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Owned media is the biggest opportunity for brands in the last hundred years. Marketers have known this for awhile, but many have not been able to fully contextualize it. Its evolution has been an ongoing science experiment in a rapidly shifting media world. Lots of people still call it “new media.”

It has been relegated to a mostly “experimental” area of marketing because people don’t fully understand its ramifications. And even though brands spend a little more every year on interactive marketing, it is still a paltry 10 to 15 percent of many budgets.

Furthermore, the way those dollars are being invested is all over the board. Some to SEO, some to email, and a small bit to social with the rest being spent on design, code and other platform-centric work.

What’s your audience development budget? What’s your content budget? What’s your engagement budget? Almost no one spends money like this. They’re trying to solve the wrong problems.

 Refocusing your resources

What if your budgets were divided into earned, owned and paid? Where would most of the money be spent? On renting eyeballs or sending press releases? Or would money be budgeted on developing your own audience and your own relationships with your potential customers, instead of financing media companies to compete with you for the attention of your customers?

Owned media is important enough that it needs to not just be included in a marketing plan – it should be the foundation of it. All roads in marketing lead to owned media. It can’t be an afterthought. It needs to be part of your strategic planning at the earliest stages, at the same time you are developing your approach to research, campaign concepts, which networks to buy and which media outlets to pursue.

Owned media is by no means free, but you can pursue this for a fraction of the cost of your other marketing channels. Audiences cost money to create and develop, but very few brands spend enough in this area.

The ones who do are the ones that are destroying their competitors … Coke. Nike. Red Bull. Starbucks. Those specific brands are some of the most recognized and valuable in the world, and all are considered marketing thought leaders. All of them have invested heavily in owned media.

Rethinking your priorities

Instead of spending millions on advertising and public relations, what would happen if you put that same time, energy, money and resources into creating content and developing your own audience on the channels your brand already owns or controls?

Your first priority as a marketer should be to develop more customer relationships so you can sell more stuff. You have an opportunity now to do that with owned media – to have a little bit more control over your own destiny instead of relying on others to deliver an audience. So shouldn’t that be the first priority of your spending as well?

Your audience should not be an afterthought. Why would you spend 80 percent of your budget to reach an audience that considers your message an interruption? The core of your marketing investment should be in owned media, with paid and earned media supporting it – not the other way around.