Shutterstock claims to be able to create the perfect pizza for marketing using AI. This article is about why they’re wrong, and why this is a flawed approach to both content marketing and digital advertising in general.
When I read the headline “How to Build the Best Pizza for your Next Ad Campaign, According to AI”, I instantly got curious. Being the co-founder of a company, where we use AI in marketing, it sounded interesting, but also confusing. How can AI help build a pizza add campaign, and will it really work?
The article is by the stock photo company Shutterstock, and the idea is to use AI to optimize content. An idea that sounds appealing to both advertisers and content marketers out there, because – after all – we’re all focusing on getting the best possible return on our content marketing efforts.
However, before you start using AI to optimize all of your content-marketing and ads, you should read this. Why? Because things that are possible, are not always the right thing to do.
However, if a local pizzeria based in my home country of Denmark used this, and the pizza you actually get delivered is this one:
then you’ve got a problem!
The point here is not the ingredients, but the fact that you marketing
needs to be authentic and 100% in line with the products or services that you
I’m sure that using AI to optimize ad content can drive more clicks and traffic to your brand. You might even be able to convince people to place an order, but what if your product doesn’t reflect the AI generated promises that you made to your audience? Then it will backfire, and it will backfire bigtime.
5 important questions to get started with authentic content marketing
What you should do in order to make sure that your content marketing is authentic is ask yourself 5 important questions:
- Understand your brand promise. What is it that your customers expect from you? What is their core philosophy?
- Develop a brand style guide early on. What is your mission? What are your dos and don’ts? What should your visual identity be like?
- Have a story with a human touch. How do you connect with your customers on a deeper level? What is the story behind your brand? Why do you exist?
- Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Nobody’s perfect, and your marketing shouldn’t be either. As shown in the example with the pizzas, show the actual product that people get, and show the people making this product. Don’t use AI-optimized content or try to pretend that you’re something or someone, you’re not.
- Focus on benefits, not features. How does your product or service make the customer’s life better? What are the true product benefits?
When you are able to answer these five questions, then the next natural step is to make sure that you’re focusing on the right kind of metrics for your content marketing.
From questions to using authentic content marketing metrics
AI in marketing can be great for optimizing things, like you saw in the example with the pizza ads. However, this is not merely a question about how a product is marketed, but a much deeper issue. Namely what metrics you use in order to measure the impact of your content marketing.
If you use metrics like clicks and in some cases even conversions, you risk working based on vanity metrics instead of focusing on, what should really be your key metrics – building long time customer relationships, trust and loyalty.
Focusing on clicks will make a campaign that resulted in a lot of clicks a success, even if they didn’t convert.
Focusing on conversions will make a campaign that resulted in a lot of conversions a success, even if they weren’t loyal og longtime customers.
Vanity metrics are goals, where you measure things too short-term and in order to try to prove that the content worked.
Authentic metrics, on the other hand, are goals that are in line with your authentic story and brand promise. These metrics are not about clicks or conversions, but about the lifetime value of a customer (LTV) and your ability to identify customers that fit perfectly with your product or service.
I suggest using the following metrics for your content marketing:
- What is the lifetime value of the customers that you acquire using content marketing? And how does that compare to the efforts that you put into acquiring them – your CAC (customer acquisition cost).
- What is your customer loyalty and satisfaction score? How likely are your customers to recommend you to others? This is your NPS.
How to pick the right stock photos for your content marketing
The reason why many stock photos are terrible for marketing and content production, is that they claim to represent a world that doesn’t really exist out there. And it’s exactly the same with AI generated and optimized content, because it only offers you a short-term impact as a content marketer. In the long run it will work against you.
When I founded my marketing and tech-company JumpStory, I did it, because I hate stock photos. I was, like you, a content marketer, and I needed a lot of images for my content, but I couldn’t always afford or have time to hire a professional photographer.
But when I started reading about the stock photo industry, I quickly realized that it was, in many ways, ‘stock in the past’. The industry is built upon professional photographers pretending to mirror the real world, but what you actually get is often cheesy-looking and staged realities.
What I was looking for was realistic and authentic images. Stuff that an amateur could create on the fly – being the fly on the wall. Observing what is already going on in the world, and then representing it in a beautiful and true manor.
To give you an example I did a search for the word ‘woman’ on some of the big stock photos websites out there. Here is what I got:
I did the same search on JumpStory and got this result:
My point is that we need to keep it real. When I read about companies like Shutterstock and other major MarTech players trying to take AI to the next level, I instantly get worried on behalf of fellow content marketers.
Keeping it real
As content marketers we shouldn’t start using AI generated content, including images, unless we’re 100% sure that it truthfully represents our product or services. It can be appealing to go for the short-term wins and vanity metrics, but in this way you will never build real relationships.
You might create clickable content, as Shutterstock names it, but you won’t become likeable.
That’s why my message to you is very simple: Create authentic and real content. Use images that are like the fly on the wall, and forget about the quick AI-wins. And oh yeah – enjoy your next pizza!
About the author
Jonathan Løw is the co-founder of JumpStory. He is one of Denmark’s most well-known entrepreneurs and business authors. He has been nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year and is amongst Denmark’s 100 most promising leaders according to a major Danish business newspaper. In addition to being a serial entrepreneur, Jonathan Løw is the former Head of Marketing at the KaosPilots – named Top 10 most innovative business schools in the world by FastCompany. He is also former Startup-Advisor and Investor at Accelerace – the leading investment fund for startups in Denmark.