that they're taking an existing piece of business, and then putting the, you know, the AI supercomputer human people of the century, and, you know, that. So I think that we're a little bit more stepped in that to say, we know that it will change, embed, and impact everything that we do. So let's focus on that first, versus trying to slap the, you know, the Center for AI Excellence out there as a press release, just renaming something that we would do anyway. Right. That makes sense. And what's interesting is everyone, a lot of the folks here are entrepreneurs, they could just go right into it. They don't have to actually think all this through, they can just play with it. So I want to take a second and just talk about how the CMOs in the CMO Huddles community are approaching this. And there's a question at the end of this, but there's this evolution that the CMOs are going through. One is they're just playing with the tools, and rest assured that, at least in our community, every single Huddler is, in fact, playing with the tools in one way or another, from the CMO on down. Everybody's trying, certainly with ChatGPT. They're all rethinking about how content gets created. Now, mainly we're talking words and pictures right now, but there's a lot of interest in apps and video right around the corner. So that's sort of stage one and two, and I would say that's where 80% of our community is at. Then there's this next group that are sort of reimagining experimentation, where they're thinking about the infinite iterations that they can create for landing pages or subject lines or things like that. That's sort of phase three. Then there's this now, the dream for years and years and years in marketing has been mass personalization. I want to talk to one person at a time as a massive corporation. This technology certainly is enabling that, and there's interest in it, but nobody knows how to do it yet. The last one, which is interesting, and it may end up being the first one very soon, which is just applying these tools to everything, not just content, because there's a lot of limitations on this, oh, it's about creating content. It's about sales preparation. It's about meeting prep. It's about baking it into MarTech. In fact, I'm doing a show tomorrow with three MarTech companies who in the last three months have announced new AI integrations, which is what we're talking about, the rush to it. Given that long preamble, where are you right now from your marketing standpoint in terms of an adoption curve of AI? Yeah. I mean, I don't know if it's good or bad, but I would say we're in that first two, playing with the tools and figuring it out as we go along. I think that we need Noah to come in and rewrite all of our codes and information because just the way he talks about prompts and things like that really, you start to think about we're not scratching the surface. We do have, within the marketing function, a lot more latitude to be able to play. It is really interesting to think through how wrong it is often. The information is wrong. We can't put out there incorrect information, that our reputation is so critical to that. The marketers on the teams are using it for ideation, as we talked about here, but it's really still taking quite a bit of time to make sure that if you wrote a blog article that referenced something, that it's accurate, that if we're making a claim or a promise or we make a point of view, that it's accurate. There's really no getting around that level of expertise right now. It does help us think of things creatively, but I'm really intrigued by what Tim was saying, which is when you're a brand like EY, with hundreds of thousands of people, the portfolio is very large, but from a brand standpoint, we're really known for tax and audit, though we have a huge consulting and strategy practice. What I can't wait to do is really think through if I put in what is EY, I will get its vibe. I'll get the concept in terms of what is the world out there, and that will help me as a marketer figure out where do I need to dial something up or down in order to be able to open the aperture of the brand or to be considered differently or to look at those ... How do I talk to recruits that are 20-somethings versus the middle schoolers that I want them to get excited about coming into the accounting profession versus somebody who's a chief technology officer at a Fortune 500 company? I think about those types of applications just from being here, and then listening to CMO Huddles, because in Drew's group, there are so many different startups, lots of tech-based companies, different types of industries. I end up learning so much just from what is retail doing? Totally different, but could really apply in a lot of different ways. Yeah. One of the things that's come up a lot in Huddles is there are writers out there who are terrified of these tools, and they're so afraid that they're going to replace them. They won't use them, and clearly, the art of this is ... It's about prompt crafting. It's about using your original ideas and just getting there faster, as Noah talked about at the beginning. Do you have any writers that are afraid of this, and if so, how are you sort of coaching them through this? We have a pretty open-to-failure, test-and-learn sort of culture in my group, so I don't think we're afraid of it. I don't know if we know how to best use it, other than just sort of the basics, right? I think the reason that we're here today is that we learn, right? What is everybody else doing? We're asking as many questions as possible. I think that I don't necessarily feel that there's fear of, I'm not going to use it, but I do sense that there is this sort of longer-term, how do we define the value that I will deliver? The value used to be writing the block. Now the value is, how do I make it integrate better? How do I make it more personalized or pointed? The value creation statement just keeps moving for me, for us, and so that's the really exciting part, is to figure out how do we ... I don't know if I'm chasing that or I'm following it. I think that's just where we're at in our journey. As you were talking, I was thinking that ... Noah and I worked together on this thing called BECA, and it was one of the collabs that he shared. Basically, we took 400 pages of CMO notes from the recaps, turned it into a bot, and now you can search as a B2B CMO using BECA. It occurs to me that all the intellectual capital that EY has feeds into the bot. Next thing you know, you have the EY consultant that is virtual. You ready for that? I think that we potentially have some consultants that are nervous about that, but what I find is that nothing that we're having conversations internally, what is our point of view? What is our perspective? How do we talk to clients? That kind of humans in the loop, it just keeps coming back around because something can spit out a lot of recommendations, but even today, the nuance is everything. We could be looking at something about supply chain and how that gets solved for different sectors or industries, very different. How that applies to different buyers within that, very different. How that applies to companies that are about to do a spinoff versus somebody that's going to do an acquisition, very different. I'm sure it can be trained on all of that, but there's a point where you have to incorporate human expertise. I guess that maybe that's just not something that we're really focused on, but maybe should be. It's coming. How likely do you think it is, given all that the tools are able to do from a content creation standpoint and how important content is, that you will have people dedicated to AI or using the tools? We've talked a lot about prompt crafting as an art. Do you think you're going to have someone on your team soon dedicated to it? I am a little bit obsessed with this because I'm always thinking through what does our talent development look like and how do we keep people engaged and how do we keep people on the forefront? I think a lot about this. I'm thinking, by the way, I don't have an answer, but I'm just saying, these are the things that are going through my brain. I am thinking a lot about the role of the specialist versus the role of the generalist. Where does that cross over? I can't imagine hiring the person to be in charge, though I do think we will need somebody who is looking, searching for the next great tool. Lou Cohen, who is here actually, runs All Things Digital for us. He just is a voracious consumer of what else could we, should we be doing? He has that as one of his 37 jobs, but in terms of our writers, our campaign strategists, our events people, what makes great branded experience in the future, all of those types of things, I feel like they have to incorporate that into their job as opposed to giving that to somebody else to tell them what to do. I think the interesting part here is we just don't know what we don't know. What's so hard when you're using these tools, if you don't know how to create your own brand voice and create the copy so that you can use that all the time so it writes as Toni or writes as Drew, and you don't know how to do that, you're kind of stuck. You sort of think, oh, this is garbage copy, it's just the same as everything everybody else is writing. So it feels like companies are going to need people who spend 100% of their time doing this. That's sort of my prediction. It just has to, because how else is everybody going to find it? Otherwise you're going to have some people who don't just type in, write a blog post, which is stupid, versus write a blog post in my name for these people with this voice, with this content. Yeah, I don't know, maybe. This sort of counterintuitive point's really kind of driving to me in terms of you still have to have the idea, I think event people are great event people for a reason, and content people are great content people for a reason, and if you try to not use every tool available to you to be the best marketer you can be in that area, I see that there's a need to constantly follow what's happening, but if I, sitting outside of someone's function makes me a little bit, I don't know, it just doesn't sit right, but I hear what you're saying. Yeah, I mean it's going to be really interesting, and obviously there's a big opportunity for training because everybody's going to want to train, and that training's going to have to be updated every six weeks. At least, yeah, that's a great point, meaning that's, again, the thing I love about the huddle is that we get this recap that we can then figure out what's next, and it's just moving so quickly that whoever's in the business of training on what's next and how to use it, God bless, right, because it's hard and we all need it. Well, and then right now we're really only talking about content and visuals, but I mean the minute it gets into video and apps it becomes just a whole nother, so what are you excited about? I mean what are you looking, you know, when you think about all these things as a marketer, what's really ringing your bell? Right now I think it is figuring out how to push the envelope, so, you know, what are some different ways that we could be, should be thinking of, not just the process part of it, but I tend to lean towards the creative part anyway, so when I see things like these brand mashups, when I see things like how could you creatively express yourself as a brand in a new and different way, how could you push on different levers of the brand to mean additional, new, different things, so I'm probably most excited about what that will yield in terms of really new, great, creative ideas and solutions, more than just copy, more than just a video, but like how does an activation come to life, like how does that manifest itself? So that's probably where I'm headed, just in terms of what's exciting. And as I'm thinking about this, you have to wear a lot of hats, I mean, again, because you're advising clients on how to do this stuff, and you have to be, and again, this is sort of where marketing has an interesting opportunity, and I want marketers to really be thinking about that. I'm doing this live show tomorrow, and one of the marketers actually drove the product development with the AI tool in order to be able to, because nobody else could do it fast enough and really understand what, because they were marketing to marketers, but I feel like this is a moment where marketers could literally step up and change a lot of organizations through the use of this tool. I mean, it's probably the most exciting opportunity and moment in marketing since the internet. Since COVID told everybody they had to be digital, right? So, no, I mean, listen, while it's exciting for us, I do think, and our perspective is that it will impact every function, every type of company. And what is interesting is, you mentioned earlier how an entrepreneur who can sort of, remember the idea when you were born in the cloud? Like, you had all, you were able to become a company without all this legacy infrastructure. It's the same kind of thing. Like, you will be a company that is born in this generative AI world. And so, just the way that that will approach the world, the value that you deliver will be different. And that, we need to think about that as well as, you know, how is that going to apply to the Fortune 500 bank that is highly regulated, super risk-averse? You know, what is that going to do? How do they incorporate that? Because they'll be completely disrupted. So, it's a great time for a marketer to have, be part of that conversation. But I think that there's this element of collaboration across the business that's a bit more fun, meaning you may want us to think through how could we help articulate value in a new and different way, but that, you know, somebody in the finance business or somebody in, you know, investor relations is going to think about it differently. So, how do we connect those dots? Okay. So, well, first of all, thank you, amazing. Second of all, the way that I've been thinking about all of this is really, it's not about replacing, it's just about making it better and faster. And so, if you have mediocre ideas, it's still going to be mediocre. If you have great ideas and you're a really good writer, you're going to be that much better. If you're an amazing creative person in any way. And so, the opportunity here, again, for marketers is extraordinary. So, thank you, Toni. Thank you.

BrXnd is coming back to NYC on May 8, 2024 for another full day of marketing and AI—
BrXnd is coming back to NYC on May 8, 2024 for another full day of marketing and AI—
BrXnd is coming back to NYC on May 8, 2024 for another full day of marketing and AI—
BrXnd is coming back to NYC on May 8, 2024 for another full day of marketing and AI—
BrXnd is coming back to NYC on May 8, 2024 for another full day of marketing and AI—
BrXnd is coming back to NYC on May 8, 2024 for another full day of marketing and AI—

A year after our initial BrXnd Marketing x AI Conference we are coming back to NYC for round 2. Twelve months and many models later, we will look to continue the conversation we started in 2023. What is happening at the intersection of marketing and AI? Where must the industry go? And, most importantly, what's worth getting your hands on today? Join us in May. is an organization that exists at the intersection between brands and AI. Our mission is to help the world of marketing and AI connect and collaborate. This event will feature world-class marketers and game-changing technologists discussing what's possible today.

The day will include presentations from CMOs from leading brands talking about the effects of AI on their business, demos of the world’s best marketing AI, and conversations about the legal, ethical, and practical challenges the industry faces as it adopts this exciting new technology.

Attendees will return to work the next day with real ideas on how to immediately bring AI into their marketing, brand, strategy, and data work. We hope you will join us!

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