Jon M. Huntsman School of Business

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Paid, owned and earned media: The new marketing model

Eric Schulz
The brand media management models most national advertisers and many larger and more sophisticated local clients are adopting have evolved rapidly over the past few years.  No longer is media planning compartmentalized into the traditional buckets of Print, Electronic Media (TV & Radio), and Out-of-Home.   The new model is Paid, Owned, and Earned Media.  Many brands are now becoming their own media companies in effect (especially national clients), and how they will use both traditional media and social media in this new model is changing.

Marketing managers and CEO’s are all jumping on the bandwagon of social media.  Why?  It’s free.  They think if they set up a Facebook page and hire a couple young kids to Tweet for them, they can cut a million or two from the advertising budget.  But they are now learning it’s not quite that simple.  There is angst in ad land over the complexity of media.   Ad planners wring their hands, bemoaning the proliferation of media channels and the unpredictable ways in which “consumers” jump from TV to Facebook to text messages to Google to Foursquare to iPods…and so on.
 Out of the chaos in the media world and the complexity of infinite digital channels, a new way of looking at media is emerging that is simple, useful and strategic: 
Paid jumpstarts owned.
Owned sustains earned.
There are a plethora of benefits to approaching media this way; the most important are these two:
1. No matter what new media channels the geniuses invent tomorrow, this logical set of strategic categories doesn’t change; and
2. The end result of using media this way is the creation of a permanent marketplace advantage for a business: Total cost of marketing ultimately goes way down because expensive media buys are less necessary.   Credibility goes way up because ordinary people are talking up the brand to their friends and online connections, which have a far greater impact on purchase behavior than anything a brand could ever do or say on its own.
Roughly eight years ago, it became clear that traditional media (outdoor, newspapers, magazines, TV, music and so on) and traditional advertising tools (billboards, TV spots, print ads, radio spots and so on) were on a collision course. For example, in the television world, new technology - Digital Video Recorders (DVR’s) - began passing control over advertising from the media companies to the audience. The day is rapidly approaching when no one can force people to watch ads. So the ads have to go away or become something else.
 It has become accepted that advertising needs to add value to people’s lives or it will be ignored.  It has to be useful and valuable, entertaining or informative or both. Everyone supposedly began to understand, in other words, that brands have to be media companies, but almost no one knew how to do that or what it really might mean.  A terrific example of this is the recent SmartWater social media campaign, begun by posting a video entitled “Jennifer Aniston Sex Tape”.  If you are going to generate some viral marketing interest, that’s a great way to do so.  The video is funny, informative, and entertaining, and since its debut on March 7, has received over 9.7 million online views.  SmartWater is very smart.
 FIRST, PAID MEDIA: It’s any form of media where brands pay the media owner to insert the brand’s message. Central to this exchange is the idea that the media owner has gathered an audience that the brand wants to address. That’s why the brand is willing to pay.
Examples of paid, include TV spots, print ads, billboards, paid search, online banners, promoted tweets and so on.
The truth about paid media: Paid media works, but only so long as the money spigot is turned on and gushing. Stop spending and paid media stops working with little or no residual benefit. Put another way, the meter is always running and no matter how far you ride, you never own the taxi. 
One exception to this is embedded paid media.  Chevrolet for example has embedded its cars into the new “Hawaii Five-O” series and in the “Transformers” movies, with virtually every vehicle shown in each episode a Chevrolet.  These episodes will have a long shelf-life with online viewing and television reruns / syndication, which could extend the reach of this paid media for years.
NEXT, OWNED MEDIA: Owned media is real, engaging media that is created and owned by a brand. That sounds simple enough, but it requires great skill to execute. Brands now create and own all kinds of media. First and foremost is their website, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and blogs.  But for many larger brands with deeper pockets, it can also include Films, TV shows, webisodes, magazines, books and so on. Owned media is what everyone is talking about when they say, “Brands must be media companies.”
The truth about owned media: It is relatively expensive to create great content, but when the spending is over the media can keep working indefinitely. In the case of owned media, the brand’s spending is really investing; the brand is creating a valuable asset with a more or less unlimited useful life.   Audience generation usually requires paid media to get it started, especially if anyone’s in a hurry to get noticed, which everyone usually is.
FINALLY, EARNED MEDIA: Earned media is positive brand messaging that’s produced and spread by unpaid (at least not paid by the advertiser) influencers. This group includes bloggers and tweeters, journalists and media reporters, Facebook updaters. Anyone large or small, amateur or professional, who finds your brand content worth sharing with others, is creating earned media. Earned media is routinely focused on spreading content that an advertiser created (see “Owned Media” above).  
This makes owned media the center of all attention because it is or should be the object of paid media and the subject of earned media. The purest variety of earned media, of course, involves content that is both created and spread by brand advocates on their own – think Diet Coke and Mentos for example.
The truth about earned media: Earned media, when it happens, is the best form of advertising on Earth. Not only does it spread brand messages at no additional cost, it also carries more credibility and has greater impact on purchase decisions (according to global survey evidence from Nielsen) than anything the brand can ever say about itself.  But it is impossible to control and very hard to generate completely free marketing from a brand’s fans. Generally, you need a paid campaign to get it going and owned media to keep it going.
Paid media, more and more, is all about generating an audience for owned media. Paid’s greatest virtue is that it gets attention and it’s fast. But it works best if it’s getting attention for something specific–if it’s pointing people to a piece of content that can deepen their knowledge, understanding and emotional connection to the advertiser’s brand. So the first new rule of paid–whether it’s a billboard, TV spot or banner ad or search–is that it should point to a really good, genuinely engaging, audience-pleasing piece of content.
Owned media is about telling the brand’s story in great depth and infinite variety. This is the kind of media that connects the advertiser’s brand to the audience’s lives. Like all great media, it’s got to be deeply engaging, informative, entertaining.  But that’s just table stakes in the owned media game, because the content also must embody the brand and accomplish the brand’s business goals.  Fueled by a smart paid campaign to generate audience, owned media needs to be search optimized so it’s easily findable and it must be spread across digital and traditional channels where its audience spends time.  When all this is done properly, there is nothing more powerful than owned media, which has the unique ability to gather and grow communities of brand fans.
It used to be that owned media was pretty much restricted to a brand’s web site. In today’s world of distributed digital content, owned media needs to be strategically spread all over the internet on the digital and traditional channels where its intended audience is most like to encounter it.
Advertisers looking for earned media have only one choice: a really well executed owned media strategy. Owned media, deployed so it is easily shared and commented on.
Paid, owned and earned–the present and future structure of media–only work together in integrated, content-focused programs.

Eric D Schulz

Eric D Schulz is a senior lecturer and co-director  strategic marketing and brand management at the Jon M Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University.  He is a brand marketing expert and the author of The Marketing Game, How The World’s Best Companies Play to Win, a book that has sold more than 250,000 copies worldwide.  Follow him on FACEBOOK at The Brand Cop and on Twitter @thebrandcop.

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