How AI will kill your business, without replacing you

By  •  Updated: 12/14/22 •  4 min read

I can imagine the surprise on your face when I tell you I’ve been having a play with the new AI tools that popped up in the last few weeks. I imagine it’s no surprise at all.

It’s dangerous for marketers, but not how most people are predicting.

Let me tell you a short story that happened this week.

I’m a member of at a sports club that’s over 150 years old. Change doesn’t happen fast in places like that.

The committee has had a task to update our mission statement for months. It keeps getting passed over in meetings. No one wants to go through the naval gazing and pointless semantic arguments that these things involve.

So, our captain took the reins and wrote a new statement.

Everyone agreed it was an excellent piece that covered all areas of the club. It balanced out the needs of our novice learners and our Olympic aspirants beautifully.

(See where this is headed yet?)

Then the captain admitted that he’d used ChatGPT to write it. 

Honestly , nobody cared at that point. We had something we could sign off on and everyone would be happy with.

What I thought was interesting was that it performed best at a task that avoids any sort of conflict.

It doesn’t choose a direction, it chose to cover all directions.

In marketing terms, that’s a death sentence.

Having an opinion is fundamental to a successful business. 

“The world would be better if we prioritise X.” is a core belief that you can’t avoid. Your team needs to be 100% on board with it, or get out.

If your copy is the sort of compliant, don’t-rock-the-boat writing that AI comes up with right now, you’re sunk.

While I was at it, I did what I usually do with software and try to break it.

I tried to find the questions it refuses to answer, and can’t answer.

Here’s 3 that I thought were pretty serious.

1. It couldn’t talk about anything that’s happened in the last year

AI is nowhere near being able to write “news-jacking” copy as it’s data set stops somewhere around 2021.
I’m a huge fan of automating as much email as possible, but news is useful. A little current affairs and popular culture will prick up people’s ears and get theor attention.

2. It wouldn’t give any arguments against accepted wisdom.

This one can get a bit controversial, but try asking it to provide arguments against a popular theory and it falls flat.

I tried to get it to give me arguments against climate control, against critical race theory and against having a half-time show at the Superbowl.

These are the three most pressing issues of our time, but it couldn’t argue against any of them.

Good marketing always disrupts a status quo, or a common belief, and it looks nowhere close to doing this yet. 

AI can’t even echo other people’s arguments, let alone come up with its own.

Last one…

3. It couldn’t trawl the internet for research.

If you’re making claims about your product, you need to back them up.

In some spaces like health, providing links to studies is the backbone of your proof. 

A lot of ad networks won’t even allow testimonials and before / after shots. It’s too obvious that they’re cherry picked results.

I’m not sure if it’s a lack of access, or that it can’t understand the content (unlikely), but it drew a blank on all these tasks.

All the writers I know say AI is most useful for rapid research, but if that research is just a shallow trawl of Wikipedia, how original is it going to be?

TL;DR

AI is a fast tool for basic research. It does well at getting at common wisdom . But the the real skill in good copy is coming up with new, contrarian and well supported ideas.

Without these, your business becomes beige, bland and forgettable.

Right now, AI could accelerate that trend, when it’s supposed to make you stand out.

Stephen Pratley

I build email lists, that grow into one-man businesses.