Humanity, Machines, and the Internet: Welcome to Post-Modern Marketing

June 29, 2017

By Tom Stein, chairman and chief client officer at Stein IAS



In 2011, Michael Chorost published a truly visionary book called "World Wide Mind: The Coming Integration of Humanity, Machines and the Internet." It was and remains a really smart book that lays out an evidence-rich case that the melding of humans and machines is not just the futuristic noodling of science fiction writers, but an increasingly likely eventuality.

What makes it so likely, though, is fascinating. As technology hurtles ahead, this melding will be possible. But it's our human yearning for connection that makes it inevitable.

Marketing is following a similar inevitable path. Technologies from automation to machine learning, virtual reality to artificial intelligence, are giving rise to marketing possibilities that seem infinite (sometimes frighteningly so). But even as they do, we increasingly seek to ground them in what is most meaningful to us as human beings: connection and experience.

The path that marketing is taking is the basis for what we consider post-modern marketing.

Post-modern marketing is a view of our industry's fast-approaching, inevitable future that will likely scare many but excites the hell out of us. It is driven by the breathtakingly fast advancement of digital technology and its myriad ramifications. Yet it is driven equally by a kind of high-touch reaction and re-set • a necessary reclamation of marketing's roots, which lie at the core of human emotion.

The post-modern essence of marketing's rapidly arriving future is this:

  • The technologies that brought us modern marketing — digital detection of audience members' "information exhaust," the big data analytics to interpret it, and the programmatic systems that automate marketing activities based on it — continue to rapidly evolve. 
  • Natural language recognition and artificial intelligence are layering atop that modern marketing technology stack to enable highly personal, and in fact, individualized, conversations between brands and each audience member, automated and at scale.
  • Together, these technologies dramatically raise the bar on brand and customer experience, enabling brand drivers and business objectives to be automatically embedded into all forms of brand-customer interactions, leading to the emergence of a kind of omni-experiential brand-as-platform.
  • But none of this can succeed without harking back to marketing's "pre-modern" era — finding and leveraging brands' (and customers') emotional truths.

Post-modern marketing is the next logical and necessary progression in marketing's transformation over the past 30-plus years from pre-modern to modern to postmodern, from interrupt-driven advertising and mass media to the emotional, psychological, technological, and scientific truths at the center of all future customer interaction.


Tom Stein is the chairman and chief client officer at Stein IAS, a global B2B agency. Stein IAS is exploring marketing's transformation journey in its blog, Post-Modern Marketing. Learn more at and follow the company on Twitter at @SteinIAS.


The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

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