Think “Owned, Earned, Paid”

For marketers who want to truly leverage today’s new media, paid marketing is actually the least desirable route to travel. A few years ago, an article published in the McKinsey Quarterly changed the way that we view marketing efforts. Now, instead of simply acknowledging paid media, such as newspaper ads and billboards, savvy business owners also consider two other areas: owned media and earned media.

Before the Internet and the era of the informed customer, marketers focused on producing effective paid media. But paid media doesn’t always reach today’s informed, impatient customers. In fact, the ROI of paid media continues to decline, as evidenced by the following statistics:

  • In a recent BIA/Kelsey survey, only 25.7% of respondents were pleased with the ROI of newspaper campaigns.
  • Recent research by Accenture showed that 82% of TV ads generate negative ROI.
  • Data from Nielsen and Kantar Media indicated that TV ads are typically seen by only 20% of their targeted audiences.

Simply put, “interrupting” your customer through paid media just doesn’t cut it anymore. The time has come to diversify your marketing. To create an effective marketing plan in the age of new media, you need to consider and leverage three distinct categories to build and enhance your company’s brand:

  • Owned media. These channels are the extensions of your brand that you control, including your company’s website, Twitter account, Facebook page, LinkedIn page, and so forth. By filling these channels with quality content, such as emails, blog posts, white papers, and eBooks, your company can gain credibility and foster long-term relationships with its audience. This makes owned media the best investment for achieving long-term results. In today’s climate, customers use the Internet and social media to perform their research and to interact with your brand well before you interrupt them with your message on paid media. As noted in prior tips, the customer is in control of when the conversation begins and where it takes place, but through the careful curation of owned media, you can at least control what that conversation is about.
  • Earned media. This is the publicity and word-of-mouth attention that your company earns when its content is shared by customers, the press, and the public. If you produce quality content, you will earn the respect of your prospects and customers and turn them into brand advocates. This process can take on a viral life of its own, especially when the power of word of mouth kicks into gear. Earned media can become a viral marketing campaign, such as the recent Dove Men+Care videos that millions of people around the world shared on social media. But earned media also can be as simple as somebody liking one of your Facebook posts or retweeting one of your Tweets. These are all indications that your company has earned people’s trust and excitement so that they want to share with other people their enthusiasm about your brand.
  • Paid media. These channels are the traditional third-party ones, such as television, radio, and print ads, as well as newer options, such as Google pay per click (PPC), digital display ads, and ads on social networks. Paid media channels still are important in marketing, but they should be used only in conjunction with owned media and earned media channels. In today’s world, paid media not only is the most expensive channel (as evidenced by its name), but it also has the most short-term effect. One might even go so far as to say that paid media is the laziest option, especially when a company’s marketing efforts begin and end there. Make all three of these types of media a part of your marketing mix, and they will work together to deliver better-than-average results.


Paid media often seems like the direct, easy fix. However, owned media and earned media have been shown to provide higher conversion rates, at lower cost, for a longer period of time.

Consider these statistics from an international survey by Nielsen:

  • Owned media channels also have high trust rankings: a 58% ranking for branded websites and a 50% ranking for permissionbased emails.
  • Paid media, by comparison, has much lower trust rankings: a 33% ranking for display ads for mobile phones and a 36% ranking for ads on social networks.

Clearly, organizations need to focus more on owned media and earned media than on paid media. The explosion of owned and earned channels provides new opportunities that are worth the extra effort of marketing departments that are willing and passionate enough to create relevant, interesting content and assets that strengthen brand connections rather than trying to ‘sell’ the customer.


Think about your marketing team. What are they doing every day? Are they developing owned assets (including content) that are relevant and provide value to your company’s target audience? Are there systems in place to vet that content before it is released? Or is your team relying too much on paid media for lead generation? If so, come up with a plan to gradually wean your company away from paid media and toward owned media and earned media. Consider putting 20% of next year’s marketing budget toward owned media in which your company can demonstrate its knowledge and expertise and position itself as a thought leader worth following for the long term. Remember that to generate earned media, your company’s owned media must be worth sharing. And let’s not go to extremes by removing paid media from your vocabulary altogether. You can still use paid media, but make sure to review the performance of each media channel on a regular basis and make adjustments as necessary to make the most of your budget.