In a culture where opinion has a mass channel and information spreads at unprecedented speeds, we need to rethink our notion of media mixes. Today, a more holistic view could be O.P.E.N. media: Owned, Paid, Earned and unfortunately, Negative.
From the very beginning, a few marketers and brands have realized the value of the media they Owned. Wheaties drew attention by putting athletes on their box, Bazooka Joe used his comics, and Apple has long sold their brand through the style-setting impact of their clean, elegant industrial design and packaging. More recently, Uniqlo has done it through their ever changing, always fascinating websites and Anthropologie through one of the oldest and simplest retail mediums: the store window.
Advertising agencies developed to create content and strategize placement for Paid Media. We’d buy TV and radio time, take out space in magazines, newspapers and billboards, and invest in sponsorships and events. It required making choices about where you should place your creative bets, but by and large, it worked. And still does.
More recently, the world of Social Media introduced the notion of Earned Media. Smart brands invest time in creating relationships with influential people in the online and offline world, and earn positive public relations as a result. Or they create content and provide it to news shows and video outlets for others to share. In the end, a brand must do something worthwhile or interesting to encourage people to share their story; they must earn it (On a side note, some like to parse out Shared Media: the pass alongs made possible through services like Reddit and Digg. To me, this is hair splitting: Shared Media is simply a subset of Earned Media).
And yet, there is a fourth Media all marketers need to keep in mind today: Negative Media. Brands have always had to deal with cranky customers, with complaints and disagreements over return policies or product efficacy. But these days, consumers can turn to a mass channel of opinion to post their grievance and spread their displeasure. In this modern world of Immedia, news, stories and cultural moments spread with unprecedented speed through online ecosystems. And few things spread as quickly as bad news–United Breaks Guitars, anyone? If a story is presented compellingly or if it captures the public imagination, brands can quickly find themselves in trouble due to a virulent outbreak of Negative Media. Dominos had those yokels blowing their noses on their pizzas, Toyota had the Prius problem, and a long list of brands knows what happened when Tiger blew his cover.
Negative Media is a relatively new phenomenon. With the individual empowerment of Web 2.0 and social networks, the ability to spread opinion far and wide has never been cheaper, faster or more effective. That’s why keeping an ear on the online chatter about your brand means so much these days. A good social media policy can mean the difference between being caught by a story or getting ahead of it.
Negative Media is just another argument for converging traditional marketing and public relations, particularly Social Media. Coordinating these disciplines from the outset of brand marketing enhances the impact of the traditional efforts that get brands recognized even as it activates the advocates to drive brand recommendation. And it can insure all of these investments by continually monitoring online dialogue for Negative Media.
It’s a 24/7 world. Now we gotta be always O.P.E.N.
By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79