Brand automation is changing, rather than replacing marketing jobs, says Bruce Stronge.
Brand automation is hammering the last nail in the coffin of the old-school marketing approach: when the creative genius ruled, reporting return on marketing investment was still a twinkle in the CFO’s eye, and designers laboriously created and resized marketing collateral, first with paper and rulers, then with Adobe.
Automation has historically implied the replacement of people power by sophisticated machinery. We see this happening with machines replacing factory workers, self-driven cars replacing taxi drivers, and narrative science and data analysis replacing journalists.
In marketing, automation is changing rather than replacing jobs. Hootsuite automates the publication of social media posts, HubSpot automates prompts to remind shoppers of their abandoned online purchases, and Ask Nicely automates net promoter score surveys after a brand experience.
When it comes to managing your brand, automation tools such as Outfit are also changing the profession. Here are five ways you can expect brand automation to change your job over the next couple of years.
1. Marketing budgets and resources will be restructured
Gone are the days of ‘we know half of our marketing budget works, the trouble is we don’t know which half’. Proving return on marketing investment is now an essential part of the job.
Automating tasks such as the production of marketing collateral for multiple sizes and formats saves money. When you’re not paying a designer to manually resize collateral and perform several content changes, this frees up some of your budget for other parts of the marketing mix, such as paying for the creation of original artwork or boosting advertising spend.
Brand automation platforms also allow you to re-use template designs built in the past for upcoming campaigns, so the cost of design incrementally decreases over time.
2. Brand consistency won’t be your responsibility
People flock to brands they recognise, know and trust, and such a relationship requires maximum consistency with all brand touch points over time. We know this is more difficult than ever, given the increasing number of digital marketing channels.
And, as your company grows and the team expands, new designers, marketers and agencies unfamiliar with your brand guidelines pose a risk to brand consistency. Each new party may unknowingly compromise the brand by adding their preferences and flavour into your marketing collateral.
Into the mix, tasks involving repetition, rather than skill or creativity, induce boredom and lack of focus, which can lead to expensive mistakes.
Brand automation will digitise your brand guidelines, automating the fiddly, less skill-based tasks in marketing collateral production to safeguard against errors born of the monotony of mundane tasks for in-house design teams and agencies alike. This leaves no room for human error and guarantees brand consistency, saving marketers significant time previously spent manually policing and checking content.
3. Creatives will focus on what they do best
Brand automation will have a big impact on graphic designers – some of the most creative members of any marketing team. By automating tasks such as resizing collateral, placing logos and inserting approved imagery, brand automation will free up your designers to do what they do best: being creative.
Where you may not have had resources in your graphic design team to create unique artwork for a new campaign, liberating the designers from menial tasks provides an opportunity for more creativity and originality.
This surprising benefit of automation was explored in The Drum’s 2016 documentary ‘the automation of creativity’, which showcases international innovation in artificial intelligence (AI): a robotic creative director in Tokyo, an algorithm that refines a coffee advertisement based on Londoners’ reactions to the content, and machine learning and a 3D printer producing a brand new Rembrandt painting in Amsterdam.
Each example reveals automation technology trumps humans at tasks requiring rote repetition and exacting execution, but human creativity and originality are still crucial to conceptualise a successful marketing campaign and bring it to life.
The documentary argues automation is a new tool, like a pencil, supporting rather than replacing marketers’ creativity.
4. Easy editing and approval of collateral will help you go to market faster
Our desks might not have inbox and outbox trays with paper marketing collateral approval slips for signature anymore, but these have been replaced by their equally clunky digital equivalents.
Brand automation software such as Outfit has inbuilt workflows and approval chains: marketers insert content into a template built around brand guidelines and submit it for approval; the manager reviews and approves within the app; the marketer then renders the creative work and submits it to the printer or online publisher.
This makes the approval process quicker and simpler for everyone involved in the production of marketing collateral. Brand automation software also allows marketers to edit a full bill of materials simultaneously, rather than one by one, which means you can produce marketing collateral at a fraction of the time and seize market opportunities much faster.
5. International campaigns will be a breeze to roll out
Transcreation or campaign localisation to different locations, countries and markets can be left as an afterthought for many marketers, who use a translation of the same marketing collateral.
However, to resonate with diverse communities and cultures, marketers need to adapt collateral not just for the local language, but also for market peculiarities and habits.
Simple translations can be catastrophic for brands, big and small.
Brand automation allows marketers to share campaigns with different teams across the globe, so they can transcreate and deliver globally consistent brand and campaigns, localised for specific markets. For example, a campaign developed for Sydney can be shared in template form to the Beijing team, who enter locally relevant content based on the same consistent global brand.
Responsive design means the template will neatly accommodate the switch from English to Mandarin.
The old adage ‘think globally, act locally’ has never been more true, or easy.
Automation and the future
It’s reasonable to ask whether this is another case of machines taking over human jobs. However, despite advances in sophisticated technology, data-driven decision-making and an increased emphasis on measuring return on investment, marketing and design are still by nature creative industries.
Great marketing can hold a mirror up to society, and this will always involve an element of the intangible and creative work that cannot be automated, budgeted or reflected in a pie chart or replaced by an algorithm.
Rather than threatening the jobs of talented, creative designers and adaptable marketers, automation is a tool that supports creativity and represents a potential advantage against competitors who are slow to introduce it to their teams. The best campaigns of the future will rely on automation tools, creative geniuses and seamless orchestration of all parties.
This article was originally published online by Marketing Magazine Australia on 30 May 2017.