In the rapidly evolving world of digital marketing, the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and human creativity is reshaping the landscape. Are you prepared to harness the power of AI while preserving the invaluable human touch? Dive into this enlightening episode to discover how industry leaders are navigating this dynamic shift.

 

In this episode, we are joined by David Stark, the Chief Marketing Officer at Openstream. With over 25 years of experience in growth marketing and digital practices, David has worked with top-tier companies like IBM, Stratasys, and 3D Systems. At Openstream, a pioneer in multimodal conversational AI, David shares his insights on the role of digital marketers in the age of AI. Learn how AI is transforming marketing strategies and what it means for the future of human creativity in this field.

 

We’ll cover:

  • David’s journey from aspiring ad agency professional to CMO of Openstream.
  • The evolving relationship between AI and human creativity in digital marketing.
  • Practical use cases for AI in digital marketing, from content creation to demand generation.
  • Strategies for maintaining the human touch in AI-driven marketing campaigns.
  • Future skills and knowledge digital marketers need to thrive alongside AI technologies.
  • And more

 

Mentioned in this episode:

Transcript

 

Voiceover: This is Performance Delivered, Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success with Steffen Horst and Dave Antil.

 

Steffen Horst: Welcome to the Performance Delivered Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success podcast, where we talk with marketing and agency executives and learn how they build successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host, Steffen Horst. 

 

In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about the role of a digital marketer in the age of AI. Here to speak with me is David Stark, the CMO at Openstream. Openstream.ai enables enterprises to engage in meaningful and fluid conversation with their audiences across modalities, channels, and languages with its visionary, multimodal plan-based conversational AI. 

 

David is a growth marketer and B2B digital practitioner with over 25 years of leadership experience. He has been building pipelines and optimizing marketing ecosystems for evolving brands and Fortune 50 companies such as IBM, Stratasys, and 3D Systems. A hands-on leader and mentor, David thinks strategically about applying marketing capabilities to achieve goals, shape a brand’s reputation, and empower cross-functional teams. David, welcome to the show.

 

David Stark: Thank you very much, Steffen. I appreciate it. When I hear that introduction, I wonder who you’re talking about.

 

Steffen: Do I have the right David here? 

 

David: Yes, yes.

 

Steffen: Well, listen, David, before we start talking about the role of digital marketers in the age of AI, tell our listeners a bit more about yourself. How did you get started in your career? And what led you to becoming the CMO of Openstream?

 

David: Yeah, great question. And I don’t know if it’s typical, or atypical. But I started many moons ago, thinking about what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I ended up taking one of those combo degrees from my university. They were very generous to me. When I entered the market, it was a recession. So it took forever to get a gig. 

 

I imagined myself joining an advertising agency. Actually had a job offer from an ad agency, but they wanted to pay me two wooden nickels, and I couldn’t afford to actually go there and live in New York City. So I kind of set some longer-term goals for myself. Five years from now, 10 years from now, where did I want to be from a title perspective, from an industry perspective, etc. 

 

And just kind of started to meander in a general direction to get me moving forward. Every step along the way would give me experiences. So I started off working for a series of trade publications. One of them was called Supermarket News. It was as exciting as you can imagine today. 

 

Although I will say that on my first business trip for that company, I got to shake the hands of Muhammad Ali, which was a pretty cool first experience. From there, I entered the wonderful world of conference center sales. And then I went on into technology, working for a client-server company, if anybody remembers that kind of stuff. Two-tier, three-tier architecture. 

 

And then I had the good fortune of working, for IBM. Getting to start my career in IBM. Spent almost 20 years there in various roles of growing responsibility and scope, but always at the bleeding edge of how things got done from a marketer’s perspective, from a digital marketing perspective. 

 

And throughout my career, I tried to make sure that I established relationships with people, curated networks, and so forth. Perhaps not intentionally and overtly so, but I felt that if we connected at some level, it was worth touching base with you every so often. And I always tried to treat people the way they treated me, because that’s how you garner respect, and people remember you for how you treated them. 

 

From IBM, I left that career to join the 3D printing industry. Spent some time there as head of digital for two of the largest and oldest companies in that arena. I spent all of five minutes in healthcare and kind of went into digital consulting for a little while, although I was on the back end driving operations. And ended up at Openstream. 

 

And why I tell you this story this way is 20 years ago or so I met the CEO of Openstream. He was a business partner of mine while I was at IBM and we’d always thought of each other fondly. And when it came time to make my next move, most recently, I reached out to Raj and he was kind enough to make me this offer. And what an exciting time to join a company, a small growing company as a CMO in the AI space.

 

Steffen: As I mentioned to you a few minutes ago before we jumped on, I think this is the second or third AI conversation I’ve had over the last five episodes. So clearly it’s a topic that is in everyone’s mind. Everyone’s I don’t want to say wondering, but everyone is talking about it. People are probably thinking about how can I implement it in my organization, not only from a marketing perspective. 

 

There are application use cases in other areas too. But obviously, today we want to talk about it more from a marketing perspective. You know, how do you see the relationship between AI and human creativity evolving in the digital marketing space? Can AI augment human creativity, or is there a risk of it stifling it?

 

David: I think it’s an interesting question. And, one, I’ll make a reference to a current scenario with the Apple ad that came up recently with their iPad Pro launch, and I’ll call it the kerfuffle that was generated with the perception therein. And it touched a nerve on some people because people don’t want to be consumed or subsumed. Is that a word? I made it up, please use it, by AI. 

 

Because it’s the human creativity that matters the most to all of us, particularly in marketing. One of the reasons why I got into marketing is because I felt this undying need to just make stuff up. And you know, that creative DNA permeates everything that most marketers try to do. Whether the operational aspect of it or writing emails and everything in between. 

 

So where does AI fit? I look at AI as a pencil. AI should be a pencil that you use. Now, it’s a super sophisticated, double secret, awesome pencil, don’t get me wrong. But at the end of the day, it’s the AI that serves the human, not the other way around. Right now, we have this perfect storm of amplification of the messaging that underscores the value propositions for AI because marketers, go figure, have been under-resourced, both from a human and financial perspective for such a long time, in perpetuity. 

 

And pressures on the marketing organizations, by and large, have not gotten any less, no matter what size or type of company you belong to. When you get a tool that actually helps you with your productivity, that helps you to make more stuff up, marketers tend to talk about that. Because go figure, that’s what we do for a living. 

 

So we’ve all amplified the heck out of the potential and possibilities of what, at least generative AI can do for marketing. But marketers need to very carefully consider how and when and why they use this evil power. And I mean evil power in kind of a tongue-in-cheek sort of manner. AI is only as good as the creative ideas that you put into it. 

 

But I think there are ultimately some terrific efficiencies, economies of scale, ways to scale things internally and externally in terms of the productivity gains that you get just day to day, tapping into that evergreen intern that you always wanted that you never had. 

 

The staffing, and even how your project your organization, project your brand. Overall AI can help across the board, but it’s the human that’s got to be in the driver’s seat to make that all tangible and real. And based on some version of reality. So hopefully that helps.

 

Steffen: From a digital marketing perspective, where do you see great use cases for AI?

 

David: I think there are a number of great use cases for AI. They kind of straddle a number of different areas. I mean, functionally, you can service areas, and I took some notes so I’m gonna look over here. Branding and communications, there’s great opportunity there. Product marketing, content marketing, core demand gen sorts of activities. 

 

Of course, digital and web, etc. Use cases, for example, in digital and web could be ad-based search strategy and optimization. Organic search is one of those things near and dear to most digital marketer’s hearts at some point in their career. How do you do that better, stronger, and faster? If you think about demand gen prospecting. 

 

How do you use AI to sift through the piles of data you have to identify the most likely prospect. Saying those things and doing those things are of course vastly different. Not every company has the resources to either invest in an enterprise-grade platform to go do these things for them. 

 

Nor do they have the programmatic skills to actually develop some of these things on their own. So you see this huge proliferation right now in the market of tools that are picking up the classic, I’ll call free game trial mode. So you can try this thing for 30 days, or use the free version that’s very limited in the capacity that it can handle. 

 

And hopefully, that gets you by, even if you’re using free tools from open AI like ChatGPT. You can do a lot for free. But when you get down to some of the more nitty-gritty of using your actual company data or using customer insights and so forth, that’s where your hand is going to be forced to use a system that’s closed, probably be a good way of describing it. 

 

So all the data is protected, so your organization’s risk is reduced, etc. But again, it’s a person, like the tool is willing to do what you tell it to do. But the marketers, most marketers are going to be scrappy enough to go try it or try it until their hand gets slapped by their organization. And things are happening in the market every day with examples there.

 

Steffen: As a marketer, so if you have a team, how do you ensure that what you said, AI is the pencil and you the human is the one that kind of moves the pencil and knows how to use it, that’s not the other way around, that the human becomes the pencil. And people in your organization are not using it just to create things and then pushing it out? How do you establish ways to work with AI?

 

David: Yeah, well, first of all, from a team perspective, I think all marketers, all job functions, for that matter, owe it to themselves to experiment You should be encouraged to try, you should be given enough latitude to make mistakes. I’m a fan of this concept of failing forward. 

 

So try, dust yourself off, keep moving forward, and learn from your mistakes. Iterate, if you will, is another way of considering that. Comes from my scrum thinking. That being said, there needs to be some guardrails or realizations at some point in time that you need to be more rigid in how you’re pursuing that particular goal or objective and what tool or tools you choose to use to get it done. 

 

In a large organization, there’s typically a conversation at some point about standardization, What are the core platform or platforms that we trust as an organization that had been vetted, say, by our technology teams and our legal teams to say, you can use this, or you can use this with these parameters. You can only use this on a Tuesday. 

 

You can only use this kind of information, et cetera, et cetera. But, I would want to be sure that I had the freedom to try, right? Because often, by the time things get standardized, sometimes the standardization, some might have experienced some stifling of creativity or flexibility. 

 

Marketing over the years, like I look at AI, as well as direct extension, or the next step in digital transformation for businesses overall. So it’s a natural progression to the things that particularly in digital marketing that we’ve all been experimenting with, and trying over the years, to build more robust and dynamic digital ecosystems. 

 

But again, this is a pencil in your toolkit that you can use to accelerate that digital transformation because, at the end of the day, we’re all here to make money. Not personally, I’m not talking about personally, although that’s a nice side benefit. Let’s take it for what it’s worth. But you were there to help your company to achieve its goals and objectives.

 

Steffen: What are some of the challenges or potential downsides of relying too heavily on AI in digital marketing?

 

David: You have to be able to think for yourself. It’s almost like, a parallel might be to playing chess. You can watch a computer play a wonderful game of chess with itself. But at the end of the day, what have you learned? Well, I’ve learned that the chess computer plays a great deal of chess. 

 

But did you learn how to do the thinking? Did you think about what the next five moves are? Did you think about the ramifications of your next steps? Were you able to anticipate your, I don’t want to say enemy, but it’s the first word that comes to my mind when I think about chess. But were you able to anticipate your enemy’s next moves? 

 

Marketing is a lot about that. There should be a lot of strategy and everything that’s done, different roles have different scales of strategy that are applied, but AI isn’t an excuse to sit back and watch it happen. You need to be able to sit in the driver’s seat, determine what the objectives are. 

 

What are we actually trying to achieve with this experiment, or with this production-grade thing? Or, and that can cover the breadth of opportunities for marketers using AI tools from generating content. Let’s say generating images. Early on in ChatGPTs existence with things like dolly and so forth. You got the system’s creating, five or six-fingered human beings, right? 

 

And clearly, this was a challenge. Fascinating, but not what people wanted to achieve. And if you weren’t watching it, if you’re just having this system generate an image of two people talking over a podcast and put it out on the website and didn’t think about too much, didn’t scrutinize its quality, didn’t care about how it was representing your brand, or the people that work there or anything else where the subject matter is being discussed, you will have done yourself a disservice. 

 

So was the AI’s fault, or was it your fault? It was probably you for not watching it. Same thing with blog content and written words. Or even if you’re a user of LinkedIn, you see all these little AI asterisk things showing up all over the place. Summarize your profile here. Write an article with AI there. Really? 

 

So if you just blindly push the button to meet a volume metric, I’m active, I’m active five days a week, because I click click, click, click, click, where really the caliber that you deserve, that you as your own personal brand aspire to deliver, I would argue to say, if you didn’t check it, if you didn’t read it, if you didn’t think about what your objectives were, if you weren’t marching for the impressions, and clicks and all those kinds of things, and you’ve, unfortunately, you got run over by the AI train and forgot to drive it.

 

Steffen: Good point. You know, as I become some more views to digital marketing, what skills or knowledge do you think will be most valuable for digital marketers to possess? Right?

 

David: So additional skills and knowledge for marketers, in addition to strategy and objectives is kind of common sense, right? And when I say common sense, I mean, think about what this thing is for and missioned to achieve. There are human beings on the other side of the glass, typically consuming this stuff. It doesn’t mean that it makes sense to those human beings. There are’s fundamentals of marketing indeed need to be adhered to. Understand the persona that you’re trying to engage. Think about where they might be in the stages of their customer journey. Learning about your market or the problems that they’re trying to solve for. 

 

And by the time they finally fall into your evil trap of your website, keep seeing evil, but I don’t mean to be. People are not necessarily compatriots. But by the time they get to your website, they’ve already decided they want to explore your thing pretty well. 

 

So how can you use your knowledge of that individual’s problems and pain points and what brought them there to surface the most meaningful content for them at that point and time in their journey. That doesn’t come from AI. 

 

AI could illuminate potentially the journey for you. Give you the data points to understand along the way, even help you to generate the personas that you used to measure against and to differentiate between the different personas that you’re engaging with. 

 

But it doesn’t necessarily make heads or tails of what to do with that information. That’s up to you. That’s up to you as a person. And I think sometimes these kinds of capabilities, these tools, make it very easy to be efficient, and to feel like you’ve accomplished something, and no doubt they do. 

 

But I think that needs to be tempered with a core understanding of your brand, what it represents to the market, your product, or products. And in turn, what are the most meaningful things that you can engage those people with? And I’m not talking about the tactic, I’m talking about the message. The essence of what it is that you’re trying to help them to solve for.

 

Steffen: Okay. Now, what are some ways digital marketers can leverage AI tools and technologies to enhance their marketing strategies and campaigns? The reason I’m asking is this. The way I look at AI at the moment, I see a lot of use cases in a very time-consuming activity field. So you need some research for a new blog post. 

 

So it can create some great content briefs, for example, with sources, etc. That takes usually a lot of time to do, but it can get that done quickly. It could technically write the first draft of an article. Not posting that, but writes the first draft, and then you go in and basically let the magic happen. So where do you see the use case of that?

 

David: There are probably four or five broad use cases I think would be applicable. There was an interesting factoid that somebody shared with me, actually, earlier today, that said using AI in sales and marketing could add 1.4 to $2.6 trillion in added business value, and that’s from McKinsey. And I can dig up the report someplace. 

 

So if you think about that, these use cases clearly have an impact. Sales and marketing is a big bucket. I don’t usually like to combine them. The streamd shouldn’t cross but we’re related bedfellows. But I suspect 25% of that or so is at least for marketing. But the use cases are specifically around content creation. 

 

So as you were talking about, blog posts, summaries, social posts, things like that, collaboration, and idea ideation. So things like positioning, go-to-market strategies, and even at least sketching some things out. Best practices, digital strategy, automation. Think about campaigns, surveys, testing, research, all those kinds of things are all good opportunities for AI. 

 

And relates to data analysis and research. So summarize these 27 reports for me today. Give me some win-loss analysis of the pipeline. Why did these things happen? Personalization as well, or personalization at scale. 

 

So if you think about what ABM is, and what it can become, you have a great opportunity to use all these different disparate data points more so systematically, and at scale, with AI under the covers here. All these use cases, though, require unique capabilities, or a unique platform, unique interfaces. 

 

And again, depending on what size company you belong to, or how big your marketing budget is, you may or may not be able to do some of these or any of these, right? But there’s probably a small, medium, large of each of these things to at least get your feet wet. 

 

After trying and if you’re fortunate enough to work at a company that has a global platform, let’s say like Salesforce, you could argue that oh, we have access to an embarrassment of riches when it comes to Salesforce. Look at all these gizmos and doodads that they’re offering. It’s up to you to decide if that’s, in fact, the best platform for you. But you have choices.

 

Steffen: Now, it feels like every day there’s a new AI system for the same kind of area being launched. How can you stay up to date about the latest developments in an area, but also, how can you stay on top of all the systems that have been launched for the areas that you might or the listeners might be interested in?

 

David: Yeah. I want to address your former comment first. So gee, every day there are 27 more systems that are doing similar things are overlapping things. That’s the AI gold rush that’s taking place right now. Certainly, the floodgates opened once ChatGPT 3.5 hit the market last January. Many, many companies decided I can create a blog summarization engine, let me sell that for $9.99 a month or whatever it’s going to be. 

 

I think that gold rush is probably going to continue for at least for the next 12 months or so, I would guess. You will continue to see a lot of consolidation, a lot of platforms that you might have really enjoyed might go away. 

 

A lot of the bigger players like HubSpot, Salesforce, other guys, you know, Microsoft, Amazon, pick your favorite flavor of ice cream there are going to just add features, add capabilities that today might be very unique, and you need to pay, you know, 20 bucks a month for but tomorrow are just going to be included. 

 

So the AI for spreadsheets, for example. Today you might need to buy something different. Tomorrow, it’s just another switch in Google Sheets or in Microsoft Excel. So that’s inevitable. And if companies can’t build that quickly enough, if somebody has a large enough market share, they will buy it. 

 

They will buy that company, consume it, and again, it’ll go its merry way. How do marketers keep abreast of it? There are any number of different newsletters that exist, I think that are good. One of them that is out there that I like is called Ben’s Bytes. Kind of a cool little AI newsletter. 

 

Any one of the major news outlets to just kind of keep abreast of is always a good thing to look at. There’s Ted AI. You just watch those kinds of conferences. You can actually ask if you have a paid version of one of these generative AI engines, Gemini, Claude, or ChatGPT, you could ask it. What are some of the best news resources that I can explore to tell me about the latest and greatest things for AI and for your area of AI? 

 

So if you’re in medical, if you’re in insurance, if you’re in banking, if you’re in consumer packaged goods, there’s probably a cluster of AI thinking that can be assembled very quickly by one of your favorite AI engines. Tell you where to go. But the best way to learn and to keep abreast is not just reading because who has the time for all that. 

 

Or podcasts. Podcasts have had a whole great renaissance. I’m a fan of them. Here I am. But I think, again, that experimentation, if you’re fortunate enough to have a budget for experimentation, experiment. Plan on trying a new tool quarter. See what see what happens with it. If you don’t have a budget, then try a free tool, see what’s going on. Look for use cases around that tool. 

 

Convince your boss that this was the right way to go. This is the right thing to do. But experiment. Hands-on is going to be the best way for most people to learn. If you’re in a more conservative space or conservative yourself in your approaches, then look for what your competitors might be doing. Ask about them. 

 

See what they’re investing in and say, well, if it’s good enough for them, why isn’t it good enough for us? But also think outside the box. Right? A lot of what we talked about today are the results of generative AI capabilities at their core, and LLMs underneath them. 

 

I come from a world today that sells this stuff called conversational AI, which is really how you foster and collaborate meaningful relationships with individuals using AI, virtual agents, AI voice agents, and AI avatars. And that’s a whole nother field of AI that as a marketer, you should be aware of. 

 

Think about your basic chatbots but on super double-secret steroids. Other resources that also take advantage of are analysts. Gartners of the world, the Foresters of the world, IDCs, and everybody else, those are all always good, interesting resources. 

 

If you’re fortunate enough to be a subscriber to one of the services and you can get your hands on it. If there are interesting reports that you want, and you’re not a subscriber, look around, there’s a good chance that some other company is making a report available that you might find interesting to go ahead and consume. So different sources.

 

Steffen: Well, that was a great last point. David, thank you so much for joining me on the Performance Delivered podcast and sharing your knowledge on the role of digital marketers in the age of AI. Now if people want to find out more about you, about Openstream, how can they get in touch?

 

David: They can go to openstream.ai. and check out our website and learn more about us. We’re also on LinkedIn and Facebook and X, formerly known as Twitter. So feel free to take out or you can reach me on LinkedIn. I’d be happy to talk with anybody and try to understand their needs and either talk more about marketing stuff in general, or I’d be happy to teach you and tell you a little bit more about what Openstream might be able to do for your business.

 

Steffen: Perfect. Well as always we’ll leave that information in the show notes. Thanks everyone for listening. If you like the Performance Delivered podcast, please subscribe and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. If you want to find out more about Symphonic Digital, you can visit us at symphonicdigital.com or follow us on X at Symphonic HQ. Thanks again and see you next time.

 

Voiceover: Performance Delivered is sponsored by Symphonic Digital. Discover audience-focused and data-driven digital marketing solutions for small and medium businesses at symphonicdigital.com.