Own, bought & earned media evolves

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.

OBE evolves

OWN media.

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

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

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.

BURNED media

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.

TRADED media

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.

HUMAN media

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.

10 thoughts on “Own, bought & earned media evolves

  1. Jussi says:

    I loved OBE and it’s simplicity. New factors you brought up are crucial but (it could be because I’m an engineer by trait) the new model looks complicated. I say that with all due respect, of course, as I wasn’t the one who came up with the original OBE.

    In order to incorporate human factor OBE needs another dimension. We still have Own, Bought and Earned media on one axis but there’s also another one, with Human and Organizational labels on it. Each original media type has these two dimensions, if it needs to be elaborated.

    As I see it, buying and trading are similar functions, both being acts of exchange.

    Also, if you suck at customer support, you earn yourself a burning verdict. Your people, your organizational communication, your whatever can fail and, thus, the cleanup PR group you mentioned is needed. But in a way, it’s still “earned”. And even if, in some rare cases it’s not earned, your cleanup team is still ready.

    And thus ends the introduction of the brand new OBE/HO model. 🙂

  2. artojoensuu says:

    @Jussi, thanks for the comments. I like your thinking about including the organizational elements to this thread. The forementioned angle describes the setup of an organization that is needed to achieve specific tasks in a given moment. Your decisions about using OBE media has big organizational implications that many brands fail to recognize. As mentioned earlier, social media requires more time than money. Brands need to start seeing this distinction between time and money in order to succeed in this space and often it means also fundamentally changing structures of entire organizations. Less money is put on paid media and more on human media to manage communities as well as optimize the existing own media properties. However, i’m not sure if i would regard organizational as a media per se, thus still dropping it out from the actual list. Your media strategy should have implications to your organizational elements/structure/governance and especially social media related activities should have several stakeholders involved, again, depending on the strategic objectives of the company (for ex care, comms, marketing, hr etc)

    You are right in saying that additions to the OBE model bring complexity into the mix. However, the additional layers pinpoint 3 dimensions that impact the media decisions/prioritization of any given company. Here’s a few cents on that:

    The interesting angle with human media, is that the employees and spokespeople of a brand are actually a “media channel” for the company. With the emergence of social channels, the people of the company play an instrumental role in building the brand presence of a company across all media. I find it unbelievable that most companies outsource most of their consumer facing tasks (such as care and retail in particular). Many of these entities are seen as cost centers, when in reality a care channel can become a substantial market research as well as customer engagement platform.

    In terms of burned media, i agree that it comes under the earned media layer. However, i wanted to point out the “yin and yang” of the equation as there’s certain fusion points between these 2. Many organizations see earned media as an engagement activity that is usually driven through marketing. Burned media is the crisis management element that are handled by care and comms with the sole aim of damage control. What often fails to happen, is for organizations to see the correlations and the interdependencies between these 2. A brand “detractor” who is vocal about a bad brand experience is very likely to be just as passionate about the brands that he loves. Ideally, brands should aim at converting brand detractors into brand advocates. In essence, it’s about fixing your burned media, but not stopping there. It’s about engaging in conversations with your consumers and serving their social practices. This drives consumer advocacy, hence earning media.

    Lastly, traded media, while a function of exchange (as you mentioned) it’s still a fundamentally different type of media that organizations need to tackle. Partnerships, collaborations, api’s, feeds and media/ad networks are all outside the traditional bought media functions and need an elevated focus, hence the inclusion into the model.

    Cheers, Arto

    @Carl, thanks for the comment.

  3. Jussi Ruokomäki says:

    @Arto, I have to admit you’re light years ahead of me but let me clear my thinking a bit so that I don’t appear a total buffoon. My “organizational media” meant channels as newspapers (whether online or offline), special interest groups, institutes or such. So, basically you could have
    – own organizational media (e.g. own research institute),
    – bought organizational media (3rd party research), or
    – earned organizational media (inspired research).

    In a similar manner you own (e.g. employees), buy (bloggers) or earn human media (fans).

    But I guess I only tried to make the visualization prettier (in my engineerish way) whereas you had the real organizational implications in mind, making clear distinctions to current models of work a priority.

    Anyways, thanks for your elaborate answer. I’m learning quite a bit from you.

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