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Developing Content as a Strategic Asset

Many experts agree that an organization’s ability to perform well in the Information Age depends on its ability to use and disseminate knowledge effectively. In today’s media-saturated environment, that’s a challenging feat as consumers are exposed to thousands of brand messages every day across a multitude of channels.

As such, marketing’s job is a tough one. Organizations are forced to think about and develop content that reaches consumers in newer channels like social and mobile, while finding that delicate balance between driving sufficient brand awareness and giving consumers a vehicle to express their affinity for the brand.

This balancing act has forced many companies to think about the notion of how to effectively leverage earned, paid, shared, and owned content throughout the six stages of a customer’s purchase cycle, which includes “awareness,” “interest,” “consideration,”  “shop,” “purchase,” and “loyalty and repurchase.” The idea is to think about media planning and content planning in the context of a purchase funnel to ensure alignment of marketing tactics and to drive efficient use of resources.

Companies that have successfully designed, leveraged, and implemented campaigns that integrate elements of earned, paid, owned, and shared content and then have embedded them into the purchase funnel, are not only becoming innovative marketers, they are also content producers.

Burberry’s 2009 campaign “Art of the Trench,” for example, combined paid, shared, owned, and earned content to spur sales of its trench coats, promote brand awareness, and to elevate the conversation about the brand.

The company collaborated with the world’s leading photographers to take portraits of people wearing Burberry trench coats (paid and owned). Visitors to could leave comments about the images, hit “like” for each one, and share their favorites in their social networking sites (shared).  Additionally, Burberry encouraged visitors to upload pictures of themselves wearing the brand’s trench coats and the top 20 submissions were selected to appear on the site (earned). This content design reflected the essence of the Burberry brand and forced the company to think about content distribution across the social web.

Dolce & Gabbana also made valuable use of aligning owned, paid, shared, and earned media throughout its purchase funnel. In 2010, the luxury brand began leveraging social videos through its YouTube page that linked to its site to encourage purchases. By adding an ecommerce option to its YouTube page, the company more readily brings consumers to its site to buy the apparel and accessories that they just saw in a specific video. The video experience integrates elements of storytelling, promotions, and ecommerce through stylized platforms, presenting a high-fashion editorial in a social platform infused with ecommerce.

As Burberry and Dolce & Gabbana have demonstrated, companies can easily enhance their brand messaging, expand the scope of their brand’s reach, and ultimately increase sales by aligning their owned, shared, earned, and paid content along their customers’ purchase funnel.

Before jumping straight in to strategizing about developing campaigns that leverage combined content and media strategies, however, organizations must ensure the completion of five steps:

  1. Develop internal capabilities and resources around owned, shared, paid, and earned. Hire employees with the appropriate skill sets and experience around producing content for these four areas and across traditional and social channels.
  2. Enhance the database structure to dynamically tie the content to customers’ behavior in the purchase funnel. When customer data is dynamically linked to the six areas in the purchase funnel, marketing organizations can ensure that the right content will get to the right consumer, at the right time, and in the right media channel.
  3. Align marketing spend to media consumption. More people are spending time online, specifically on social sites. Ensure that marketing channel dollars match customers’ time spent in specific channels.
  4. Enhance measurement capabilities to measure the performance of different content and media types. To measure campaign effectiveness and to hold marketing accountable, identify KPIs and measure against them. Three metrics useful for the integrated paid, earned, shared, owned model include influencer sharing behavior, expanded reach to new audiences, and conversions.
  5. Invest in building a content ecosystem. Continuous investment in CRM, analytics, a media library, a digital rights management system, and an integrated supply chain will help to more easily develop, distribute, and manage content strategically to customers across multiple channels, and also to dynamically act on the resulting data.

As an increasing amount of consumers spend time in digital channels, and as even more consider unpaid media more credible than paid advertising, the concept of integrating earned, paid, owned, and shared content strategies will become more critical. This concept will impact how companies can effectively reach customers with their messaging, and ultimately affect sales. Therefore, treating content as a strategic asset is no longer “nice to have,” it’s a “must-do.”