Why Humans (Not AI) Remain the Heart of Digital Marketing

robot holding heart crossed out

We live in a world that’s infatuated with machines. I mean, artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere. It’s diagnosing diseases, driving cars, and probably even analysing how you like your toast in the morning. But here’s the catch: It doesn’t really “get” you. 

You know, those weird, inexplicable human things you do? Like crying at a cheesy movie or laughing at a terrible dad joke? AI doesn’t have a clue about any of that. It can’t connect; it can’t empathise; it can’t feel. It can’t understand why a song brings a tear to your eye or what makes a simple ad tug at your heart. These machines just don’t get us, not on a level that matters.

So will artificial intelligence replace digital marketers? It won’t. Artificial intelligence cannot replace digital marketers. While it’s true that AI can handle data analysis, pattern recognition, and even automate some processes, it’s utterly baffled by the nuanced, emotional, and deeply human side of marketing. The ability to connect on a human level is something only real, live people can bring to the table.

Will artificial intelligence replace digital marketers?

The short answer: No.

The long answer: AI will absolutely change the marketing landscape. AI isn’t a replacement for digital marketers but, rather, it’s a tool. It lacks the heart, the soul, the spark that makes marketing not just a business but a craft. And as long as we’re human, selling to other humans, that’s going to matter.

AI can tell you that people are clicking on an ad. It can even tell you what time they’re most likely to click. But can it tell you why they click or why they don’t? Can it understand the subtle cultural nuances that make a campaign a hit in one country and a flop in another? Can it build a brand, nurture a community, or take a bold stand on a social issue? Not so much.

Marketing isn’t just about numbers and patterns. It’s about people, emotions, values, culture, and yes, even those dad jokes that somehow sell products. It’s about understanding what makes people tick, what keeps them up at night, and what makes them burst into laughter.

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Why AI isn’t replacing great marketers

You know, it’s funny how we’ve arrived in this age where AI and machine learning are taking over so much of what we do in marketing. But there’s something oddly… robotic about it all.

As I’ve mentioned, marketing is about touching hearts. It’s about building meaningful relationships with your customer base. So while AI can certainly complement your marketing efforts, it can’t replace the human touch that digital marketers provide.

1. AI lacks human qualities

People are drawn to stories, emotions, the “why” behind the product. And no matter how much we try to mimic these qualities, AI can’t fully grasp the subtleties and nuances of human emotion. 

As a digital marketer myself, I’ve seen firsthand the results of over-automation. Those perfectly tailored emails that feel just a tad too sterile and social media posts that lack genuine engagement. AI may analyse your previous purchases, your browsing history, maybe even predict what you might need, but it cannot understand you. 

It can do a lot, but it can’t laugh at a joke, or share a memory, or shed a tear at a touching commercial. Not yet, at least.

It’s a fascinating contradiction: The more we automate, the more we risk losing touch with what makes us human. That’s why digital marketers are so vital. You have the ability to infuse that missing humanity into the algorithms and the data, to connect with people on a level that machines just can’t quite reach.

AI lacks the human qualities (e.g., creativity, emotional intelligence, intuition, empathy, strategic thinking, adaptability) that make great marketing campaigns possible and memorable.

Pro tip: Use AI to enhance our understanding, not replace our empathy. No matter how smart a machine might become, it can’t replace the human touch. 

2. AI can perform tasks like data analysis and automated processes, but it can’t understand context and nuances

Human beings are masters of subtlety. A raised eyebrow, a slight inflection in tone, a nuanced reference – all these things are part of our communications arsenal, and all of them utterly lost on AI.

AI, in its binary understanding, can’t grasp the grey areas, subtleties, and unspoken societal norms that guide human interaction.

Imagine you’re running a social media campaign and someone comments with sarcasm. A human can often detect the tone and respond accordingly. But AI? It might take that comment at face value and respond in a way that feels awkward or misplaced. 

In a customer service context, a human representative can hear a change in a customer’s voice and adapt their approach, showing empathy or reassurance. An AI chatbot can follow a script and provide answers, but it can’t feel the frustration or satisfaction behind the words. 

Back to you

Consider the intricacies of your own market. Are there local idioms, cultural references, or specific emotions that need to be conveyed in your messaging? If so, relying solely on AI might cause you to miss those vital connections with your audience. Instead, use AI for what it’s good at: crunching numbers and automating processes. 

Let human creativity handle the storytelling, context, and nuances that will make your brand resonate with your customers.

Below are just some examples of marketing campaigns where AI’s limitations become apparent:

  • Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign: This campaign has often used human stories of overcoming adversity, embracing uniqueness, and challenging societal norms. AI lacks the human insight to link individual perseverance with a global brand message.
  • Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign: A campaign that personalised Coke bottles with individual names. While AI could manage the logistics, the initial creativity to recognize the human joy in personalisation and sharing, understanding the cross-cultural appeal, required human insight and empathy.
  • Tourism Australia’s “Dundee” campaign: This campaign tricked viewers into thinking a new Crocodile Dundee film was being released, only to reveal it was an advertisement for Australian tourism. The playful deception, cultural references, and humour needed human creativity and an understanding of audience expectations.

In the end, while AI’s role in marketing continues to expand, there are depths and subtleties to human nature and societal dynamics that it cannot reach. These limitations serve as a testament to the irreplaceable value of human insight and creativity in marketing.

3. AI struggles to create novel and imagine responses that resonate with audiences

Creativity isn’t about following a formula. It entails thinking outside the box, connecting disparate ideas, and crafting something entirely new and engaging.

An AI can analyse trends, replicate patterns, and even mimic certain creative processes, but it cannot truly imagine. It cannot think beyond its programming or data sets, and thus, its “creativity” is limited by its inputs and algorithms.

So if your marketing efforts feel stagnant, it might be time to look beyond AI and algorithms. Whether it’s a fresh advertising campaign, a new product launch, or a rebranding effort, don’t be afraid to let human imagination take the lead. Harness the creativity within your team or community, and watch your brand come alive in ways AI could never achieve.

4. AI complements marketing jobs and thus marketers can focus on high-value activities

Allow me to be a broken record for a moment here.

The question is no longer a question of whether AI will replace human marketers; rather, the question is how AI can enhance the human creativity, strategy, and intuition that lie at the heart of every successful marketing campaign.

AI takes the reins of the monotonous, time-consuming tasks that were once the tedious burden of human marketers. Whether it’s data analytics, customer segmentation, or routine automation, AI handles these tasks with an efficiency that frees human marketers from the grind, allowing them to focus on what truly matters. 

The concern that AI may take away jobs is misplaced. Instead, AI is refocusing the role of the marketer, shifting the balance from mundane tasks to high-value activities that only a human can perform.  Consider for a moment the mundane yet vital tasks that occupy the daily life of a marketer:

  • Data analysis: Sifting through endless spreadsheets, making sense of consumer behaviours, trends, and preferences. With AI at their disposal, marketers can now invest more time into creative content development and community building.
  • Segmentation and targeting: Who to reach, when, and how? AI’s predictive analysis can break down demographics, buying patterns, and even predict future trends. The marketer, once buried in numbers, now finds time to develop long-term strategies, experiment with new marketing channels, and innovate unique ways to engage customers.
  • Automation of repetitive tasks: Sending emails, managing social media posts, and even some customer service functions can be handled with machine-like efficiency. 

Again, marketing is about creativity, storytelling, relationship building, and understanding nuances. AI can’t conceptualise a brand’s voice, respond with genuine empathy to a dissatisfied customer, or craft a video script that tugs at the heartstrings. It lacks the ability to navigate the delicate intricacies of human emotion, cultural nuance, and ethical considerations that form the backbone of impactful marketing.

In short, AI is not the usurper but the enabler. It’s the tool that clears the path for human marketers to delve deeper, think bigger, and create more resonance. 

After all, marketing is not just a business process but an art form, a way to connect, engage, and inspire. When you incorporate AI tools into your workflow, you’ll allow your team to have the time and energy to focus on what they do best: building connections with customers.

5. AI can’t build meaningful connections

People can sense the absence of a human connection. 

(Just try messaging your bank’s Facebook page or customer service chatbot. See how frustrating it is to go in circles and never getting the answer you want.)

Humans connect through stories, emotions, and a deep, often unspoken understanding of each other’s experiences. We laugh together; we cry together; we grow together. We see ourselves in each other’s struggles and triumphs. These connections are what make a brand more than a logo and a product more than an object. They turn customers into communities and transactions into relationships.

Marketers, writers, artists – the human voices behind the brands – have the ability to tap into this profound human connection. They can craft messages that turn a marketing campaign into a meaningful conversation.

AI can’t build meaningful connections because it can’t understand what makes those connections meaningful in the first place. It can’t grasp the essence of human connection because that essence is something so inherently, beautifully human that it defies algorithms and transcends data.

And perhaps that’s a good thing. In a world where technology continues to advance and automate, our ability to truly understand each other is what sets us apart. That’s something no machine can replicate.

Nothing can replace your personal touch in digital marketing

There’s a lot of nonsense out there about how AI is the future of everything. And sure, it’s cool and all, but let me tell you something – it’s cold. It lacks that oomph, that warmth, that… humanness.

Here at Manifest Website Design, we understand that business isn’t just about pixels and code. It’s about people. Real, living, breathing, coffee-spilling-on-their-keyboard people. That’s why we don’t just build websites; we build connections. Learn how we can help you connect with your customers today.



About the Author

Jillian has over 30 years of experience in technology, programming, and digital marketing. Her work with the stock exchange in Australia, as well as other large corporations, has given her invaluable business expertise.

At Manifest Website Design, she helps goal-driven entrepreneurs build their business, regardless of size and industry, using the power of the internet. She’ll walk alongside you every step of the way, making sure that your website is running smoothly, and most importantly, generating leads. Connect with her on LinkedIn.