How AI Is Changing the Chief Marketer's Role at Cosabella

An interview with Guido Campello, CEO and Creative Director at Cosabella and Courtney Connell, Marketing Director

Author: Yory Wurmser

April 21, 2017

Artificial intelligence (AI) had been science fiction, about machines becoming smarter than humans. But now that many brands—including lingerie maker Cosabella—have witnessed how AI technology can reveal invaluable customer data, they don’t mind letting a machine do some of their work. eMarketer’s Yory Wurmser spoke with Guido Campello, Cosabella’s CEO and creative director, and Courtney Connell, the brand’s marketing director, about how AI pushed them to change many traditional aspects of the business. [Editor’s Note: Connell has since joined Spyscape as marketing director.] 

eMarketer: How much work are you comfortable letting AI do for you?

Courtney Connell: Humans want to be in control. They want to think they’ve already come up with the best solution. Give a machine different options and watch it deduce the actual reality with confidence—that’s hard for a lot of people to understand. It’s a mindset for my team. By the end of this year, my team will be capable of understanding it and handling anything thrown at us.

Guido Campello: AI has to get to the point where the entry-level employee in an organization, especially a family company as small as ours, is able to understand it, use it, manipulate it, analyze it and contribute it to what it’s needed for. AI is often feared for replacing humans with human-like objects, but rather, it makes the rudimentary easy.

eMarketer: What does it take to gain trust of AI technologies?

Campello: You can test everything in controlled environments—many people don’t realize that. They think, “If [AI vendors] come in, they can see everything and I’ll have no control,” but they won’t just start telling you what to do.

I don’t think AI should be called “artificial intelligence” yet, because it’s still about computations and putting things together. There is still a lot of [the human touch] that goes into it.

“[AI] replaces the machine-like things that humans aren’t necessarily meant to do.”

Connell: Even though the technology might replace human functions, it replaces the machine-like things that humans aren’t necessarily meant to do. I don’t think we’re meant to sit at computers and do calculations over and over again. We’re meant to do more inspiring and emotional things.

eMarketer: Are there specific challenges when using AI technology at a fashion company?

Campello: In fashion, anything that will change our retail environment scares us, because we plan so far ahead for each season and we have so much in development. What I’m designing today will come out 24 months from now. How different will the world be in 24 months?

There might be a great idea [that comes from AI], but it needs to come out in a much faster cycle. For example, I want to understand why the customer who buys the same product in different colors season after season is all of a sudden bored by color.

eMarketer: What questions do you ask in that case?

Campello: What do I need to give her next? How do I deduce what she is reacting to? How do I take all of that data, manage all these customers, produce my collection, stay on trend, influence, market, etc.? You need that rudimentary help [from AI].

We took a step to create an environment where everyone is working together. Now we are trying to see what we know that can influence us and change a collection. The data on that repetitive consumer gives us so much information, but how do I take it out and make it usable?

“We are trying to see what we know [from AI] that can influence us and change a collection.”

eMarketer: Is this causing the role of the CMO and the makeup of the marketing team to change?

Connell: Now that we’re working with a couple of different AI companies and figuring out how to link them, eventually there will be a general artificial intelligence for marketing that won’t necessarily replace the CMO, but it’ll shift how the CMO functions. 

You’ll still need that high-level person on the marketing side who’s driving the strategy and feeding it into the AI. The CMO will need to be widely creative, quickly understand concepts and [be] intellectual enough to understand how things cross and come together. The role will require a much broader view instead of being technical-minded as the CMO role is shifting to now.

Campello: Our digital team and marketing team were working on two different calendars, but we merged them together and made our digital head our marketing director. The old-school marketing team effectively fell away, and the new marketing team is our digital team.

Photo Credit: Cosabella