It is not everyday that one can take stock of the rapidly evolving field of B2B marketing but Tom Stein, chairman and chief client officer of the global B2B marketing agency Stein IAS, did just that recently when he described - most succinctly - that B2B marketing has entered its post-modern era.
At his keynote address this past week at Microsoft in Mountain View, CA, Stein stated to a packed gathering at a Business Marketing Association (BMA) NORCAL event that modern marketing approaches, frameworks and technologies are nearing ubiquitous adoption and we are entering a new stage.
Modern marketing emerged with the internet and ensuing digital-social-mobile embrace. It gained further traction with the explosion of martech and adtech. Its transformative focus has been on data-driven inbound marketing programs powered by digital channels, served by multiple touches and measured by sophisticated technologies, Stein noted when he said, “we are turning another page.”
"Constant change has now become the status quo and although modern marketing is still a work in progress, we have to begin moving beyond its emphasis on marketing automation, analytics, conversion, granular segmentation and targeting -- the tenets that characterize the modern age.”
It is Stein and his agency’s view that while post-modern marketing carries forward and builds upon these tenets, it balances them with a renewed emphasis on bold, intuitive creative experiences that re-assert our human nature.
As a way to illustrate this, Stein referenced the beloved series Star Trek to suggest that post-modern marketing combines “the logic and rationality of Dr. Spock with the passion and emotion of Captain Kirk – creating a Vulcan mind-meld" between the two.
Stein illustrated the potential of the post-modern era with a virtual reality experience developed by McCann New York for Lockheed Martin, entitled "A Field Trip to Mars. The most-awarded campaign at Cannes this year, "A Field Trip to Mars" follows a group of school children boarding a school bus, assuming they are going on an ordinary field trip. Instead, they are virtually taken to Mars. Through a mix of technologies, the cityscape of Washington, DC magically transforms, and the children are transported to the red planet. Their awe-struck expressions are priceless and at each turn in the actual road the sensation is coordinated with the virtual reality of traveling across the surface of Mars.
"The technology involved in developing this experience is post-modern magic," Stein noted, “and so is the ambition and creativity involved in bringing the concept to life.”
In another example, Stein showcased how his company used post-modern marketing techniques to “turn food processing technology into a mind-blowing experience” for Key Technology, a category leader. Stein explained that the digital sorting platform uses 360-degree surface inspection and the highest resolution cameras and laser sensors to scan vegetables, fruits and nuts in real-time as they race along conveyor belts. Products that should not make it to market because of flaws or other factors are ejected along the way, literally shot off the belt by pinpoint jet streams of air. "Using virtual reality, we enabled customers to become a green bean, so to speak, on its journey through the Veryx system. It was an amazing showcase of the world’s most intelligent sorting technology – and it delighted and inspired Key’s clients.” Importantly, this one experience alone was responsible for delivering a significant percentage of Key’s annual demand generation goal.
"Our belief in post-modern marketing is so strong,” Stein added, “that it led us to launch an important addition to our offering that we call MiX – the acronym for Most Important Experiences. MiX brings together designers, writers, UX and IA experts, programmers and digital interactions experts in rapid ideation sprints that leverage new and emerging technologies and channels. Through MiX, our clients not only capitalize on the best of what's now but also the best of what's next.”
As conveyed by his Spock/Kirk analogy, Stein believes post-modern marketing is all about duality. “We need to be alchemists and quants, daredevils and pragmatists, free-spirits and engineers,” he said.
Quoting Miles Young, the recently retired global chairman and chief executive of Ogilvy & Mather, Stein asked, “Are we creative mad men or maths men?” Like Young, Stein believes that in the post-modern era, marketers must be both.