AI was the talk of Davos. Here's what marketers need to know
(Left to Right): David Droga, CEO, Accenture Song; Jill Kramer, chief marketing & communications officer, Accenture; and Baiju Shah, chief strategy officer, Accenture Song, at Accenture's promenade in Davos.Accenture
Jill Kramer, chief marketing and communications officer at Accenture, shares how the World Economic Forum in 2024 was r...

AI was the talk of Davos. Here's what marketers need to know

Jill Kramer, chief marketing and communications officer at Accenture, shares how the World Economic Forum in 2024 was r...
  • Generative AI was the hot topic at the 2024 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
  • Marketers will be pivotal in preparing companies to use AI effectively and responsibly.

Marketers have a lot to learn from the World Economic Forum in Davos. This year, it was even more relevant than usual.

At its core, Davos is a highly concentrated, all-in program that puts us at the heart of the business. It's one of the only gatherings in the world that places business, government, and societal leaders side by side, all working toward complementary goals. Marketing and communications are in a perfect position to convene conversations, differentiate brands and bring value to its audiences.

In 2024, the dominant conversation across all types of attendees was the impact and future of generative AI: specifically how to responsibly, creatively, and effectively use it across the organization.

Speaking at the conference, Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman neatly summed up the prevailing attitude toward AI. "It came onto the scene a little over a year ago. We did some experimentation and started kind of to understand the potential. This year will be the year of activations for us, and for everyone."

Our own research, also affirmed by my interactions at Davos, backs this up. Accenture's Pulse of Change: 2024 Index found that leaders (including marketers) are ready to embrace the benefits of AI - 76% of C-suite executives see generative AI "more as an opportunity than a threat." That's encouraging - and it shows us that those who understand the future of their businesses also understand GenAI.

However, nearly half (47%) say they are not fully prepared for the accelerating rate of technological change. Further, only 27% claim their organizations are ready to scale up generative AI and 44% say it will take more than six months to do so and take advantage of the potential benefits.

So as business partners and as a craft, what does that mean for marketing?

1. We are and need to behave like a value center for the enterprise and prioritize investments accordingly.

There are two main categories of AI investments: table stake investments that offer radical productivity improvements, and strategic bets with novel approaches that lead to reshaping how industries operate.

Investing in areas that let your organization move beyond use cases and into applying generative AI to business capabilities will help you create the most value for your customers and the business.

2. We must take on the challenge of tech and data readiness for an AI-enabled organization.

Generative AI requires a fundamentally different enterprise architecture. Data is more fluid, with unstructured and synthetic data becoming more important. And, with new foundation models being released every week, companies need to use the right models to support each capability, including marketing. Marketers must prioritize their digital core as a key competency, even if it intimidates us.

3. We need to bring our people with us and let them teach us as we go.

AI is going to reinvent talent and ways of working. Hiring and training employees to be creative and curious thinkers who make connections across functions, solve problems by seeing the big picture, and develop new ideas. We will all learn as we go, so getting feedback, adjusting, and re-teaching is critical.

4. Accountability is key. We must know where AI is being used and constantly and consistently balance the values and the risks.

Take intentional actions to design, deploy, and use generative AI to drive value while protecting from risks, helping you close the gap on responsible AI.

5. Space. Grace. Pause.

Business is changing and evolving faster than ever, and it's not slowing down. While marketers are staying ahead of this pace, giving ourselves the space to reflect, reroute, and reinvent for the future should be at the top of our collective lists.

Generative AI will let marketers drive continuous reinvention and become even more critical to the business. This year, marketers will play a pivotal role in bridging this gap between readiness and preparedness. And after Davos, they're about to step up.