Treat AI tools as an asset, not a replacement

Is AI a good fit for credit union marketing?

AI (and AI marketing) is the brand-spanking-new tool that everyone seems to be excited about. If the internet is to be believed, it’s either a miraculous new tool that will save corporations BIG $$$, the end of artistic integrity and creativity as we know it, or both. But that’s kind of par for the course when it comes to internet discourse these days. You probably shouldn’t eat up what strangers are telling you online. Their words are full of salt and bad for your blood pressure.

What I can say is that AI tools are opening up a lot of interesting possibilities. The ability these programs have to learn and imitate is pretty impressive. It’s not hard to imagine how using AI could save you a lot of time, at the very least.

Like any new technology, the benefits need to be weighed against the costs. Adopting unproven new technologies could turn out poorly. But you don’t want to be the last one to start a good thing, either. So here are some things I think credit unions need to consider when it comes to using AI for marketing.

Using AI proficiently is a (human) skillset

My die-hard fans (or just fan?) will remember that I wrote an article about using AI a little while back. It was pretty cheeky and I’m sure it didn’t win me any points with Skynet. I ended up concluding that AI still needs a human element, to keep things creative and, well, human.  And I was more right than even I knew at the time.

You see, the article ChatGPT wrote for me was robotic and soulless because of the prompt I provided. As it turns out, if I had been a bit more experienced in the ways of writing prompts for AI, the results would have been more sophisticated as well.

What we’re looking at here is a new workplace skillset. People need to know how to construct prompts for the AI tools they’re using. Therefore, we’ll continue to need humans for that part of the process, at least until we can get the AI to read our minds.

Using AI can have unintended consequences

Lots of marketers have been particularly interested in AI programs that can personalize advertising for the individual. It does this based upon data like behavior, indicated preferences and demographics. All together it makes a very compelling package for any marketing department lacking staff or budget.

However, collecting all that data about your target audience does come with some pretty big security concerns. We’re moving closer and closer to an internet where users can limit data collection by revoking their consent. You definitely don’t want to create a legal issue by using an AI tool that gathers data haphazardly.

Furthermore, we’ve seen some stories about AI tools operating with unacceptable bias. These programs can only learn from the datasets they were trained on, so if the dataset contains some unanticipated bias, the program will make biased decisions.

These concerns are doubly important for credit unions interested in AI. Running a CU comes with a lot of privacy and security issues, so you’re taking a greater risk when you let any AI interact with your members’ data. This doesn’t mean you have to nix AI entirely, but I’d advise a hefty amount of caution.

Experiment and don’t keep secrets

Let’s be clear, I’m not saying CUs should avoid AI marketing tools completely. Even with the potential pitfalls, AI could very much be worth using, especially as it continues to change and develop. If you’re interested, you should experiment! If you’d like to know whether AI is a good fit for your credit union, give it a try. Just be sure you aren’t letting the program do anything irreversible.

On another note, one of the key elements to any marketing strategy that incorporates AI tools is going to be transparency. People are way more likely to get worked up about any data collection that happens without their consent. If you’re open and honest from the beginning, and you give your members the chance to opt out, there shouldn’t be an issue.

By the way, I keep calling them “AI tools” because that’s how I see them. AI is a new way to get things done, and it’s only as good or bad as the people who use it. When it comes to credit unions, however, there’s one more consideration that I think is important: Ethics.

Credit unions have a powerful business model, and at the core of this is the community they represent. One often-heard CU phrase is “People helping people,” and I really feel this is the added value for members.

So where does AI come into the equation? Well, my recommendation is that you don’t let it come between you and your members. And this goes double for any C-level folks reading this. I think we all can agree that credit unions have a responsibility to uplift their community, and that means treating AI tools as an asset, not a replacement.

Sam Dicken

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