In my last post (sorry about the 1 week hiatus – blame the 49ers for diverting my attention and then depressing me!) I described why the Paid-Owned-Earned trichotomy isn’t a great marketing framework for analytics and reporting. Paid-Owned-Earned helps focus attention on the increasingly important role of earned media, but it fails as a reporting framework. It doesn't effectively group campaigns in a way that supports choice of common metrics, effective aggregation or more accurate comparison of similar campaigns.
Pick just about any metric, and you can see that it doesn’t work the same way for campaigns within a grouping and it isn’t confined or informed by Paid-Owned-Earned in any significant way. TV Commercials, Banner Ads, email list buys and Pay-per-Click are all paid channels, but a metric like “impressions” is hardly comparable between then. Not only isn’t the metric itself comparable, but its importance is vastly different by channel. For PPC experts, impressions or reach aren’t really key metrics at all. It’s perfectly plausible to think about reach and impressions when it comes to an owned channel like Twitter. But rather less interesting when applied to your internal email list or even your Website.
Paid-Owned-Earned artificially groups together campaigns and channels that embody fundamentally different marketing models and that require dramatically different metrics to capture their success. That’s a fatal flaw when it comes to reporting.
If Paid-Owned-Earned isn’t the right framework, what is?
To create an effective framework, I think you have to work in the other direction. You have start with understanding the ways in which marketing channels are alike or different when it comes to the tactics they employ and the purposes for which they are used.
Here are some of the dimensions that I think help classify marketing efforts in a useful, interesting fashion:
Push vs. Pull: Push campaigns deliver content to customers. Pull campaigns require customers to come to the content. This is a HUGE divide. Push campaigns work completely differently than Pull campaigns. With Push, we’re vitally concerned with targeting (whether Mass or Personal). Half of what makes a Push campaign successful is that the content reaches the right audience. Pull campaigns HAVE NO TARGETING. With Pull efforts, you rely on the audience to WANT to see the content enough to seek it out. Push-Pull cut deeply across every aspect of marketing from targeting to content development to customer-lifecycle. It’s almost always stupid to compare Push efforts to Pull efforts. Pull efforts always draw a better (self-qualified) audience but have little ability to scale in response to investment and generally have no concept of Ad Stock. Indeed, the two work differently across almost every single metric and tactical dimension making this one of the most powerful ingredients in a marketing framework.
Twitter is a push channel. So is email and direct mail. So is TV. Facebook is both push and pull. The Website is a pull medium.
Mass vs. Targeted: Push efforts can be further divided by the Mass vs. Targeted dimension. Mass efforts are broadcast to an audience. The audience can be (and usually is to some extent) targeted. But the targeting is at the audience type not the individual level. With targeted efforts, you’re selecting specific individuals to communicate with. Mass vs. Targeted cuts deeply across a number of tactical marketing areas. Audience targeting is different than individual targeting and so is the associated measurement. With mass efforts, you’re generally far more concerned with reach and you’re much more likely to be targeting up-funnel in terms of brand awareness and engagement. Part of that may be driven by the associated fact that you usually have a much better chance of measuring true lift and performance when a campaign is targeted. Realistically, Mass vs. Targeted campaigns are ALWAYS going to perform very differently even where they have identical functions. That’s why it’s important to keep them separate when you start comparing performance.
TV, Print and Display are all Mass Media. eMail can be either Mass (blast) or targeted.
Audience: Probably the most common way to think about audience is Customers vs. Prospects, but that’s hardly the only way you can slice it. If you’re a brokerage, campaigns targeting high-wealth investors aren’t comparable to campaigns targeting mass-affluent. This doesn’t mean that campaigns targeting different audiences are never comparable. Often, they are. But when the audiences are very different in size, nature or value it can be very misleading to compare the performance of campaigns targeting them. It’s pointless and stupid to compare the performance of an email campaign targeted to customers with one targeted to prospects. Audience fits underneath Mass vs. Targeted in the Push world. Interestingly, however, it also exists in the pull world. Content, microsites, apps, and whole Websites are often specifically targeted to either Customers, Prospects or key target segments. Needless to say, the tactics, function and measurement of each is usually quite different. It’s also important to note that just as Facebook is both a Push and Pull channel, some marketing efforts target multiple audiences (e.g. both customers and prospects). When they do, it’s usually germane to note them as mixed and separate out their performance for each. It’s a rare case when it won’t be radically different.
Pull and targeted channels are obviously much more likely to be dimensionalized by audience, but the content on nearly ANY channel might be appropriately dimensionalized in this fashion.
Function: We created the Functionalist paradigm for Web content many years ago, and we still use it today for analysis purposes. The idea of measurement being determined by function is hardly unique to Web pages though. It’s a generically useful concept and it applies just as well to the world of marketing media. In social media, for example, we’ve created a Functional taxonomy of postings that includes concepts like Greeters, Connectors, Convincers, Cross-Promoters, Social-Fun, and Social-Serious. The idea is that the function of content is critical to understanding its performance and its comparable set. You aren’t going to measure a post designed to convince people to buy your product the same way you’d measure a post designed to make people laugh and share.
Functions can potentially live across all channels, though not every function will always be reasonable for a channel (you wouldn’t use direct mail for social-fun because it’s too expensive per touch).
Short Form vs. Long Form: Everyone knows how important this distinction is in the world of video – where form largely drives tactics, classification and measurement. But I think short-form vs. long-form is more widely applicable to marketing efforts. You can’t dump a book into a blog. You can’t dump my blog onto Twitter. Not every medium has the formal length restrictions of Twitter, but most have a common form factor within which the marketer is generally expected to live. In general, short-Form mediums like Twitter and SMS serve different functions than longer form mediums like the fixed Web and lack many of the measurements (such as time) that are potentially interesting on longer forms.
Short vs. Long form applies as a sub-categorization of these other dimensions. It applies, at least potentially, to any cut (you can have short and long Push-Mass-Prospect), but it may not always be relevant.
Mechanics: I said that Paid vs. Owned would live on and here it is. I put in a category that lives in the more detailed rungs of a robust framework. Within mechanics, I generally consider things like standalone vs. linked and paid vs. owned. Marketing efforts with direct links (like Tweets with a link to the Web) are measured very differently and generally have different intent than efforts that are standalone. Similarly, paid vs. owned will often impact our understanding of impression value and provides additional information about potential scaling and strategies for growth.
This brings me to the concept of earned media and its place in a marketing framework. I’m not skeptical about the importance of earned media but I am skeptical about it as a dimension in a marketing framework. It seems to me that “earned” means just what it says. Your paid and owned efforts may generate “earned” media (as will your business operations). But how can you have a marketing effort that is “earned”? The closest example I can think of is something like an individual twitter response that is then re-tweeted. You might view a team whose function is to respond to “tweets” as earned media marketers. But it seems to me that earned media is a metric type appropriate for some types of campaigns more than it is a dimension. I pointed out earlier that you wouldn’t measure a post designed to make people laugh the same way you would a post designed to sell something. A part of that, I think, are your expectations around “earned” media. Campaigns targeted to selling aren’t likely to generate a lot of “earned” media – that isn’t their function. Campaigns designed to create brand or social engagement, on the other hand, may very well be deeply interested in the amount of earned media they generate.
I’d also argue that “earned” media isn’t one thing. Media earned by operational excellence (e.g. reviews or positive tweets about a customer service experience) is very different from media earned by marketing. Both are interesting and important, but it’s essential not to confuse (or aggregate) them. Favorable product reviews and comments about your service are fundamentally different than re-tweets of your marketing posts. Adding these two together (to create a total around Earned Media) is like adding mentions in the NY Times to mentions on Twitter - the aggregation simply has no meaning.
Does all this seem a bit overwhelming? It’s certainly not as simple as grouping all your marketing efforts by Paid-Owned-Earned. Not every enterprise will have the breadth of campaigns and techniques to require every aspect of this framework. But where you do, using this rich system of classifications may be extra work, but there’s a real reward for doing so. A good framework drives good measurement. But it drives so much more. It drives good understanding. When you dimensionalize your marketing reports along these lines, you help create clarity throughout the enterprise. Clarity around what your marketing efforts are for. How they work. Who they target. And when they are successful.
That's what measurement is for.