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AI Discovers that 100% of All Customers are Human

By guest columnist Tom Hayes


The other day I was going through my emails, sorting the wheat from the chaff. But there was one from an unknown sender that intrigued me. The subject line was, “Are you still the founder of Riley Hayes?” This caused a minor existential crisis within me. True, I am the founder of Riley Hayes and it means a lot to me, but once I founded it, aren’t I always its founder? Being a founder of something is not something you can stop being, nor is it something you can be named to at some later date, unless you are Elon Musk at Tesla (look it up!).

Obviously, AI had scraped my name, title and company off of any one of a thousand websites. But what they hadn’t scraped was the deep emotional vein that the word “Founder” evokes in me and many other founders. What it really couldn’t handle was the fact that a founder is always a founder and the word still should never be put within a mile of it. So the efficacy of the email was zero, assuming their goal wasn’t to bemuse me.

2024 is the year of AI. No doubt this powerful new tool will make marketing better. It will help us better fulfill three of the four Ps of marketing: Product, Price, and Place. But it has an Achilles heel when it comes to Promotion. It is devoid of empathy. Like a sociopath, it can pretend to be empathetic by copying what empathetic people do, but it can’t replicate the empathy we humans have for one another. Algorithms simply can’t deliver the final mile of marketing: connecting with people.

People are not sheep

There is a pernicious belief among civilians that marketers can persuade any one to buy any thing. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know the last time I bought something for myself that I didn’t want or need. The fact is that most people don’t have the money to buy what they need, much less what they want. The genius required to hypnotize people into such compliance is only found in the underground lairs of James Bond villains.

I am not one to project out a dystopian landscape in which AI brings down Western Civilization with a plop. I take comfort in Lincoln’s phrase, “You can fool all of the people some of the time; you can fool some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time.”

And while AI may be able to create a video of Teddy Roosevelt doing the dance of the seven veils, or sonnets written in the style of a love child of Shakespeare and Emily Dickenson, I don’t think Teddy need be embarrassed or the bard and Emily need be jealous. Sadly, we all will become a lot more cynical and jaded (yes, unbelievably, there is still more room in both categories!). No doubt there will be AI tools to suss out AI nonsense from real nonsense and maybe even identify the truth. Woe be to those who are using AI to pass themselves as experts when they are discovered as frauds.

We need to bring humanity to humanity.

It is up to us to bring humanity to humanity. Our insight into the human condition, our understanding of the zeitgeist of the age and our imagination for what can be, have not been co-opted. It is up to us to create the messages that speak to the need, touch the heart and, if we are very good and very fortunate, bring a smile to the lips of our audience.

My first real assignment as a copywriter was to write for Harley Davidson even though I had ridden only once and never wanted to repeat the experience. They were successful ads. How did I do it? I knew lots of riders and used my empathy to stand in their shoes (or boots) and imagine what would appeal to them.

Empathy starts with the belief that life is not just about us, it is about others. And the best way to serve others is to be interested and perceptive as to what makes them tick. Only when we begin to understand their wants, needs, preferences and secret dreams will we be able to truly serve them.

A quick note on the writing of this article. It turns out that AI has no interest in ever imitating my peculiar style of writing or the paucity of verifiable facts in my work. So I had to write it on my own.



About Tom Hayes
Tom and his team at Riley Hayes have been Creating with Joy since 1991. Tom is also a speaker and coauthor of Relevance: Matter More. Connect with Tom at


Views expressed by guest columnist reflect those of the author and not the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.