Since the time we lived in caves, man’s basic needs have remained the same: food, shelter and security. We originally satisfied those needs with our bare hands. With the division of labor came services. (“You do the hunting, and I’ll gather the roots.”) With the discovery of tools, we found ways to better accomplish tasks. For much of human history, the operation of those tools and their adaptation to the specific task was under the control of human intelligence. As society progressed and our needs became more complex, marketing arose to facilitate exchanges.
Now in the unfolding age of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, connected smart products and robots, we’re still on that same journey to satisfy our needs, but with the assistance of these evolving capabilities and objects along the way. These capabilities and objects are organized into systems that can deliver a high level of personalized service, and they offer relief from numerous control and decision-making activities. It’s not just the consumer’s journey that’s been impacted by these technological advances. Below that journey, agriculture and the supply chain have been increasingly automated as well. What emerges are complex adaptive systems that pose an existential threat to marketing if the field cannot define its role.
Nature of the Beast
Connected smart products (aka internet of things) embody certain capabilities and skills. These objects can be physical and virtual and are often combined in a product-service system that addresses multiple steps in the customer journey. The objects can communicate with one another and their users via circuits, signals, the cloud, various devices and their associated interfaces such as touch pads and microphones.