Does AI Do ‘More’ Or ‘Less With More’ 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.

For all the bluster going on, exceedingly few companies have integrated any of it, much less have it figured out.

Recently, I was struck by something Benjamin Mann, co-founder of Anthropic, said at a conference. He was talking about his impression of the early adoption of AI by companies:

“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-able features of the technology drove the strategy for using the technology. It didn’t matter that your company couldn’t produce enough content or data for things like personalization that the tech could do. It was shiny, and the demo looked amazing, so you developed a use case and purchased it.  

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

Over the last 20 years, most in marketing have heard the phrase “Do more with less” like a drumbeat.

Interestingly, it doesn’t matter whether budgets are going up or down; the message is still “let’s do more with less.” The only nuance is which word to emphasize — more or less. How do you switch the emphasis when economic or other headwinds are present?

In other words, if the mandate comes down, do you do more stuff that requires less, enhancing the output from resources? That’s being creatively productive. Or do you milk more from fewer capabilities or resources? That’s being more efficient.

Ultimately, that’s the question to ask as you apply AI to your marketing strategy. Almost every time we’ve done a get-ready-to-be-ready-for-AI audit with content and marketing teams, the best use cases add capabilities to the team with the same or more resources. In other words, the company will add a technology to enable an ability to do things it has not done. The least valuable use cases replace human talent by having AI do things humans currently do.    

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 wake of the pandemic 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 purposely institutionalizing a degraded experience? They put the onus on me — the consumer — to not only pay more but to deal with more hassle than I did. Why don’t they use this opportunity to redesign a better communication (experience) to the check-in process? 

“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.”

By the way, I know the answer is profitability, and I don’t necessarily disagree with the business decision. But I do question how that idea was communicated.

The hotel’s revenue management strategy is unchanged, but the presentation of it to the customer, and the strategy behind the marketing/communication is.

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

AI can enable you to do more with less effort

Coming back to the application of AI, I see the same thing happen to content teams. I recently worked with a team thinking about launching a big, 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 and thus eliminate the need for additional writers?” Ostensibly, he asked for the team to focus on the word “less.”

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

What happened? The team lost their argument. Leadership pressured on how they could use AI for efficiency and cut the need for budgeting writers. We’ll see how the platform ends up working, but it’s not looking like it will be a terribly differentiating project for them.

Measuring more or less?

A big indicator of where the emphasis — more or less — is placed is how frontline marketing and content teams are measured.

In heady, growth-oriented times, marketers are often measured on their ability to provide differentiated experiences, draw more leads, create more highly engaged customers, and inspire more brand awareness. Metrics influence manager behavior, favoring creativity, innovation, and content to create remarkable experiences. You do more with less.

In leaner or stressed times, companies often switch measurements for marketing and content. The pendulum swings to efficiency. Metrics center on how inexpensively you can achieve more activity or tasks or perform the same function as last time with fewer resources.” You do more with less.

If marketing teams are measured purely on efficiency, it’s only a matter of time before the content will fail the business, and a senior executive will ask, “Why is our content so derivative and boring?” Followed by this reply: “Yup. It sure is. We continue to try to do more with less.”

In lean times, you often prioritize the “less” resources but still produce more content. You influence the behavior of your marketing and content practitioners to create more, cheaper, and less creative and innovative content.

Think of it this way: You are a movie studio with a budget of $100 million. In growth times, you hear “do more with less,” so you focus on quality, creativity, and innovation. You spend $100 million on the talent and marketing of 10 movies.

In lean times, you hear “do more with less,” so you focus on getting the cheapest talent, film at the lowest price locations, and adopt the cheapest promotion strategies. You spend $100 million on the talent and marketing of 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 and your team enter what may be challenging times with the evolution of generative AI and its real application into your process, you may see executives, colleagues, or even yourself tempted to transition from measuring your ability to create more value by 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.”

If you don’t want to behave illogically and institutionalize bad content experiences, you would be wise to be aware and redouble efforts on more innovation and more creativity in the reality of fewer resources to do those things.

You may get to a point where you learn it’s not about doing more with less, but rather less is more.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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