Can You Reach This Target With Only Earned Media?
With the popularity of Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other forms of social media, it is very tempting for brands to believe that it possible to achieve a successful marketing campaign by using earned media alone.
Specifically with Gen Y, there is a common belief that once they "like" your brand, they will spread your word and, therefore, paid media can become a lesser part of the marketing mix. In reality, it is only on rare occasions, with the rare brand, that an earned media campaign can be successful on its own -- and even then, it will only be successful for a short time.
Pepsi, for example, is one of the largest risk takers in social media and has launched significant earned media initiatives targeted at Gen Y. Pepsi has been extraordinarily bold in putting its brands in consumers' hands and has done so with both great accomplishments as well as failures.
One of its most recent successes is the Pepsi Refresh campaign. Instead of putting paid media dollars behind splashy Super Bowl ads and traditional paid media, the money was spent to "refresh the world" with a viral contest that contributes funds to people's ideas and causes. This creative earned media event had a lasting effect in the media marketplace, helped Pepsi foster trust with its consumers and tied it deeper to its brand identity.
Clearly, this was an earned media victory, but it is important to recognize that paid media was a major force in the campaign's success and a key driver in building awareness of the initiative.
With more and more brands seeking to reach the social consumer, it'll become increasingly harder for marketers to break through the noise and clutter -- thus making a paid media campaign even more essential. Take online video for instance. A few short years ago, a smart, sexy or funny video could quickly go viral.
Today, there is such a high volume of video content available that it is now rare to see a breakthrough video go viral. There is simply too much for the consumer to look at and brands are now realizing that paid video distribution is a necessity for viewership. This same type of thinking needs to be applied to the concept of all earned media, not just video.
Lastly, when putting together an earned media campaign that is supported by paid media, the question of measurement must be addressed. What does success look like? What is the cost of success and are the metrics the same for both the earned campaign and the paid campaign? These are not easy questions to answer and, certainly, the answer will be different for every experience.
Because this space is so new and initiatives are so unique to each brand, the metrics for success will vary. However, the first step is to define the desired objectives for each program and how much risk you are willing to accept. From there, you need to select specific editorially aligned outlets and publishers to partner with and allow them to help set expectations, leveraging their knowledge of their audience base.
Be open with them about what you are trying to achieve and the creative you plan to put forth. The more information you provide them, the more they should be able to help you develop realistic goals and measurements for success -- on both the paid and the earned side.
Putting your brand in the hands of Gen Y can be risky, but if you believe in your product or service and stay true to your ideals, an integrated earned and paid media campaign can result in a revolutionary brand experience coupled with measureable success.