Brands are rightly chasing their share of "earned" media in the social haze, but why are so many ignoring all the "owned" media that's available to them for free? There are countless touch points that you control where you are interacting with customers and prospects, and you have the opportunity to add voice to your brand and inject yourself into their experience in ways that can be memorable, fun and distinct. Just as importantly, if done well, these owned opportunities have the added benefit of fueling those social media conversations everyone is striving to create.
Perhaps you need to start thinking of yourself as a media baron and your business as your media empire. Maybe then you'll start to look at how to maximize the assets that surround you and transform them into engaging platforms for communicating with your audience.
Does your business have elevator doors? Why not wrap them with an appropriate message or image. And why stop at the doors? Maybe you want to turn the whole cab into something memorable. Like the inside of your spa or feeling like you're in the ocean.
Have a parking lot? Who says all the lines have to be yellow or white? And why can't there be clever signage and areas that acknowledge "smart guests" park here.
Do not disturb sign? Fertile ground for something fun and imaginative. In fact, for years I kept the one I lifted from the Méridien in New York that it created at the height of the "Sopranos" popularity. It simply said, "Fuhgeddaboudit."
Vending machines? Surely the legend of the Mondrian South Beach stocking designer baubles in self-service devices should fuel your own imagination and take you to a place well beyond snacks and sodas.
What are you doing with that promotional channel on the TV? Why not take user-generated content and get others to share their stories about your brand. Or up the ante, as the Ace Hotel in New York has done with a video on-demand channel that will feature a series of independent films shot at the hotel as part of a special partnership.
Driver bringing that car around from the valet? How about having the valet hang something cool from the rear-view mirror when the car is returned (maybe even an offer to come back)?
Bulky wine lists and static menus? Passé. How about an iPad that can bring the menu to life with video descriptions from the chef? In fact, Bone's steakhouse in Atlanta saw wine sales jump 11% when it brought Robert Parker's reviews and other information to life on this bit of handheld medium.
Got trucks or planes or anything big that travels past consumer eyeballs? Surely, you've wrapped it in something catchy and memorable that makes it a rolling billboard. Think of the excitement when you (or your kids) first saw Shamu masquerading as a Southwest jet.
Minibars? What about a kid's version or one for teenagers? And let's be sure you've got someone carefully curating the selection so that it's something people will talk about and remember (and hopefully even buy).
See those stairs? Surely the kick plates could be home to some fun message in step with your guests and their surroundings.
Confirmation notices? It's time for something interesting.
On-hold messages? There's got to be something better than what we're subjecting people to now.
Look around you in both the physical and virtual worlds and map out the customer's journey with your brand -- from researching, to booking, to staying, to post-stay -- and you'll find dozens and dozens more of these "owned" opportunities.
And, it's not about slapping your name or logo on things, but rather looking at where (and how) you can innovate and creatively talk to your customers, bring your brand to life in authentic and believable ways and enhance the guest experience.
In a world in which the cost of media escalates annually, there's no reason not to be investing in the media you already own.