Unleashing the Power of AI in Martech: In Conversation with Scott Brinker

AI has the potential to influence every aspect of our lives. While the concept is not new, recent advances in AI, typified by the incredible growth of ChatGPT, have the potential to transform marketing. 

LXA CEO Carlos Doughty and Godfather of Martech Scott Brinker recently sat to chew the fat on AI and martech. 

In the first of a three-part series of conversations, Carlos and Scott compare this moment in AI’s development to the birth of the Internet and consider the possibilities it will bring for marketers. 

Scott Brinker: For a while, my thinking about AI was that this stuff is now picking up steam and over the next few years this will get really exciting, while not paying that much attention to it. Then a few weeks go by and I can see that this is more like the original Internet moment.

I was around during the early days of the Internet and part of that Internet revolution and it moved at nothing like the speed of AI and had nothing like the impact it is having.  

So there's literally nothing I can compare it to. I would argue that all the other major innovations in human history, even fire and electricity, don't even compare because, even if they had a huge impact over time, the time it took for those things to diffuse throughout the world could be measured in decades or centuries.

This is uncharted territory. I don't think I'm being too hyperbolic.

“I would argue that all the other major innovations in human history, even fire and electricity, don't even compare”

Carlos Doughty: Electricity is a really interesting comparison. Tom Goodwin talks about this in his book Digital Darwinism, and I often refer back to it. It took us 50 years to understand electricity and to take it from factories to the home. It took time to really understand the technology and how it really could be used. 

In the case of OpenAI, it went from zero to 100 million people in two months. It's just crazy. The openness of this is so different - everybody can throw something into the mix to see where we get to.
SB: Yeah, that's really wild. That openness was part of the dynamic of the original web, and the legacy of that still carries on today. 

There's basically so much for free on the internet. It's amazing. The whole open-source culture that rose around the same time as the internet is still here too.  

All these trends on their own are massive, but they've now converged in some sort of really wild way. That is this multiplier effect. 

Look at composability for example. The world has slowly but surely been moving to API everything. It’s all in the cloud. It's all API. 

So that's exciting on its own. But now you take it in a world where you've got something like auto GPT engines, baby AGI etc, and it's able to take advantage of all that open API infrastructure to now orchestrate things. 

Now everything just moved up by an order of magnitude, and it happened in a blink of an eye.
CD: You can look at all the technological waves that have been in the past. One example I use is marketing automation. When it first came out you needed to code to use it, and now it's just a WYSIWYG drag and drop. 

Add in those UI, UX, and no code layers and It's the perfect storm, right? They've all been preparing for this moment where you then inject AI into the mix and now I don't even need to read code, I can just play with this and see what it can do. 
SB: I’ve been a fan of the whole no-code philosophy and movement here for years. I can't quite decide if AI is this massive amplification of no-code as a concept, or if it's somehow eclipsed it in a way where it doesn't even really matter. 

Yes, there's code but you don't even have to think about code. All you do is tell the genie what you wish for, and your commands are instantly materialised. 
CD: It's the speed of change that’s significant. You could look at it another way and critique some of what AI produces. You can ask it to do something, and the result isn’t what you wanted. But that’s not really the point though - if it can do this much now, what can it do in future? 

The democratisation between a developer and, to use your terminology, the citizen developer clearly is so close, and it's just going to accelerate from here. 

One point that came up in a recent episode of the All-In podcast was that the seventh social platform in town was the one that really broke through, and that was Facebook.  

If you learn from history and you are standing on the shoulders of giants, is there just something we've not in any way imagined yet? That somebody else is going to provide something completely different?
SB: With the pace at which things are moving now, could Open AI be disrupted by something else? Very likely. 

However, I will say in fairness to your analogy, that Open AI is actually standing on the shoulders of about 30 years or more of AI research. It's definitely one of those overnight successes that are actually 30 years or more in the making. 
CD: That's very true. They decided to spend a fortune as well. It's not like they were grinding away without putting cash into this. 
SB: My guess is that OpenAI were completely surprised by the way ChatGPT turned out. I could be wrong, but my impression is they did not set out to create a consumer platform there. They were focused on the research and maybe being the API provider. This is very much a back-office thing. 

My impression was that they launched ChatGPT as a way to learn and find out the things it can and can’t do. The fact that it went to 100 million users overnight caught them off-guard.  

I wonder if OpenAI are having to rethink their business, because they thought we were gonna be doing one thing, and may have had a path to it, but now they’re sitting on the hottest consumer platform in the history of the world.

"My guess is that OpenAI were completely surprised by the way ChatGPT turned out.The fact that it went to 100 million users overnight caught them off guard.”

CD: No, I don't think there was a genius marketing play here. I think it did catch them by surprise. It's really funny because I think some of the reason why it's done what it has, is a result of the ridiculous ways it's been used. 

I created a stupid ChatGPT prompt, which was asking it to explain martech to me as if you’re Hulk Hogan. It’s those types of stupid queries that don't actually serve any purpose other than that they're entertaining. It creates this sort of momentum, conversation, brand salience, and awareness. 

chatgpt hulk hogan

This spread and virality comes from it just being everywhere, and being used as literally a playground as they call it.
SB: If I go back to the early days, this is what Yahoo was, and after Yahoo, this is what Google was. It captured people as much with the playground side of it. 

The business models around this took a long time to develop, relative to what's happening right now with AI. We say the internet's been corrupted by advertising at this point but it took a decade before that had significant momentum. 

I still remember all of the marketing and ad world were basically pissing all over the digital marketing thing. That's those little geeky folks doing this thing, but we're the real marketers doing real marketing and real advertising. And there's 500 billion that's spent on real advertising and maybe a couple of billion spent on that digital thing. 

It took a long time before everyone's using this channel, and this is where the dollars are going. It was just a few years ago that digital surpassed TV. It takes decades to grow. 

I think we will look back and see the transformation of business models here and these new AI interfaces, channels and modes of engagement are going to be at least five times as fast an accelerated adoption as the Internet.

In the next part of this conversation, Carlos and Scott look at the potential winners and losers as the tech giants look to create their own AI products and interfaces, and why proprietary data sets can become the key differentiator.

This was the first of a three-part interview with Scott Brinker. See the other parts of the series here: