What Does "Deep Learning" Software Mean For The Future Of Marketing?

We have begun teaching machines how to understand us, and they are getting scarily good at it. Artificial intelligence is evolving and with it, our abilities as marketers to develop smarter campaigns.

Last year Google acquired the artificial intelligence company DeepMind Technologies, which shook the world of business. The titan of tech showing a growing interest in deep learning meant something, but no one was sure of what.

Google was the first to spearhead serious work in this direction, but now a lot of tech firms are getting involved in machine learning and deep learning to see how far it can actually be taken. There's simply too much potential not to invest in this endeavor.

What Exactly Is Deep Learning?

Deep learning is becoming a huge topic in Artificial Intelligence (AI). It’s a facet of machine learning that involves the use of neural networks to improve things like speech recognition, vision and language processing in computers—or robots.

In the past decade, it has gone from a fairly erudite academic endeavor to one of the most important fields in the tech world. The field has helped make huge advances in areas that make computers able to take on formerly human tasks—such as perceiving objects, translating, recognizing voices and more. It’s different from machine learning in that it doesn’t require human operators to command the machine or translate its output. Deep learning is mostly unsupervised and aims to avoid the need for human intervention.

There are many promising success stories out there, such as Baxter, a modern two-armed industrial robot. Baxter was designed at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to show how robots can learn basic physical activities much like how babies learn—with repeated trial and error.

This kind of “learning by watching” is a type of deep learning that has serious implications for the idea of what robots could be capable of in the future. And if machines can learn by watching humans, consider the tasks that professionals, especially marketers, could begin to automate. You could better gauge human reactions to your marketing campaigns and products. Such capabilities could make you much more efficient.

How Will Deep Learning Change the Way You Reach and Interact with Customers?

Deep learning is much better than other AI techniques at getting computers to pick up a variety of skills, like understanding photos. Deep learning software can even understand sentences and respond with appropriate answers, make questions more clear or offer suggestions of its own. So what are the real-life applications of this when it comes to the future of marketing?

Computer scientist and director of AI Research at Facebook, Yann LeCun, said to MIT's Technology Review that “Systems like this should be able to understand not just what people would be entertained by but what they need to see regardless of whether they will enjoy it.” The algorithms that could be developed to produce such reactions and interactions would also improve filters on the posts and ads you see.

The article reports that “Virtual assistants and other spinouts from LeCun’s work could also help Facebook’s more ambitious departures from its original business, such as the Oculus group working to make virtual reality into a mass-market technology.”

Another research group in Singapore led by Haizhou Li at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research was able to stimulate two types of cells used for navigation in the brain—the GPS cells. They were able to get a small robot to wheel its way around.

They controlled the robot by software, but the machine was able to learn to mimic complex activity in the brain. Being able to predict the functioning of the brain’s navigation system could give more insight into the decisions humans make—and give marketers a chance to get ahead of them.

Future of SEO

The move toward deep learning is going to have huge implications for the future of SEO, which is something marketers need to be caring more and more about these days. Machines are inevitably going to overtake engineers in the field of predicting ranking optimization. SEO as a craft doesn’t stand to die, but the way it is being used right now is going to become more and more archaic. For a lot of online marketers, search is going to turn into a whole new world and your skill set will require some future-proofing.

The world of deep learning is far from reaching its furthest capacities, and there are still many mysteries surrounding it. But research groups and huge technology companies like Facebook and Google are already way ahead of the game in figuring out what it is going to mean for the future. It sounds like Google wants to make deep learning a much bigger part of search, which means that it's something search marketers are going to have to take seriously.

What Lies Ahead?

As you get ready to embrace deep learning from a marketing perspective, keep in mind the words of MIT Technology Review’s editor-in-chief, Jason Pontin, who states that humans understand the tremendous potential in "embracing machines that are smart and powerful enough to become part of who we are." However, Pontin goes on to state that you must be aware of what's wanted from these smart machines, as "they are not solely loyal to our interests."

South Park's recent "Truth and Advertising" episode paints a grim, yet hilarious future.


As marketers, we must be willing and ready to work with these machines and utilize "deep learning" technology to develop smarter campaigns, but we must also take steps to ensure they continue to work for us, and our intentions.

Jonathan Ronzio

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