Marketing B2B Marketing Creative

Is marketing entering its “Post-Modern” era?

Stein IAS


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October 26, 2016 | 6 min read

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At last week’s ANA/BMA event at the Microsoft Conference Center in Mountain View, California, Stein IAS’ Chairman and Chief Client Officer Tom Stein announced his agency’s perspective that B2B marketing is entering a new phase.

Stein IAS

Is marketing entering its “Post-Modern” era?

Below are excerpts from Tom Stein’s keynote address, “The Rise of the Feeling Machines: Is B2B Marketing Moving to its ‘Post-Modern’ Era?”

The title of my talk is “The Rise of the Feeling Machines.

The title of my presentation comes from Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, who also wrote the very excellent Thinking, Fast and Slow. In this book, Kahneman stated that human beings “are not thinking machines that feel, we are feeling machines that think.”

I’ll come back to that is just a minute.

Over the past decade or so, B2B brands and agencies have widely adopted Modern Marketing. The folks at Oracle Marketing Cloud define Modern Marketing as “the paradigm of inbound marketing programs driven by digital channels, served by multiple touches, measured by sophisticated technologies – and where data analysis is king…”

Modern Marketing has served us well. It has given marketers greater impact; greater confidence; a more significant seat at the table. It has energized us with its innovation. And challenged us with its complexity.

But by its nature, and to come back to Kahneman’s quote, Modern Marketing emphasizes “thinking machines” over “feeling machines that think.” So today, with Modern Marketing approaches fairly ubiquitous, what will define B2B’s “post-modern” era?

I think we marketers are at an interesting and important inflection point. So my idea for this inflection point – the Agency’s hypothesis of where marketing is headed – where did this comes from.

So, I do not claim to be the deepest thinker about the world’s epochs. But I did spend enough time with the Jesuits at Boston College to have some semblance of cultural knowledge, worldview and historical context pounded into my young adult head. And though I am simplifying complex things to make a point, our historical world broadly has had three seminal eras.

Humankind for a very long time lived in a pre-modern era. The age of faith unencumbered. Think mysticism. The Druids. Think mythology. The Greek gods. Think magic and superstition. Think religion and rapture, heaven and hell…the preternatural, the supernatural. Think of a world not yet tethered to science and the purely rational.

As eras tend to do, this Pre-Modern era over time engendered a strong reaction, which led to what is now known as the Modern era. Think Enlightenment. The first industrial revolution. The ascendance of science. The ascendance of technology – though that’s not what it was called at the time. But that surely is what it was. Charles Darwin. Friedrich Nietzsche. The Eiffel Tower. The Brooklyn Bridge. Capitalism. And communism. An age marked by constant change in the pursuit of progress.

Logic. Cause and effect. Certainty. Proof born of evidence as opposed to belief born of the heart and soul. A sea-change in everything. Disruptive, and massively transformative to government. Medicine. Architecture. Science. The everyday lives of everyone.

All of which inevitably led to yet another reaction – another equal and opposite reaction. Post-Modernism!

From Pre-Modernism to Modernism to Post-Modernism. All that certainty, all that logic…now considered confining. A straight-jacket of overly-rational conformity. Instead of Modernism’s constant change in the pursuit of progress…Post-Modernism embraced constant change as the status quo! It embraced the notion that life is inherently chaotic, non-linear and multi-dimensional. Very interestingly, Post-Modern art as a result embraced interactive experiences as opposed to “one-way viewership.”Intermedia, installation art, conceptual art and multimedia, particularly involving video, these are all hallmarks of Most-Modernism.

It’s actually uncanny. When we thought about Pre-Modern, Modern and Post-Modern…and then thought about marketing…we had our Eureka moment.

These three eras are amazingly analogous to marketing’s three seminal eras – one of which we believe is just starting!

Pre-Modern Marketing? The Mad Men…and magical! Amazing, iconic ideas of and at one with popular culture. Jolly Green Giants. Mr. Cleans. Think Smalls. Think different.

Now the Modern era. Empirical. Structured. Scientific. Constant change in the pursuit of progress. And Modern Marketing? Well, the same. Constant but more accurately, breathless change in the persuit of progress. Data science. Granular segmentation. Hyper personalization. Automation.

As we all know, Modern Marketing is still a work in progress. We’re still figuring it all out. We’re still putting all the pieces together. We’re making it work in the real world, and transforming our organizations (and careers) in the process. But even as we do this – and this is our culminating belief – we are turning another page.

We are moving now to the “Post-Modern” marketing phase of marketing.

I defined the world’s Post-Modern era as a rejection of Modernism’s rigid structures, empiricism and over-emphasis on the linear.

Here’s perhaps an easy way to think about it: a rejection of Doctor Spock-ian logic. And a yearning for Captain Kirk-ian emotion and passion. But now, as we enter the “Post-Modern” marketing era, it is not a rejection of Modern Marketing’s empiricism…it is much more a re-balancing. A carrying forward of the best of preceding eras into this new stage. A Vulcan mind-meld, if you like. Spock plus Kirk.

The foundational frameworks of data, segmentation, implicit and explicit triggers – but painted with the brilliant brushtrokes of a Renaissance in intuitive ideas and mind-blowing experiences.

Think how exciting this can be for all of us in this room…for our brands and for our agencies. It’s like geeking out – but with goosebumps!

Layering our dizzying Modern Marketing construct with dazzling connected experiences that call on the Mad Men and Women within us while equally calling on the Mad Scientists we have all become!

That’s Stein IAS belief. We have entered Post-Modern Marketing era. And an exciting era it promises to be.

Tom Stein, Chairman and Chief Client Officer

Marketing B2B Marketing Creative

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Stein IAS

Stein IAS ( are the B2B Originals, the first and leading global brand-to-demand agency for B2B enterprises worldwide. Stein IAS drives brand progression and revenue growth through highly original and effective creative ideas combined powered by data, intelligence and disruptive technology. Stein IAS has been named a B2B Agency of the Year by the ANA 10 of the past 13 years – and has won the WARC Effectiveness Award (Gold) for B2B the past two and has won the WARC Effectiveness Award (Gold) for B2B the past two.

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