Chatbots are still … bots!

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By: Richard Rutigliano, PriMedia, Inc.

AI Marketing for Fuel Retailers

Chatbots are the new “big thing,” but are they the right thing for your company’s marketing? When considering utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) powered chatbots for your next campaign, it is important to remember the “artificial” half of the name.

The excitement about AI content creators may be warranted, in some situations, even if their widespread use might not be. Programs like ChatGPT use language-based models to respond to the text you input, scour the entire internet, and generate search responses, sales letters, and marketing content. This can make them seem omnipotent, but they are not. The GIGO acronym (for “Garbage In, Garbage Out”) has been part of the computer programming argot since computer programming began. It is as timely a reminder of the limits of artificial intelligence today as it was for first-generation software.

To create long-form content such as blogs or newsletter articles, the user must first input a substantial amount of information: topics, key phrases, applicable company website pages, how the content will be used, who will be reading it and what tone or personality is preferred. The AI platforms also strongly recommend that a human carefully review the end results, as some of the more popular bots have been known to make things up. In addition, these platforms clearly state that the bots haven’t quite gotten through the entire internet archives and have “limited knowledge of world events after 2021.”

Putting AI to the Test

To test the breadth of its awareness, we asked ChatGPT, “Does the inflation reduction act include renewable liquid fuels?” Its response: “I’m not aware of any ‘Inflation Reduction Act’ in the United States, and a search for this term does not yield any relevant results. It’s possible that you may be referring to a different law or act that has a similar name, or a proposed bill that has not yet been enacted.”


We tried again. Considering the recent certifications of B100 by ASTM and United Laboratory, we asked ChatGPT, “Can you use B100 in your oil burner?” The answer: “In most cases it is not recommended to use B100 (pure biodiesel) in an oil burner designed to burn traditional heating oil. B100 has different combustion characteristics than heating oil, which can cause problems such as incomplete combustion, clogged fuel filters, and damage to the burner’s components.” While this might have been applicable a decade ago, the response does not reflect the advances in burner technology or the UL ratings for B100 burners.

One more try. “Is electric heat clean energy?” We asked several times, and each time received the same response: “Something went wrong.” This simple question broke the system. It was as if Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock had posed the Liar Paradox. 


How Personal Should You Get?

Much has been said of AI’s ability to personalize letters for sales and marketing. The pitch is that the bots scrape the internet to find out about your target, so your letters can create a human connection. Before you go down that route, you should read the following story.

Our marketing manager recently received one of these emails. The preview in her inbox read so awkwardly that it was clearly AI generated and piqued her professional interest. The “writer” politely congratulated her on her position in the company, using her title and our full corporate name as it appears on her LinkedIn profile. The “writer” then noted how wonderful it was that she had studied Communications at Hofstra University. This was surprising, and a little disturbing, because at this point in her career, her decades-old undergraduate studies are among the last details any truly intelligent salesperson would mention.

Yea or Nay?

There is still more to learn about AI’s capabilities and how it can best integrate into a marketing campaign. The steps and information required to prime the bot to write longer-form content are unnecessary when you work with a marketing partner that knows your business and your audience. The limits to the bots’ knowledge of recent events make it difficult to use for timely materials on sensitive topics.

Are there benefits? Of course. AI search functionality is immense and is now integrated with Bing and offered as an option at Google. These results offer users a channel through which to dig into topics more deeply and quickly, and Google’s Bard provides the source urls, something ChatGPT does not.

As with any new tool, the opportunities will expand as the technology evolves. Artificial intelligence will, eventually, become more intelligent and current. Until then, proceed with caution. And have an experienced marketing partner who knows your business and your challenges at your side.

Richard Rutigliano is President of PriMedia, Inc., an integrated marketing and communications firm specializing in the home energy sector. He can be reached at 516-222-2041 or