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Does AI Do ‘More’ Or ‘Less’ in Your Content Strategy?


Let’s dispel a myth going around right now. You are not behind if you haven’t fully integrated generative AI into your marketing or content strategy.

Few companies have integrated, and far fewer have it all figured out.

I was struck by something Anthropic co-founder Benjamin Mann said at a recent conference:

“The largest companies in the world, including tech, banks, retailers, etc., are moving forward with this technology. One large bank we were talking to came to us and they said, ‘We’ve been talking to everyone in the company, and we have over 500 different use cases that we want to apply large language models to.’ That’s really incredible — and they don’t even know where to start.”

Let’s be clear: Going to a technology provider with 500-plus use cases for the application of any technology is not just useless; it’s counterproductive. It reminds me of the wasteful early days of enterprise content and marketing software when shiny, demo-driven features drove tech decisions. It didn’t matter that your company couldn’t produce enough content or data for things the tech could do (like personalization). It was new and the demo looked amazing, so you developed a use case and purchased it.  

Are you being told to ‘do more with less’?

Meanwhile, people talk about generative AI as a way to “do more with less.” How many times over the last 20 years have content and marketing teams heard that phrase? It’s like a drumbeat in our ears now.

And it never seems to matter whether budgets are going up or down. The only nuance is which word to emphasize — more or less.

Are you asked to do more stuff with fewer resources? That’s being creatively productive. Or are you asked to milk more results from fewer capabilities or resources? That’s being more efficient.

Ultimately, those are the questions to ask as you apply AI to your marketing strategy.

Almost every time I’ve done a get-ready-to-be-ready-for-AI audit with content and marketing teams, it has turned out that the best use cases add capabilities while taking the same (and sometimes more) resources. In other words, the company will add AI technology to make things possible that it couldn’t previously do. The least valuable use cases replace human talent with AI.

The tension of what to emphasize in “doing more with less” is subtle but important to get straight.

Here’s a non-AI-related example. I recently checked into a brand-name hotel for a four-night stay. Its prices had gone up markedly in the last 18 months. At check-in (and on its app and website), I was informed my room would not be cleaned during my stay unless I requested it, and only on the day I requested it. Further, if I needed things (e.g., towels, soap) usually replenished during a housekeeping visit, I should call housekeeping to make the request.

Now, I get it. The pandemic’s aftermath left many hotels short-staffed and challenged to create a more efficient and compliant operation. However, three years later, this hotel chain is still seeing double-digit revenue growth year over year.  

Why are they institutionalizing a degraded experience? They put the onus on me to pay more and deal with more hassle. Why don’t they use this opportunity to redesign a better communication (experience) to the check-in process? Here’s an example:

“Hello, Mr. Rose. Thank you for your loyalty. We’re trying to do better for the environment and our natural resources. Can you tell me on which days of your four-day stay you would prefer your room cleaned? We can clean it once, twice, or not at all.”

The hotel’s revenue management strategy remains the same. But the way it’s presented to the customer changes. 

So why isn’t the hotel chain doing this? Because it’s easier not to. Instead of moving toward more creativity despite having fewer resources, they are doing more with less.

It’s a subtle but important difference. Instead of moving toward more creativity and innovation despite having fewer resources, they’re focusing on doing less with their resources. 

The tension of what to emphasize in “doing less with more” is subtle but important to get straight.

AI can enable you to do more with less effort

Coming back to AI, I see the same thing happen to content teams. I recently worked with a team thinking about launching a significant new content experience. As they mapped out the content they would need for launch, a senior leader said, “Can’t we just have AI write it all so we won’t need additional writers?” Ostensibly, he asked for the team to focus on the word “less.”

Instead, the team suggested adding capabilities by using AI to create a translation strategy to make the new content experience available in multiple languages. The team wanted to focus on the word “more.”

What happened? The team lost the argument. Leadership pushed to use AI for efficiency and cut the budget for writers. We’ll see how the platform works, but it’s not looking like it will be a differentiating project.

Measuring more or less?

A big indicator of where your brand places the emphasis — on more or on less — lies in how marketing and content teams are measured.

In heady, growth-oriented times, companies often measure marketers on their ability to provide differentiated experiences, draw more leads, create more highly engaged customers, and inspire more brand awareness. Metrics influence behavior, so managers favor creativity, innovation, and content to create remarkable experiences. The focus is on doing more with less.

In leaner or stressed times, companies often switch to measuring efficiency. Metrics center on reducing costs for a given task or performing the same function. The focus is on doing more with less.

If marketing teams are measured purely on efficiency, it’s only a matter of time before the content fails the business. So when a senior executive asks, “Why is our content so derivative and boring?” the answer will be, “Yup. It is. We continue to try to do more with less.”

Think of a movie studio with a budget of $100 million. In growth times, the company emphasizes “do more with less,” so teams focus on quality, creativity, and innovation. The company spends $100 million on the talent and marketing for 10 movies.

In lean times, the company emphasizes “do more with less,” so the teams focus on the cheapest talent, the lowest price locations, and the cheapest promotion strategies. The company spends $100 million on talent and marketing for 20 movies.

The latter rarely provides a better long-term business result.

Author and famous business strategist Eli Goldratt once said, “Tell me how you will measure me, and then I will tell you how I will behave. If you measure me in an illogical way, don’t complain about illogical behavior.”

As you enter what may be challenging times with the application of generative AI, you may see executives, colleagues, or even yourself tempted to transition away from measuring your ability to create more value and toward doing more things as inexpensively as possible. This transition sometimes comes with a preface, “Don’t worry, it’s just transitory. We’ll be back to growth soon enough.”

But don’t behave illogically — make sure you’re not institutionalizing bad content experiences. A much wiser approach is to redouble your creativity as you face the reality of fewer resources.

You might learn not to focus on “do more with less” but on achieving “less is more.”

It’s your story. Tell it well.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute