The definition “own, bought and earned media” has become a popular description for the different media “types” that brands operate in as well as deal with. This terminology originated from within Nokia and quickly started to pick up pace across the industry. It did a great job in illustrating the emergence and importance of brand properties that resided within as well as outside the control of the company. This form of thinking has large implications on how brands need to revisit their media mix as well as their overall planning and budgeting logic.
As the digital landscape continues to shape the way consumers and brands interact, a further evolution of this “media trinity” might be welcomed. Own/Bought/Earned (OBE) gives a good overview, but there are a few dimensions that perhaps need to be called out more prominently in order to bring a holistic view to the picture. McKinsley recently took a stab at this by introducing “sold” & “hijacked” media into the mix. I’ve been working on something similar during the last few years, with one important additional “enabler dimension” i think the McKinsey model fails to point out. Human.
Own media is the foundation of any brand. One could say that it consists of all the outlets a brand has in its control. These extend across multiple online properties, (both fixed and mobile) as well as different functional presences related to care, sales, comms/pr, marketing as well as human resources. In addition to digital channels, own media extends to physical spaces such as retail and care outlets as well as the product a brand itself is selling.
Bought media is quite self explanatory and consists of the presences/visibility a brand acquires through monetary exchanges with the media owners. These range across digital and physical spaces and are unified by the same principle: a brand pays (or bids) for having their product or marketing message displayed across a particular advertising real estate.
Earned media is a consequence of what a brand does, not something that a brand can buy or control. It is fueled by consumer satisfaction and advocacy, thus becoming a powerful vehicle to those brands that have earned their space in their advocate’s hearts. The biggest misconception I often run into, is that many marketers interpret earned media as having a Facebook page. A Facebook presence is own media, just as their .com or .mobi corporate sites are. Earned media is unprompted and driven entirely by sources that are not controlled by the brand. Brands can facilitate the dissemination of content by creating social features to their own media as well as engaging in conversations with its customers, but in the end, earned media is an end result delivered by the customer.
Just as great brands strive on the earned customer advocacy, modern digital channels make it increasingly easier for consumers to voice their negative brand experiences. Burned media consists of consumers that are voicing their frustrations about a bad experience they have had with a brand. This is also a consequence of what a brand does, not something a brand can pay to avoid. In this light, it becomes increasingly important to have the care and PR teams involved in crafting overall engagement strategies as well as frameworks that enable brands to quickly react to negative WOM as well as proper empowerment that enables community managers and care agents to solve any issues that are emerging.
In today’s age of collaboration, it becomes more and more evident that brands cannot do everything on their own. Collaboration amongst brands is needed and healthy ecosystems encourage a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” mentality. Many brands fail to leverage the value of their own media and go out paying for media, when they could achieve more through clever partnerships where media is traded, or by allowing 3rd parties with no conflicting interests to buy real estate on the brands own web sites.
Perhaps the biggest media evolution we have witnessed in the past years, has been the shift from broadcast media to conversational media. Along this chain of thought, a fundamental piece must also evolve. Conversations cannot be automated, they need a human interface that can understand the human emotions as well as cultural contexts that a particular engagement unfolds around. The earned and burned media streams unfold around conversations that need human interpretation as well as interaction to solve. The media mix that a brand evaluates, needs to start taking the core asset of any company = the people, into account. In the past, media was paid. In today’s world, it’s a combination of time and money, controlled and non-controlled spaces as well as an industry that’s still trying to find the right balance for shifting budgets (and people) accordingly.
After a refreshing week at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, i find myself more motivated and energized than in a long time. John Maeda, the President of RISD gave a great presentation on creative leadership, while Tara Hunt shook some corporate foundations with the Whuffie factor ideology. In essence, my personal key take away from the conference was extremely liberating: we can be more human again. As crazy as it sounds, the information age has evolved heavily around information processing, where programs and computers are created to exercise calculations way too arduous for any human brain to complete day in and day out. This strong technology focus has and continues to be important, but we are also witnessing a pendulum shift towards utilizing the technology to be more human again. Being human is more about having conversations, collaborating and sharing. Social networks are enabling us to come together as tribes again, but simultaneously the same tribal rules apply: give love to get love. This is especially important for brands who wish to operate in this space.
Tribes work very similarly to a neighborhood. Different types of people come together to live their lives, have conversations, create relationships and make a living. A brand that wants to be a part of a neighborhood, needs to EARN their right to be there. Unfortunately, since the industrial revolution, brands have become accustomed to simply intruding the neighborhoods by bombarding their messages down consumers throats. It’s been easy for brands to do this, when you channel your advertising budgets through analog/one way media. The more you pay, the louder your microphone becomes. However, in the digital era, brands can’t replace time with money. Involvement in social media takes time and time is becoming the “new money” that companies need to see as their new working media.
Different brands can play different roles in the neighborhood, but it all comes down to bringing more value to the venue than what you take. Companies like Google are providing tools like their maps service, that allow other companies, communities and consumers to make use of their service in their own context. This has enabled Google to successfully expand their digital presence across the internet, as they are providing value in return for their service usage and visibility on other web properties. Other brands are using the Google API’s for creating marketing campaigns, mashing up their own services and recording their traveled journeys. Threadless on the other hand, is all about connecting people that share a passion for design and t-shirts. They have enabled an environment where you don’t only go to to buy nice t-shirts, but to submit designs and receive feedback from the community on how you could improve as an artist.
When i think about the 2 examples above, i think there’s some great references to brands being a part of a neighborhood. Google has provided the neighborhood with free electricity. The consumers can use the electricity as they please, while companies need to pay a small fee for it. Other brands can build more appliances that work with electricity and maybe each light bulb in the house has an ad that Google serves based on the type of household it is. (ok, maybe going a little too far there) Threadless on the other hand has built an art gallery that is open for anyone to submit their work and sell it. They have taken care of the facilities and even have a payment system in place. In both cases, the brands are being good neighbors by being enablers for the society and giving love to get love. These kinds of neighbors earn trust, respect and in the end, (yes, gotta say it), money.