AI, Marketing and the Power of Story


A recent report from the Government Accountability Office on AI included a nugget that illustrates both the potential power of the technology and the importance of telling a good story.

The report, “Artificial Intelligence: Emerging Opportunities, Challenges, and Implications” (March 2018), synthesizes the insights shared by subject matter experts during a GAO forum.

Much of the report is abstract and technical, as might be expected. But it also includes some examples of real-life applications of AI. One example in particular stands out. A researcher explained how AI has helped social workers make more effective use of social networks (not social media networks) to “spread information on preventing the transmission of HIV among homeless youth.”

The report explains:

“…Researchers collaborated with social workers to better understand the real-life networks that have developed among the more than 6,000 homeless youth in Los Angeles. They then used an algorithm to recruit youths to serve as ‘peer leaders’ and receive training on preventing HIV. What they found was that the youths selected by the algorithm were far more likely than the youths who were considered most popular to spread the information they received.”

The researchers plan to take the same approach to combat substance abuse and help prevent suicides,” the report notes. 

Companies bringing their AI-related wares to market should keep this example in mind. For the federal AI market to grow outside of technical niches, potential customers need help in imagining the possibilities—a story can jumpstart that process. But not any story. It needs to be a story that is easy to understand, as in the example above. The goal is not to impress people with the possibilities of AI—it is to invite them to think of analogous situations, analogous problems, in their own orbit where AI might be applied as well.

Eventually, this will all be second nature. But we’re not there yet.



John Monroe

ConnellyWorks, Inc.
1700 Diagonal Road
Suite 450
Alexandria, VA 22314

Virginia SWaM Certification #714857

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