Why AI Can’t Replace Human Writers for Copywriting (Yet)

Yes, another blog post about AI – what can I say, it’s the topic du jour, especially with OpenAI’s reveal yesterday of additional details about the next version of ChatGPT and Microsoft’s announcement today of “Copilot”, a system a bit like GitHub Copilot except for Office apps.

AI for marketing and copywriting

Does that mean that human writers are obsolete? Not yet – we still have a few years left before superintelligences turn us all into paperclips. There are still some crucial aspects of marketing that AI can’t replicate or replace, one of which is brand voice.

Brand voice is the distinctive tone of your brand’s communication. Think of it as a personality – if your company were a person, how would it communicate? Would it be fun and casual, or formal and detailed? Many brands (like mine) are simply the voice of the company’s founder. I am my brand – it sounds like me. Larger companies that will have multiple people writing “as the brand” will ideally have some kind of formalized brand voice, along with guidelines for writers to follow.

For example, you may have a brand voice guide that defines your brand’s tone (formal or casual), style (funny or serious), and language (simple or complex). These aren’t things that can be easily defined or quantified by an algorithm – some AI tools are able to pull it off to an extent, but even the best AI output needs careful revision by a human who knows what they’re doing.

AI also can’t create new or original brand voices from scratch – its language models are trained by looking at existing data, so it can only work with what it already knows or has access to. It can’t invent new words, phrases or expressions, and it struggles to combine existing ideas into new concepts.

Strategy first

This also ignores the even more important component that is marketing strategy, i.e. figuring out what to write in the first place, and for whom. I would hope that some thought is put into your marketing content beyond just “put words on a webpage” – you should be thinking about who your target audience is, what they care about, and how you can position your business as a solution to problems they’re facing. AI isn’t good at that. In fact, it’s significantly worse at it than it is at writing.

I suspect the culprit is the inherent genericness of its replies, due to the fact that it’s crunching billions of data points and essentially outputting content that matches the middle of the bell curve. For the same reason that AI writing tends to have a distinctive cadence and generic feel, its “strategies” are usually just distillations of “Top X Marketing Ideas” listicles.


With that said, I’m pretty confident that AI will be good enough at these tasks with a few years. It doesn’t need to be world-class – only as good as your average marketer. In the meantime, it can keep busy taking over other jobs such as legal research.