Maximizing Paid, Owned, and Earned Media to Create Your Most Powerful Digital Marketing Mix to Date


The thing about any kind of marketing campaign is that it’s double-edged. Get them right and your brand unlocks its potential to surpass competitors in ways they didn’t even realize existed. But get them wrong, and you’re left with losses, unsatisfied customers, and—marketing gods forbid—a bad rap.

Digital marketing is a tricky world to tread, so what are some of the ways you can zero in on the right moves and avoid experimenting with the wrong ones?

To start, it’s a must that you learn the ins and outs of digital marketing channels. Digital marketing channels are the platforms available for a brand to use to reach their target audience. These channels are used for a variety of purposes, but are most commonly utilized to share information about products and services, retain existing customers, attract new leads, and, of course, make sales.

Digital marketing channels are categorized into three big baskets: paid, owned, and earned media. Though each is unique and individually contributes to a digital marketing mix, brands with successful marketing campaigns have found a potent formula that combines the strengths of all three.

A digital marketing mix that blends paid, owned, and earned media is the goal because it covers all the bases; your brand essentially gets to leverage on media created and customized especially for you (often media that you spend for), while also reaping the benefits of your target audience’s positive reception of this kind of media (often media that is free—think word of mouth, constructive social proof, virality, influencer-backed publicity, and organic social media posts from customers).

Understand the pros and cons of paid, owned, and earned media below.

Paid Media

It’s helpful to understand paid media as the building block of owned and earned media. It gets the ball rolling by making your brand more visible on relevant online platforms and is likely to be the first touchpoint between customers and your products and services.

Paid media might be what you initially associate with digital marketing. It usually comes in the form of sponsored ads and posts (YouTube ads, as well as branded content on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds, are classic examples of this). On search engines, you might also see that the links at the top of search results pages are paid ads. Pop-up ads and display ads on websites are covered by paid media as well. Certainly, any kind of media that a brand spends money on for the purpose of promoting itself falls under the paid media category.

The biggest benefit of paid media is that it can be designed to be as specific, or as broad, as brands need it to be. They can focus on appealing to existing customers with more targeted content, but they can also expand their scope by enticing brand new customers. Making the most of paid search or paid social digital marketing tools allows brands to easily adjust who it is their paid media is speaking to.

Paid media is straightforward and is used to achieve the basics: setting up brand awareness and improving brand recall, widening reach within your target audience to reach new customers, and increasing sales. But because its utility ends here, it’s also rather limited. It offers little to no value to brands that have more advanced KPIs.

Owned Media

While owned media is also a form of media brands initially spend money on, there is a clear difference between owned and paid media. The keyword here is “initial” spending because owned media, once established, becomes inexpensive and is often free.

Websites and blogs, customized email marketing, your own apps, and other online properties that are developed from scratch for the use of one brand are prime examples of owned media. So, while this owned media requires brands to make financial investments in the beginning, churning out content on these platforms costs little to no money in the long-run.

Why it’s important to have owned media in your digital marketing mix is simple: brands have more control over the appearance and features of owned media. It sets you apart from the crowd and is the best way to communicate your brand’s personality and competitive advantages. If paid media is used to get customers’ attention, owned media gets them to sit and stay for the whole ride.

Ultimately, paid media helps brands achieve bigger goals such as building long-term relationships with customers and improving the customer life cycle.

Earned Media

Finally, there’s earned media.

Earned media has become a sort of gold standard for successful marketing campaigns because it’s what happens when you have well-executed paid and owned media.

Earned media is all about going viral and getting everyone commenting on and reacting to your content. It’s when your customers are doing all the marketing for you, showing their family and friends why they’re such a fan of your products and services. Influencers publicly backing up your brand and adding credibility to it, positive reviews, organic searches and shares, and third-party web pages mentioning you or redirecting their own customers back to you are all part of earned media.

The most desirable results of having a lot of earned media are the solid trust and loyalty it brings to your brand. When everyone is raving about you and scrambling to learn more about you and get a hold of what you sell, you haven’t just outdone your competitors in terms of profitability; you’ve also become everyone’s go-to choice in the industry, a move which may slowly eat up competitors’ market shares and ease them out of the picture eventually.

Converged Media

But wait—there’s more.

Recall what we talked about using all three of these media together. Visualize this example to be able to grasp that idea better.

A brand may begin with a paid Facebook post. It’s cute, it’s witty, and it’s very entertaining. It shows up on the feed of an A-list celebrity who is encouraged to learn more about your brand. Your paid Facebook post leads them to your website where they find exactly what they’re looking for. They receive your products in the mail, and voila; it works wonders, they love it, and they can’t wait to make a repeat purchase.

On their Instagram account, they post an IG story of them using your product and demonstrating all the features they love. Their fans go crazy and soon after, you’re dealing with hundreds of orders from new customers, and they, in turn, post on their own Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts about their new favorite brand.

The closely studied domino effect of paid, owned, and earned media is called converged media, and this is what every brand should aspire to own.

A brand can go so far as using only paid, owned, or earned media in their digital marketing mix. To go beyond survival and accomplish some serious thriving and growth, it’s all-important to be able to use all three to your advantage.

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