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The rise of the 'feeling machines'

Tom Stein, chairman and chief client officer of global B2B agency SteinIAS, says it’s time to go beyond “Modern Marketing” by embracing our feelings

A post written by Michael Hinshaw crossed my in-box a few days back containing a brilliant truth that has stuck with me ever since. The topic was customer experience. The thesis: that empathy is the critical ingredient for companies to turn customer experience into competitive advantage.

It was a good post that made great sense. But it was a particular quote in the post that galvanized me, a wonderfully thought-provoking quote from Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist and author who won a Nobel Prize for economic science (now how’s that for lateral thinking!).

Kahneman wrote: "We are not thinking machines. We are feeling machines that think.”

The words made me sit bolt upright as only a simple and brilliant truth can. Particularly a truth that can be applied to so many aspects of life.

Data + emotion

One area that jumped out at me (because I’ve been giving it considerable thought of late) is “Modern Marketing.”

For the past decade or so, Modern Marketing has become a ubiquitous moniker reflective of a particular B2B marketing approach. Rooted in content, data, automation, and a host of related marketing technologies, Modern Marketing reminds me a lot of what Kahneman calls “thinking machines” – but not so much what he calls “feeling machines.”

As much as I and our agency value the technology-infused power of Modern Marketing, I think a new era may be upon us. One in which the “feeling machines” regain prominence, and come into balance with the “thinking machines.” Intuition plus technology. Boldness and experimentation underpinned by data.

Modern Marketing has been very good for marketers and our organizations. But now, we need to go beyond it (without forgoing all it has to offer) and re-find our inner “feeling machines.”