A good content marketing strategy begins with good content; but that’s not where it ends. In the digital space, marketers found that they could share branded material through their social networks and engage with consumers without ever having to buy media. Instead, they spend their content budgets on stunning content; high-quality video, well-written whitepapers, and influential social networks; and then rely only on earned media to promote it to viewers. Sure, content does go viral—sometimes for no reason (i.e. Damn Daniel and Alex from Target, to name a few)—without paid media, but the mass majority does not, and that’s when campaigns suffer. Without targeted paid media, marketers are blindly casting a very small net. What marketers do after they produce their content is just as important as creating high-quality, relevant content for an audience to consume. What’s the point if no one finds it?
IAB Canada defines paid media as “the use of paid advertising channels to deliver a brand’s message and/or to drive traffic to owned or controlled properties.” Paid media used to mean traditional media, but in today’s marketplace, brands have a diverse palette of options to expand their reach. Depending on the brand strategy, marketers can use digital media such as display ads, paid search, email marketing and influencer marketing, as well as traditional media to attain reach, depending on the demographic. And the digital world keeps getting better. At Gaggi Media, we’ve seen paid native become so sophisticated as it develops to resonate with today’s consumer. Native ads fit seamlessly into content now, and will only improve as time passes and the digital consumer desires better user experience and less interruption.
Paid media allows marketers to broadcast brand messaging to new consumers outside their networks and extended circles. When marketers rely only on earned media to amplify their content, the brand message is only as strong as its networks. Reaching target consumers becomes a challenge if the target consumer is not within a few degrees of the brand. With ad blocking and privacy on the rise, a strategically chosen paid media strategy will put brands in front of more consumers faster and in higher numbers than the slow-burn of earned media. When marketers need reach, they need paid media.
Making Reach More Valuable
Every celebrity, every high school student, every mommy has (or could have) blogs, YouTube channels and social media pages where they publish their own creations. The sheer volume of content has created an attention deficit; everybody can’t possibly see everything, and all content that relies on earned media alone is competing with the never-ending flow of digital content vying for a finite number of viewers. Paid media helps marketers cut through that noise and direct their reach to target consumers. Marketers can’t get the same level of targeted impressions without paid media. Even if a brand’s video earns a significant number of impressions, they may not be meaningful touchpoints with the brand; males, when the product is exclusively for females; childless adults or teens while the product is for parents. Paid media allows for much higher visibility to a targeted—and therefore more meaningful—audience.
Marketers should build their strategy with consumer behaviour in mind. For example, retailers and restaurants have embraced mobile search (eMarketer) as most consumers search for a nearby restaurant or store, or seek quick answers about traffic conditions while they are on the move. Content optimized for viewing on mobile devices is also a major consideration in this industry that wouldn’t be so prominent in others. By contrast, travelers conduct most of their research on PC (although mobile is growing), and over at least a month prior to purchase; they’re not looking for instantaneous results like restauranteurs. Using consumer interests, behaviours and recently searched content, marketers can target their content and tailor it to how the consumer would find it most relevant.
Long Term Gains
Laura Gaggi recently judged the Festival of Media Global in May of this year and attended the conference in Rome. Most of the campaigns featured at the festival were content pieces developed without strong media support. While some performed exceptionally well, most pieces were one-off campaigns that didn’t factor sustainability into the formula. There are tons—maybe even too many—excellent content developers, but not enough budgets are being allocated to amplifying the message and sustaining the brand over time. As marketers create content, they’re not looking far enough into the future. Each video, each whitepaper, each blog post becomes a work of piecemeal that doesn’t circulate consumers through more touch points with the brand, and that doesn’t provide meaningful engagement past the moments that it spends on consumers’ screens. Marketers can maximize the value of their campaigns by thinking of their content strategy long-term with a goal in mind—be it acquisition, awareness or amplification.
The whole of the paid, owned, and earned communications model is greater than the sum of its parts. A holistic approach to content marketing ensures that valuable content is served up to the right consumers at near-perfect times. How marketers structure their content strategy depends on the campaign objectives. Finding the right balance of owned, earned and paid media is paramount to the campaign’s success—but, undoubtedly, that equation does include all three.