Have We Reached Post-Modern Marketing?

Art, music, architecture — they’ve all gone through a few different phases or eras.

Speaking from a musical perspective, there are about six recognized artistic eras: early, medieval, baroque, classical, romantic, modern…and even a semi-recognized post-modern era.

What is Post-Modern?

“Post-modern” is, in and of itself, an oxymoron. How can we have something that is after modern? Isn’t that the future? But then how does post-modern exist in the present? If it exists now, isn’t it modern?

Listen, I wouldn’t get hung up on the semantics. The thing is, modernism was a reaction to romanticism, and post-modernism is well…the reaction to modernism.

Modernism tended to sow seeds of doubt, discomfort and worry. The music was dissonant; the art was dark. Ultimately, it was in reaction to the World Wars and post-war life.

Post-modernism, on the other hand, is defined as “a late 20th-century style and concept in the arts, architecture and criticism that represents a departure from modernism. It has at its heart a general distrust of grand theories and ideologies as well as a problematical relationship with any notion of ‘art’,” according to Wikipedia. Post-modernism is often self-referential.

Have we reached post-modern marketing?

The answer isn’t a simple yes or no. It’s difficult to pin something down as “definitively post-modern.” Every B2B marketing agency will have a different philosophy about what is and what isn’t good marketing.

Marketing is constantly changing. Because of the changes in media, it’s necessary for marketers to keep up. Especially in B2B marketing, where the change from print to digital is very apparent. Companies are moving to marketing automation and other new tactics. So, if we revisit the previous definition — distrust of grand theories and a departure from modernism — does it fit the bill?

Let’s make our own definition — post-modern marketing is marketing that shows distrust and a departure from grand theories and modern (i.e., 20th century) marketing. It’s often self-referential.

Huh. Self-referential…so like this blog? Marketing that is referencing marketing? Check. Some B2B marketing agencies even call attention to the fact that their content is, in fact, marketing. Some advertisements break the fourth wall and call attention to the fact that they’re really trying to sell something.

This self-referential nature is a departure from 20th-century marketing, which was more product-focused and mostly used print as the medium (since the internet was not yet a thing). Older advertisements were also more formal and less conversational. Compare that to today where some television commercials appear to not be inherently selling anything. They’re a sort of image or brand tool rather than a sales and marketing tool. Some ads may not really say anything at all — and that’s the point (sort of like anti-marketing).

For consumers, there is a “distrust and a departure from grand theories” as well. Today, instead of waiting for salesmen to come to them, consumers will look online for what they want. They’ll Google it. They’ll find their own way because they want to be in control of the buying cycle. Inbound marketing reflects this new buyer mindset.

Now what?

I anticipate that this trend will continue. I don’t think post-modern advertising will ever reach the level of post-modern art (like building a toilet out of cardboard or something), but as technology changes, so too must marketing. As consumers change, so must marketing. Marketers will likely distance themselves from older types of marketing (modernist marketing?) in favor of marketing they believe will better reach today’s buyers. Today, that is inbound marketing. Who knows about tomorrow!

As a final answer to a rather long musing, I would say, yes. We have in a sense reached post-modern marketing. The caveat is that this does not speak to the activities of every B2B marketing agency. Some B2B marketing agencies may be more post-modern than others — breaking from tradition, distrusting previous methods and making self-referential materials.

There is no one size fits all solution for every company. You need a B2B marketing agency who is able to adapt to your unique market situation and analyze what will work best for your audience.

All marketing tactics should be thought of as part of a larger whole, rather than separate pieces. By strategically integrating all marketing tactics, the marketing programs become more effective and cost efficient. As a B2B agency, we developed B2B 360 Integrated Digital Marketing to meet this improved performance need. To learn more about B2B 360 and how it will benefit your business, download our free eBook: B2B Top-Tier Tech Marketing.

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