Consumers Are Worried About Marketers Using Generative AI — Here’s Why

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The biggest names in tech are rolling out next-generation AI chatbots, and Google searches for terms like “ChatGPT” and “generative AI” are at record highs. OpenAI’s ChatGPT reached an incredible 100 million monthly users just two months after its launch in November, to become the fastest-growing consumer application in history. While it’s clear that generative AI has never been hotter, the technology itself is still doubted by the general public. 

According to a newly-released report from the customer experience firm DISQO, 34% of consumers don’t think AI-generated content tools should be used in marketing, and 60% trust AI-generated content less than human-generated content.

“The early success of generative AI has encouraged many business leaders to invest in this new technology and capitalize on its promised efficiencies. However, to date, there has been little insight into consumers’ understanding of and receptivity to generative AI — which can have a significant impact on brand perception,” says DISQO Director of Research and Insights Patrick Egan. “As businesses lean more heavily on AI, they need to know where consumers stand on this topic and what they expect from brands using generative AI to enhance, rather than detract from, their experience.”

Overall, fewer than 10% of consumers say they have “high knowledge” of AI tools, and that number drops below 5% in demographics like older adults, women, and those with an annual household income of less than $75,000. While some of that lack of knowledge is understandable, given how recently ChatGPT came onto the market, it’s also worth noting that just 10% of consumers say they’ve used AI-generation tools thus far. Within that small subset of early adopters, overall reactions have been positive. Roughly 70% of people who say they have used AI-generation tools report that they had a “positive experience” with the technology.

Because the average consumer isn’t knowledgeable about generative AI, most remain skeptical about whether the technology should be used by brand marketers. Consumers also appear to be underestimating how pervasive the technology has already become. According to the DISQO survey, just 25% of consumers believe they have read media content that was generated by AI, and AI-generated content is considered “least appropriate” in locations where personal opinions are most expected, such as blogs and opinion pieces. Consumers are especially reluctant to see AI used for generating news or entertainment content online.

“Our research found that consumer knowledge and usage of generative AI is low, which is driving high concern and limited excitement about this new technology that brands can’t ignore,” Egan says. “Eighty-six percent of consumers think it’s important for companies to talk about their use of AI-generated content, which indicates that brands must be transparent about customer-facing applications. Those that proactively communicate their responsible expertise around this topic and share what’s in it for their customers will win consumer buy-in more quickly.”

While disclosure is important, Egan says it’s also clear that brands need to be mindful about how they position their AI utilization. Leaning into AI too heavily could exacerbate consumer reticence towards the technology and fuel distrust. 

“Brands must take a nimble approach to messaging strategies with target audiences to understand what resonates with them and what might turn them away,” Egan says. “This agile methodology extends to evaluating content effectiveness, as well.”

While the value of generative AI is promising, marketers still need to tread carefully when it comes to using customer-facing communications, given the concern that many people still have. Egan suggests that brands measure the impact of AI-generated content against business goals to understand ROI across channels and determine exactly what works and what doesn’t. 

Forty-five percent of consumers in DISQO’s survey said they are concerned about content that’s generated by an AI system because of the potential for poorer accuracy, and 29% believe AI could introduce more bias. One-third of consumers said they are concerned about the negative impact that generative AI might have on jobs.

“Brands have a unique opportunity to get ahead of the pack by educating consumers about the benefits of AI applications, keeping an open dialogue with their own customers, and rigorously evaluating the effectiveness of AI-generated content,” Egan says. “Companies devoting resources towards responsible AI applications should remain in lockstep with consumers to capitalize on this new opportunity.”

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.