I don’t know what happened with the supposed “do not call” list, but lately I’ve been bombarded with nonstop robocalls purporting to be from my credit card company. The friendly robovoice assures me right off the bat that, “there is nothing wrong with my account, I should not be alarmed, but that I’m running out of time to lower my rate…”

It’s right at that point where I disconnect the call. Brands are getting more clever (or devious) with phone marketing for sure; I’ve noticed that credit card firms now use a local area code in the caller ID, expecting that people will be more inclined to answer a call from a local unknown number than an unknown 800 number. Earlier this week, the caller ID on my mobile phone suggested that the incoming call was from none other than…myself – which feels more like the plot for Scream 5 than savvy marketing.

While phone marketing seems to be sliding down a slope to irrelevance, email marketing remains an effective tool for brands. A 2016 study by Selligent/StrongView charts that 60 percent of brands plan to increase spending on email marketing this year compared to 2015, and in a separate eConsultancy 2015 survey, nearly three-quarters of marketing teams still believe email communication will be one of the channels with the highest ROI in 2020.

While signs point to email marketing enduring in the coming years, it may not look the same as it does today. That is because a fierce battle is being waged between art and science. There is an undeniable “art” to crafting email marketing content and subject lines that grab a prospect’s attention and drives them to action. At the same time, email marketing has become a “science” driven by machine learning that draws on big data analytics beyond what any human is capable of.

Startups and emerging technology providers are increasingly betting on “science.” Persado, for example, is a self-described “cognitive content platform” that last week announced a $30 million investment led by Goldman Sachs. Persado’s software utilizes machine learning and performance information of millions of messages to help brands select optimal language for email subject lines and other campaigns. It is an approach that Persado Founder & CEO Alex Vratskides refers to as “persuasion automation.”

While Persado and similar software offerings can be an effective tool in the marketer’s toolbox, creative teams will not replaced anytime soon. Only 13% of respondents in the eConsultancy survey “strongly agree” that all email marketing will be automated by 2020, though 40% “somewhat agree” with this statement – signaling that CMOs will continue to look for the right mix of automation and human creative teams to develop and execute these programs.

Ultimately, creative teams will remain vital for not only developing email subject line language that drives desired action, but also for ensuring each program reflects and remains consistent with the brand vibe (humor, provocative, direct, etc.). This input augments, rather than replaces, the value that high performance marketing language software tools can deliver when it comes to improving conversion and ROI.

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