For those of you not familiar with the term Keeping Up With the Joneses, it can often refer to the practice of trying to keep up with, or even one-up, someone else when it comes to material possessions like cars, homes, jewelry and on and on. It’s a pure status play.

For example, if your neighbor buys a Mercedes-Benz, you immediately feel the need to go out and buy a Range Rover. Brother-in-law bragging about his new 55-inch smart TV? Just wait until he gets a load of your new 90-inch, 5G, surround-sound, home theater.

It’s conspicuous consumption at the worst level.     

Increase but struggle

I don’t know where other writers get their inspiration from for a given piece of work but mine comes from pretty much anything at any time during any part of any day. How’s that for universal inspiration?

In this particular case, my inspiration for both the article itself as well as the title came from reading a piece published on MarTech Today way back in 2018. I say “way back” as if it’s a million years ago but in the digital world where things change in the blink of an eye, that could be perceived as being a long time ago. 

The headline and subhead of this piece was quite telling in my humble opinion: 

Headline: Report: Companies increase martech spend but struggle to keep up with the speed of its growth

Subheader: Though companies say they aren’t keeping up with the speed of martech’s evolution, they continue to add tools to their stacks at a healthy pace.

The piece was based on findings of a Walker Sands report entitled: “State of Marketing Technology 2018: Maximizing the Value of martech Innovations” which revealed the findings of a survey of 300 marketing professionals at varying levels.

Look at these findings and you tell me if you see a great disparity – aka one of these is not like the other:

  • 65% of marketers plan to increase their martech spend
  • 63% say the martech landscape has evolved rapidly or at light speed in the last year
  • 28% feel like their company’s use of martech has grown at that same level

Nearly two-thirds of marketers plan to spend more on martech while acknowledging the warp speed at which martech is evolving BUT less than 3 in 10 marketers believe their own companies have kept up with the speed of martech growth.

What gives? How can marketers be spending more on martech yet at the same time the same people who presumably use the technology report they’re not using it at the correlating rate or speed?

Good news?

According to Jennifer Mulligan, who is a martech account director for Walker Sands and co-author of the report, the findings are good news for marketers: “This year, we’ve found that despite rapid rates of innovation, today’s marketers are willing to use martech to the best of its abilities.”

With all due respect, allow me to offer a contrarian perspective: It’s the Joneses fault.

I believe far too many companies feel the need to “keep up with the Joneses” by buying and investing in more and more martech because they think they have to in order to… yes, keep up with the Joneses (aka: their competition).

And this is a very dangerous practice for the same reason it is for the person who feels like they have to go out and buy a Range Rover because their neighbor bought a Mercedes. What was wrong with the car they already had?

Probably nothing.

Maybe nothing.

The point being they had a perfectly good, reliable automobile and did not need to go out and spend – perhaps more than they could afford – just to keep up.

Buy to buy

Juxtapose that onto the world of martech. Companies very often “buy just to buy” without one thought of strategy, integration, etc. They also buy without one thought to training and not just initial training but ongoing training.

In case you were out one day last week, the world of martech is a highly fluid world where things change faster than it took you to read this sentence. Any investment in martech must include continuing education and training for employees from the martech provider themselves.

So, in retrospect, perhaps it is NOT all the Joneses fault. Perhaps it’s a combination of two things.

Yes, trying to keep with your neighbors – those pesky Joneses –  but also a failure of sorts to recognize the vital need to maximize investment, there simply must be a company-wide commitment to partner with your martech provider to ensure maximum ROI with instruction and guidance for those who use the martech in the first place: your employees.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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