Earned & Owned Media? Seriously?

There are a few marketing terms that I just do not believe should be used. I have written previously about Forrester’s CX, the term, Loyalty Marketing, as well as other concepts, but today I want to focus on “Earned Media.”

Earned media is defined as- any publicity you haven’t paid for that’s owned and created by a third party*.

This term, as it is defined on Hubspot, is just outright ridiculous. There isn’t a business alive that hasn’t paid for all forms of publicity.

Donna Summer said it best, “She works hard for the money.” Our time is worth money. And if we work hard and indeed earn the honor of an existing customer referring our brand to someone else, the experience is not a bonus, it is a reward.

I pick on Hubspot a lot because, frankly, I don’t agree with much of what they write. And with the concept of earned media, there is no exception. On their site, they state, “Owned media means the channels your brand controls, such as your website, mobile site, blog, email, and social channels*.”

OK. No argument here. You indeed own these forms of media. I don’t really understand why this needs its own name or how it is relevant (‘Owned media’- it sounds important…it isn’t. It’s just the tools you use/own to promote your brand). As marketers, we need to stop obsessing over the methods of delivering a brand’s message and instead, focus on the substance of the story we are telling. We need to stop creating these nonsense terms, which are nothing more than a distraction.

It was through the interacting with this ‘owned media’ that you earned a sale from a customer. And it is only as a result of these efforts that they are now recommending you to others. Yes, you earned this- no argument here…but to state it was for free? Come on.

Every touchpoint on the buyer’s journey is somehow tied together. Financial terms such as, “Lifetime Value” (LTV) or “Cost per Acquisition” (CPA)- these terms exist for a reason and they account for the expense of earning any new customer. Be it the website development, management, hosting, inbound call center, electricity for your server- it cost you money to earn each sale.

Finally, Hubspot continues by stating, “The key to understanding the difference between the three is this: Unlike paid and owned media, earned media isn’t controlled by brands, which makes it less biased and more trusted*.”

This is staggeringly misguided. EVERYTHING is controlled by a brand. No, I can’t keep someone from Photoshopping themselves onto the beach of my resort, but I truly don’t think that’s what they mean here. Costco’s free sampling program is one of the most successful marketing initiatives to have ever existed. By my sharing with others how much I enjoy eating free pizza on Sunday’s at their warehouses, I am only further promoting the message Costco has worked very hard to develop and execute.

“Owned Media” or “Earned Media”- the fact is, we pay for all of it. And focusing on how dollars accrue across the entire customer journey is the most effective way of understanding your expenses and ROI potential.


Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Brian Riback’s story.