Tech PR’s tug of war: The battle of brand vs. product

by | Dec 20, 2021 | Public Relations

Every company has a technology story. That’s a given, especially when tech underlies all that we do—from the ways we work to what we eat to how we communicate, learn and give back. Whether by circumstance or intention, tech is now our societal, emotional and operational backbone.

Unsurprisingly, this year presented tremendous opportunities. But it’s also been a time of great introspection for global tech brands.

When it comes to storytelling, we’ll remember 2021 as synonymous with purpose, brand and authenticity. More than ever, B2B and consumer tech brands are in the global spotlight—one that requires them to amplify not just their latest gadgets or services, but also to showcase how they, like consumer brands over the past few years, eat, breathe and sleep an authentic brand and hold true to a greater brand mission and purpose. After all, the C-suite, customers, partners, investors and employees expect, if not demand, an evolution in how tech brands tell their stories.

The truth is—evolution puts tech PR in a tough spot

In an age where headlines scream “Tech PR is Dead” and “The Brand Purpose Debate: Is the Pendulum Swinging Too Hard?”, tech PR pros are pulled in two directions. Should you talk tech and prioritize products to capture audience mindshare and drive sales? Or do you lean into the times and heavily invest in a brand-first approach, focusing PR on company values, mission and authenticity to connect with customers and partners? Depending on whom you ask, what you sell (and to whom) and where you work, the answers are clear as mud.

Welcome to Technology PR’s Tug of War: The Battle of Brand vs. Product—Allison+Partners’ global tech report. We asked more than 1,000 technology marketing and PR decision-makers globally the modern-day chicken and the egg, which comes first: the product or the brand?

Survey says…

1. Tech marcom pros crave brand-led stories

Seventy-seven percent of tech marketing, branding and communications decision-makers worldwide—and across industries—believe in the power of authentic, brand-first storytelling to showcase a company’s value, purpose and mission. Even more (88 percent) believe their C-suite understands the value. But here’s the kicker: Only 58 percent of respondents say their company truly prioritizes brand-focused campaigns, admitting to internal challenges standing in the way.

Tech PR’s tug of war: The battle of brand vs. product 

2. Is the belief in brand one-size-fits-all? No.

B2B decision-makers are more likely than their consumer tech counterparts to believe focusing on the values, ethics and mission of the company beyond the product lines is important when telling authentic stories about a brand.

Tech PR’s tug of war: The battle of brand vs. product 

3. Is the customer always right? That’s up for debate.

Seventy-two percent say their customers make more purchasing decisions based on the overall strength of the brand, its mission and its values than they did three years ago. And yet, brand-led storylines fall to the back burner when sales gets involved.

4. Globally, communicators are (pun intended) all over the map when it comes to PR priorities

Only 13 percent of marketing decision-makers at international tech companies strongly believe their employer tells a consistent, brand-first story across all relevant markets. In fact, lack of alignment, exposure to unnecessary risk, channel inconsistency and more challenge 97 percent of tech marcom pros, who’d otherwise double down on a more authentic storytelling approach.

5. CMOs and Directors don’t always agree

Although CMOs (27 percent) are most likely to agree consistency was lacking across their local markets, 61 percent of director and manager-level marketers felt otherwise, pointing to major disparities between the orchestrators and creators of the message and those on the frontlines.

So, going back to that classic product vs. brand conundrum…how do tech PR pros drop the rope and end the tug of war? The answer lies in the balance. Check out Allison+Partners’ global report to learn more.

Karyn Barr and Jordan Fischler
Karyn Barr and Jordan Fischler are Partners at Allison+Partners.