Does More Martech Mean Fewer Brand Fans?

The optimal brand experience differs from company to company. That might sound obvious, but it evidently isn’t to some CMOs: By overly relying on martech, they’re creating an expensive — and unremarkable — brand experience.

According to research from Forrester, CMOs are spending more on tech than any other C-suite members. Through 2022, CMOs are projected to increase their spend on automation, data, and tools by up to 11%. Over that timeframe, they’re expected to boost their agency services spend by 2.4%. Under pressure to prove ROI at every turn, CMOs are sacrificing creativity for a more trackable but potentially less effective strategy. 

Nobody can blame CMOs for wanting better tools and tracking. They can’t, however, forget the branding investments that helped them grow to what they are today. Customers have more choices than ever — they aren’t going to waste time on brands that look and act like all the rest.

Quick Takeaways:

  • CMOs looking for sustainable growth need to stop chasing the next great thing in analytics.
  • Brands should reinvest in the stories and ideas that make them special or at least different.
  • Causes are not synonymous with philanthropy. Identify what your customers are passionate about and mold your brand personality accordingly.

The Case for Purposeful Branding

A 2018 Accenture study found that 63% of global consumers prefer to purchase from purpose-driven brands. Most participants (74%) cited transparency and ethical business practices as key considerations.


CMOs can’t analyze their way to those qualities. “It’s about having a genuine and meaningful commitment to important principles that consumers care about — such as health and wellbeing, natural ingredients, environmental sustainability and family connections — which inform every business decision,” Bill Theofilou, Accenture Strategy’s senior managing director, explains.

When CMOs spend on tools in place of brand principles, share prices suffer. Forrester’s research showed that companies redirecting agency spend toward technology and paid media frequently had negative results. Many companies spend inordinate resources developing in-house data science teams when cheaper and faster third-party options could achieve comparable results. In turn, they don’t divert spend from creative efforts.

Although agencies aren’t telling companies to abandon martech altogether, they’re trying to pull back the curtain on its true costs. B2B strategy firm Renegade’s 2019 B2B CMO survey found that while software and tools promise big returns, they also increase complexity. “Our study found that 90% of B2B marketers noted a massive increase in complexity caused by having more target audiences, more technology to integrate and more data to sift through,” explains Renegade CEO Drew Neisser. “Unfortunately, this increase in complexity has not resulted in improved marketing performance for many B2B CMOs.”

Tools like CRM systems play a vital part in customer connection, and marketing teams will never return to mail-only copywriting. But no amount of data analysis can replace building awareness and other activities that drive branding. CMOs must first appreciate and invest in building strong brands if they want to reap the value of marketing tools. 

Where Brands and Technology Work in Harmony

Martech without branding leads to an undifferentiated, bland experience; branding without the right tools limits the company’s ability to reach new audiences and earn more business. 

Use these helpful tips to develop a strong brand story and get more from your technology investments:

1. Understand your purpose

Company leaders can’t fake a purpose. Customers quickly call foul when a company holds a social position it doesn’t back up with action. To build a brand that stands up to scrutiny, the leaders of your company must agree on and work toward a shared purpose. 

That purpose doesn’t need to be purely philanthropic to appeal to audiences. REI, for example, incorporates conservationism into its core business processes.

Choose a cause that makes sense for your company’s market and resonates with your leadership team. Lean into that purpose to refine your branding as you grow. 

2. Tell a consistent story

Great brands adhere strictly to their style guides for written, audio, and visual content. Your style guide should not only cover details such as colors and grammar (e.g., Chicago versus AP style), but it should also clarify company stances on things like tone and important social issues. Treat style and branding guides as living documents that require regular updates to remain relevant.

Begin your style guide with your company’s purpose and core values, and look back to those values as you encounter potential conflicts. REI would lose customers in droves if it partnered with an oil drilling firm or a logging company in the Amazon, for example. No short-term profits can make up for a betrayal of your brand. 

3. Get your fans involved

Use your marketing communication tools to empower your fans to spread the word about your brand. Incentivize word-of-mouth marketing by using a loyalty program and frequent outreach to create a sense of community. Your best customers engage with your brand as if it were an extension of their own personalities, so treat them as part of your brand family to foster inclusivity.

Martech can help you identify which customers would make great ambassadors. Who consumes your content and shares it on social media? Who spends the most time on your website and clicks through most of your emails? By targeting those fans with special messaging and promotions, you can bring your brand story to new audiences.

CMOs can’t afford to ignore technology, but they can’t be blind to its shortcomings, either. Martech multiplies your resources if — and only if — you don’t jettison best practices in the process. Before you cut your creative spending and put everything into analytics, realize that optimization is meaningless without a strong brand to stand on. 

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