Learn about Cathy McPhillips, Chief Growth Officer of Marketing AI Institute, a media media company focused on making artificial intelligence understandable, approachable, actionable, and attainable for marketers.    Her work helps marketers use AI to freeup employees to focus on the uniquely human aspects of their work. One of our 50 Women in AI.

Hybrid AI portrait of Cathy, her photo as a base + AI art generated style influence from the artist she selected, Henri Matisse.

A mix of right and left brained, as a student, art and math attracted Cathy. To others, these two skills seemed at odds. When I grew up, it was right brain, left brain, you’re either a math brain or you’re a creative and never the two shall meet.  

But as she started and progressed in her career, Cathy sought opportunities that allowed her to apply both her analytic and creative sides.  She now puts her left and right brain to work with AI marketing. She combines the ability to work with the data analytics, blending this with the creative approach often called for in marketing.

Cathy helps marketers to open up the black box on AI.  Replacing the  mysterious, sci fi reputation that artificial intelligence sometimes masks itself in, she focuses on  AI’s practical applications to help marketing teams achieve success.

The career path to AI in Marketing

When Cathy was in high school and trying to figure out what to study in college, a teacher asked what her strengths were. Cathy’s reply: art and math. For whatever reason, the teacher didn’t feel this combo of skills was possible and urged her to take a career aptitude test. The results proposed advertising. And post college, Cathy started her career in advertising agencies, where she eventually found her niche in media planning.

After working for others, she started her own business, fast-tracked because of family needs. After 12 years of consulting and contract work, Cathy spent nine years at the Content Marketing Institute heading up marketing for their media company and event. 

About two years ago, she was chatting with her friend Paul Roetzer, founder and CEO of the Marketing AI Institute. Drawn to Paul’s passion and ethical approach to the AI topic and feeling that all of marketing was heading in an AI supported direction, Cathy joined the team. As Chief Growth Officer, she leads the areas of marketing, growth, and customer experience.

Current status of AI marketing- the gap between knowledge and action

We talked about the current awareness and interest in AI for marketing teams. How many  marketers were making use of AI powered tools?

We’ve done some research, and about 50% of the marketers we surveyed in the past twelve months, have said that AI is critically or very important to the success of their marketing over the next 12 months. However, only 11% of those folks say that they are equipped to even do anything with it. 

They don’t have any education in their companies. There’s really no push for senior leaders to get their teams to start integrating AI, oftentimes because of other priorities or more pressing issues. So there is this gap of wanting to and knowing how to get started. So that’s one of the big things we’re doing right now. We have a virtual AI class that we hold every few weeks that 5,000+ marketers and business leaders have taken to help folks take that first step. 

There’s such an opportunity for marketers to have an impact on AI and on the growth, and it’s going to be happening whether marketers want it to or not. This kind of this is the wave of technology in the future, and marketing AI will soon just be “marketing.” So we just need to start learning more and educating ourselves on it. 

AI’s $6 billion marketing impact  

Despite the fact that most marketers are not yet putting AI to work for them, the field’s near future is slated to experience large impacts from AI.  Cathy shared research from McKinsey, highlighting the top to bottom transformation that AI technologies have already started making on marketing.

McKinsey says that AI will have a $6 billion – with a B! – impact on marketing and sales. From customer acquisition to promotion to churn reduction and so on. 80% of what marketers do every day will be intelligently automated to some degree in the next 3 – 5 years.

The starting point for AI in marketing

With many organizations still not tapping into the benefits of AI powered marketing, the challenge remains on how to start.   Marketers may even wonder if they should delve into AI at all. Among so many options many are not quite sure which areas are best suited for AI support. Putting AI usefulness in context, Cathy starts with three key questions:

The easiest way that we tell marketers to look at this is to put it in perspective and help them understand it better. Is what you’re doing data driven? Is it repetitive and is it making a prediction? And if it’s one, two or three of those things, it’s a real use case for artificial intelligence. 

Helping marketers gain traction with AI inside their organization: Problem based or use case AI models

To show how marketing teams can apply this technology, Cathy proposes they look at either a problem or use Marketing AI’s case AI model.

With a problem based model:

You have a known pain point/challenge and AI may be able to help you solve it more efficiently and at scale – For example you determine the problem (organic traffic is stagnant) and the value of increasing traffic/conversion rates, then find a tool to help do that. 

While a Use case model looks for:

Quick wins, narrowly defined – i.e. I need to transcribe this video, I need to draft social media copy.

In addition, Cathy notes that: Language and vision are two of the most tangible ways we see marketers using AI today.

She cited examples where AI tools provide support, such generating multiple ad layouts, drafting promotional copy, and analyzing sales calls. All of which can save marketing teams time in less engaging areas and free them up for higher value work.  

Quantifiable results: time saved and reapplied to higher value areas

Sharing first hand experience with an AI use case model, Cathy was tasked with editing a video. But Cathy is not a video editor. That is not in my wheelhouse of things I know how to do, but I will learn. 

CEO Paul Roetzer suggested she try out a tool hey’d been using for a while, Descript.  Cathy went to work on Descript, using it to help her nascent editing skills easily manage text, images, music and transitions.  

So I estimated that saved me 4 hours of my life just going in and making those changes for me. So I said to myself, I will not waste those 4 hours because I want to see the value of how AI really is helping me do things, leaving time for things that are uniquely human. So I scheduled 4 hours of phone calls with customers, something a computer is never going to be able to replicate. They can’t have that human connection with another person. So I talked to customers, ask them what their pain points were, asked them about products they had bought from us, how they would improve, are they using it, do they have any questions? And it was just so valuable. And it just made me realize that’s what we should be spending our time doing. 

Risks, Trust and bias in AI

Clearly there are many benefits to putting AI to work for a marketing team. But doubts and risk remain. From horror stories about sentient AI, to biased algorithms that magnify human prejudices, many question if we should trust AI. And always the attention we must pay to ensuring that quality data is used.

From a marketer’s perspective, (we must be careful of) trusting technology too much. We still need a human in the loop on all the things that we’re doing.  We can’t take output at face value and not check things, we can’t be lazy with what data is being used. Garbage in, garbage out.  

On the other end of the spectrum, many companies are proposing AI products to solve numerous challenges.  Cathy comments on companies attaching the AI label to their offering without having any real technology to back up this promise and the importance of educating consumers. 

I think one of the things we see is just because technology company has AI or IO after their website does not mean that they have artificial intelligence. It’s becoming a buzzword of sorts that people are claiming to use AI and they aren’t. We want to help educate marketers and business leaders—and even tech companies themselves—on what AI is, how to look for it, what questions to ask, and how to implement it.

Women in AI  

I asked Cathy what she thought about women working in AI, and what could we do to balance out the gender gap in this field:

Marketing AI could be a natural entry point, since depending on the source, between 55% and 75% of marketers are women. So women have to be getting involved in this more because that’s what we’re doing. We are leading this industry. So if you’re in marketing roles, start asking questions of your technology partners. If you’re in college or any type of post secondary education or training, get an understanding of technology and how it can impact your work. You don’t need. To be a data scientist to understand AI into work in marketing and AI, like I said, there are so many options out there with, two week trials or a free version of their tool. There are resources out there, we just need to look for them.

AI allows us to focus on the human aspects of work  

Cathy’s experience demonstrates how marketing teams can benefit from using artificial intelligence to solve a number of the challenges they currently confront. She helps marketers to increase their knowledge and put AI’s to work for them. With numerous tools to choose from, AI technology helps teams Increase efficiency and provides quantifiable benefits. But beyond the numbers and left brain activity, AI brings also provides less tangible, perhaps more right brain benefits. AI helps organizations meet the high demands they place on all of their people. The technology helps reduce burnout and stress, freeing people up for more engaging and human work. Something now in great need, as organizations are finding it hard to attract and retain talented employees.

AI can alleviate some of the repetitive, data driven tasks, and let us focus on things that a computer won’t ever be able to replace. It allows us to focus on things that are uniquely human.  


You can contact Cathy at: Email: cathy@marketingaiinstitute.com

Company website: www.marketingaiinstitute.com

Read more about the 50 Women in AI Project.