WE TALK A LOT ABOUT
MEDIA THESE DAYS.
It is a truth universally acknowledged—if not fully understood—that the most
interesting advertising medium around today is people talking.
People talking is what we really mean when we say “social media.” We can
now “talk” to our friends, family, colleagues and business contacts—through
social networks and ever-evolving technologies—in ways that dramatically
broaden the reach and authenticity of brand and product messages,
changing marketing forever.
But when we say “social media” we’re framing the conversation in the wrong
way. We are so focused on all the ways that people can talk—the channels,
the technologies, the networks—that we neglect to focus as much as we
should about why people talk in the first place.
2010: THE YEAR OF EXPERIENCE BRANDS /2
WE SHOULD BE TALKING
ABOUT OWNED MEDIA.
We believe that instead of talking about social media we should be talking
about paid, earned and—most important of all—owned media. We think
that owned media at its best inspires people to talk, and that smart brands—
experience brands—are putting greater emphasis than ever before not on
social media, but on owned media.
That’s what this article is about. Hope you enjoy it, and please
share your feedback.
SVP, Director of Brand Marketing
(If you’d like a definition of what an experience brand is,
check out our earlier articles.)
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“Owned media” is typically defined as one part of a media trinity comprising
paid media, earned media and owned media.
If you asked most people, paid media is advertising; earned media is PR;
and owned media… well, that’s all that other stuff, right?
Sean Corcoran of Forrester does a great job of defining these three media
types, largely around the extent to which the brand controls the channel used
to deliver a message:
• Owned media:
delivered from a company to consumers through channels controlled by
• Paid media:
delivered from a company to consumers by paying to leverage a channel
not controlled by the company
• Earned media:
passed between consumers as a result of an experience with brand 1
Sean Corcoran, “No Media Should Stand Alone,” Forrester online white paper (December 2009). 2010: THE YEAR OF EXPERIENCE BRANDS /5
OWNED MEDIA IS AN
WANT TO SHARE.
I like the definition provided by Bob Greenberg and Barry Wacksman in
a recent Adweek article:
“When a brand creates its own media properties that consumers
use over and over again, such as a popular video on YouTube
or a popular digital platform like Nike+, this is ‘owned’ media.
When consumers share these media properties with each other—
as when one person passes along a viral link to another, or blogs
or tweets about a brand, or ‘likes’ a brand on Facebook—this
is ‘earned’ media.” 2
According to this definition, “owned media” is a story or experience that’s
created by the brand, and “earned media” is when people recommend
and share that same experience with others.
Bob Greenberg and Barry Wacksman, “The Shrinking Pie: How digital has changed mass media’s investment model,” 2010: THE YEAR OF EXPERIENCE BRANDS /6
Adweek (June 21, 2010).
IT TO SHARE IT
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What’s important about owned media isn’t what it looks like or the form it
takes. What’s important is how it’s used—to create a brand experience that is
so inspiring it’s shared with others.
According to this definition, owned media could be something you see on
YouTube—or it could be customer service that’s so great you tell others about it.
And so an owned media Hall of Fame could include a pretty diverse spectrum
of experiences: Old Spice Guy… Best Buy’s Twelpforce… How Ace Hotels
engage their guests… Samsung’s surprise concert in Times Square… And
so many more examples of great brands creating distinctive experiences on
platforms they control, that then create buzz that spreads across other channels.
SO GREAT YOU
2010: THE YEAR OF EXPERIENCE BRANDS /8
The point is, if you create something special, people will talk about it—and
so, simply put, owned media begets earned media.
It’s really important to note that this isn’t about a takeover or palace coup:
owned media isn’t replacing anything. Owned media is inextricably part of
that media trinity of owned, paid and earned media, and it’s more effective
the better it is thought through and integrated with them. It’s simply becoming
So what are some of the differences and relative advantages of each?
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NEW WAYS OF LOOKING AT OWNED,
PAID AND EARNED MEDIA
What How Examples Benefits Challenges
OWNED Owned/controlled by • Customer service • Control • Can be hard to build scale
MEDIA • Physical environment • Delivers brand
• Proprietary events
• Retail footprint
• Brand storytelling/
PAID Brand pays to leverage • Advertising • Scale • High cost
MEDIA • Paid search • Perceived inauthenticity
• Seeded viral • Fragmentation/
• Sponsored events
EARNED People are the channel • Grassroots • Perceived • No control
MEDIA • PR
authenticity • Hard to measure
• Insight to market • Potential negative
• Social media
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OWNED MEDIA HAS SOME
There are two clear advantages to owned media:
Done right, owned media is not just the ultimate storytelling platform—it’s
a great story. And it’s one where the stage, scenery, characters, costumes,
everything has been orchestrated by the brand to position that story in the
Ultimately, it’s a better way to ensure that the experience delivers on the
brand promise, because the brand literally controls the media. That is a
significant advantage over earned media in which people are the channel
in the strictest sense. (Marketers love to be hip to every new trend, but I
have a suspicion that secretly they’re more nervous than they let on about
relinquishing too much control in the brave new world of social media.)
2. Cost THE UPFRONT
With owned media, you pay primarily to create content—and you might INVESTMENT IS
pay more to create something truly noteworthy that will engage people and
inspire them to reach others. But you’re not paying for the media, because IN CONTENT.
you already own it. THE PAYOFF
The big potential is in investing in truly differentiating owned media, such COMES IN
as customer service so great people talk about it, or a retail experience so SAVINGS AND
unique people come to you because of it. That may require a bigger upfront
investment, but the payoff is huge. Ultimately, overall costs will be lower—
and owned media (proprietary events, for example) can actually be
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EXPERIENCE BRANDS BELIEVE
IN OWNED MEDIA.
Based on the relative advantages of owned media, earned media and paid
media, brands will, inevitably, adjust their priorities. This is most true of
experience brands, which we see at the forefront of elevating the importance
of owned media in their brand planning and strategy.
Given their emphasis on the experience around their products and services,
it’s a natural fit that experience brands would elevate owned media.
This does not mean that paid media will go away—far from it. Paid media
(whether paid search or a Superbowl ad) is the fastest way to build scale
and generate greater brand exposure.
It does mean that more emphasis will be placed on owned media.
If there’s any lesson we would draw from media fragmentation and consumer
control, it’s that exposure isn’t guaranteed by paid media—and certainly
not engagement. And if there’s anything we’ve learned from living admidst
Twitter and YouTube, it’s that viral success can be sublime but is still
So we see experience brands investing in owned media—which, done right,
provides both engagement and exposure, but with a critical focus on delivering
the brand promise at its core.
And that’s a shift we welcome and are excited about helping our clients achieve.
2010: THE YEAR OF EXPERIENCE BRANDS /13
SHARE THIS EXPERIENCE
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For more information, contact Liz Bigham at
email@example.com or 212-401-7212.
2010: THE YEAR OF EXPERIENCE BRANDS /14