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This is the latest in my series of interviews with experts and authors.

Dr JT Kostman is one of the world’s leading Data Strategists and experts in Applied Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Computing. In this interview, we discuss the importance of data science in marketing, social media and education. Dr Kostman is informative, fun and opinionated (in a very nice way.)

As a geek who loves technology but lacks the actual tech gene, I find Dr Kostman to be remarkably clear and open about what marketers need to know about AI and data science. There’s a lot for marketers to learn in this conversation.

What impact will AI Have on the future?

  • Artificial Intelligence, he says, is the most important technology anyone is working on in the world right now and it will affect every area of our lives.
  • As a result, AI will have an even bigger effect on our society than electricity.

Artificial Intelligence in Marketing

  • The role Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data science played in the Obama 2008 campaign.
  • The need to get past superficial stereotypes and cartoon characricatures in marketing and advertising.
  • Those shoes that follow you around the Internet are because of retargeting. You don’t need AI for that.
  • Importantly, for marketers, AI provides the ability to change advertising from intrusive to opportunity.
  • John Wanamaker’s dilemma is answered by AI. We now can tell exactly which half of our advertising isn’t working.

Dr Kostman refers to New Yorker cartoon by Peter Steiner that says “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

New Yorker "Nobody knows you're a dog" cartoon.

He says, “All my work is predicated on saying “Why don’t we know it’s a dog, what breed it is and if its tail is wagging.”

  • “It’s disrespectful and lazy for marketers to steal time instead of looking at the right data.”
  • Dr Kostman says “On behalf of all your ostensible customers, that undifferentiated crap is a waste of time that turns people off”
  • The reason the lifespan of CMOs is so ephemeral is that they are not using the tools and abilities that exist to help them make the right decisions.
  • Why it would behoove agencies to work with data scientists.
  • Why “It’s nearly marketing malpractice not to take a data driven approach to marketing.”

What AI Skills Do We Need to Have?

  • “In this day and age you must have basic code literacy. You need to be a passionately curious, numerate technofile who is wicked smart and works well with others. Those things are all you need.” And, he says, if you think you’re not numerate, you’re wrong. We are all innately numerate.

Artificial Intelligence Could End Election Interference

  • Google, Twitter, Facebook etc let you use their service in exchange for seeing ads. There is no free lunch
  • Could major social platforms identify and stop Russian and other foreign interference in our elections with the data and AI they have? Absolutely, he maintains. The major social networks are abrogating their responsibility to stop foreign interference on their platforms. It’s time, he says, for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google to stop pretending they don’t have the responsibility to stop interference in U.S. elections.
  • Facebook, Twitter, Google and other major social platforms could stop foreign election interference with the data they have right now – if they wanted to. “It’s a financial decision,” Kostman says. Stopping Russian and other election interference on their platforms “is in direct conflict with their profit motive.”

Talk to Dr Kostman

Dr Kostman makes time to talk to students every Friday. Follow him on LinkedIn, where he posts his availability for 50 minute conversations. He also says he’ll speak to marketers “for free” rather than have them “go blindly into the dark, wasting clients’ money.”

  • Dr Kostman says “I’ll talk to you for free. Call me. Let’s at least talk about what you’re doing rather than going blindly into the dark and wasting your clients’ money. Most agencies are probably wasting 95% of their clients’ money.
  • A lot of data scientists and people in AI seem to make what they say deliberately hard to follow. Dr Kostman quotes Einstein, who said “If you truly understand something, you should be able to explain it to your grandmother.” Simple, he says, is elegant.


JT Kostman is a data scientist, mathematician, and psychologist. He has hunted terrorists for U.S. Intelligence Agencies, tracked criminal networks for the FBI, advised on analytic strategies for the Department of Defense, and led social media analysis for the 2012 Obama Campaign.

In the corporate sector, he developed Digital Media Marketing solutions for Digitas, served as Chief Data Officer for Time Inc, Chief Data Scientist for Samsung, and serves on the Board of Advisors for Reimagine Holdings.

Prior to attending graduate school, JT served as a Paramedic, Police Officer, Deep-Sea Rescue Diver, and as Team Leader of an elite Scout/Sniper Reconnaissance Team with the U.S. Army Special Forces. He is a decorated disabled veteran who holds an active Top Secret/SCI U.S. Government clearance.

LinkedIn: JT Kostman
Twitter: @JT Kostman
Email: JTKostman at gmail dot com


Let’s talk about how a socially shareable video interview will fit into your marketing.

B.L. Ochman is an accomplished business strategist, content creator, growth hacker, podcast producer and journalist. She is producer and co-host of the award-winning podcast, Beyond Social Media Show.

Blog – What’s Next Blog
Twitter: @whatsnext
Podcast: Beyond Social Media Show
Website: B.L. Ochman
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