I recently attended the Content Marketing Strategy Conference where a number of recognized speakers presented many points of view on the great shift that has taken place in marketing over the last few years.
Throughout the 2-day presentations, there was unchallenged consensus that marketing has now entered the “post advertising age”. And as a result, a significant shift has taken place where marketing to a target set of prospects has moved from a familiar PAID media paradigm to an emerging EARNED media paradigm. This shift has profound implications for brands and businesses targeting a segment for their products or services.
PAID Media: an old school model.
This traditional paradigm is well understood by marketers and has been defined by making significant investments to “buy” an audience as the default practice for the greater part of the last century (pre Facebook).
In simplistic terms, marketers have “purchased” a target segment through a proprietary media channel for a high CPM (cost per thousand) that included a pool of suspects—many of who may not be interested or receptive to a particular, highly-crafted and refined marketing message that was pushed to them with as much frequency as possible. The challenge with this practice has always been to reduce the amount of spending “waste” in the CPM to get the most efficient access to an audience possible.
In this scenario, marketers essentially “RENT” an audience to reach them with their message. And like renting anything, the prospect or new customer is only reachable as long as someone is willing to continually pay the price for the proprietary channel to deliver a message.
OWNED Media: welcome to publishing.
Owned media has become an extremely compelling, new model where through the reach of the Internet, significant effort and investment is made to continuously create “content” (articles, posts, white papers, videos, podcasts, images, graphics, etc.) that prospects will find relevant or valuable.
In this scenario, often described as Content Marketing, marketers enable prospects to self-select and identify themselves as potential purchasers considering a product or service. Here, brands must act much like publishers and media companies by leveraging the content they create through proven online delivery tools like blogs, wikis, forums, email, newsletters, social networks and web sites. Rating and ranking the viewing, commenting or sharing of content along with capturing prospect information is easily measured in real-time for improvement and refinement.
The result of this approach is that marketers engage in the process of building and steadily investing in optimized “assets”. In addition, all of their efforts are designed to grow a community of fans and followers which they can essentially OWN to reach and influence with other relevant content.
This process equates to making mortgage payments to ultimately own a property with measurable, tangible value over time. Organic growth is furthered through the process of optimizing all content for search (SEO). For that is how content is available on demand, whenever and wherever a prospect chooses to find it—on whatever device—by simply making a query into a browser search box.
EARNED Media: an aspirational destination.
Earned media is now the aspirational goal of many marketers. Here, the goal is to outsource marketing to prospects and customers where they disseminate content created by others that they think their fellow community members will find useful, informative or entertaining.
This provides the opportunity for content to virally or exponentially spread if a target community finds that it has relevance or value. The challenge for marketers is to forego attempts to be a predictor of knowing in advance what a community will find of value. Only by continually listening, creating, enabling content to be easily shared, testing and analyzing can success be achieved in determining what will cross over into this highly coveted reach mechanism.
Today, it is becoming more understood that people allocate the greatest credibility to content that their peers or community members have shared with others. And as recent research from Nielsen indicates, an impressive 92% of consumers surveyed around the world said they trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth or recommendations from friends and family much more than traditional advertising.
The take away from these findings, suggests that highly crafted marketing messages pushed at the highest volume and frequency by advertisers are increasingly likely to be ignored or dismissed.
Required components for Content Marketing success.
As Simon Kelly, COO of Story Worldwide, pointed out, success in this new world order of “Content Marketing” must begin with a “story” that is at the heart of a brand. It must be authentic, supportable and credible for brands to participate in this continuous narrative for generating awareness and leads while building enduring brand equity. And as many are finding, it is much easier said than done.
For any brand or business to succeed in this rapidly changing environment, the rigor and process of developing a clear brand positioning and value proposition that is relevant and compelling to a prospect is more important than ever.
These essential marketing disciplines provide a foundation for continuously creating content that everyone inside an organization can use as a benchmark for gauging the value of what’s published or created. Without these fundamentals in place, navigating a course through today’s fast-changing marketing landscape becomes exceeding difficult and can lead to less than satisfactory results.
And where are you?
How are you addressing the changed marketing landscape on Paid, Earned and Owned media? Please share.