Digital Owned Media: Advertising’s Future?

By Molly Hjelm
Director, Omnichannel Media

“The faster your business realizes that it’s a media company, the more likely it will be to succeed.” – Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia

While much of the consumer packaged goods industry is focused on addressing the glaring flaws obscuring the transparency and effectiveness of paid digital advertising, some marketers are turning to owned media, the channels that they control, to drive a much more direct and fruitful relationship with consumers. 
Digital owned media programs – whether log-in websites, apps, subscription-based communications, reward programs or social media – offer a way for brands to communicate directly with their consumers. In turn, companies can collect user information, from basic details (such as names and email addresses) to more specific behavioral data (visits, email opens, reward redemptions).
A connection with these members and the data they provide is all the more important because it reflects the behavior patterns, attitudes, and motivations of brands’ most invested consumers. After measuring dozens of owned media programs, we have identified that our clients’ owned media members:

  • Buy the featured brand 5 percent more often.
  • They spend 14 percent more on the featured brand when they buy it.
  • They are 36 percent more likely to stay engaged with the brand over time.

Across all the programs we have measured, we see that the average sales lift for owned media programs is 5-10 percent. Returns are highest for points-based incentive programs and, not surprisingly, brands with a multi-channel media strategy see the most lift.
As we look to the future, IRI sees four major trends shaping the way that our clients think about Owned Media:

1) It is becoming increasingly important to have a 360-degree view of the consumer, as marketers realize that consumer behavior online doesn’t reflect what those consumers are doing in-store.
2) The more data that brands collect on their members, the more sophisticated their efforts to use that data to drive more dynamic, personalized experiences for shoppers. For example, you want a holistic strategy for first-, second- and third-party data. 
3) With the ability to hold Owned Media accountable in the same ways as other paid and earned media channels, the silos between paid, owned and earned are breaking down. Marketing teams across the business are coming together to leverage each channel to its fullest potential, and design truly omnichannel experiences for their consumers.
4) As businesses learn more about owned media’s ability to drive revenue, it is shifting from a marketing tactic to a business model. Owned Media programs are beginning to truly “own” their role as a publisher.

General Mills is exemplary in the owned media space in that it has been creating content surrounded by advertising for more than a century. Starting with Betty Crocker, and later including Pillsbury and the rest of its expanding portfolio of brands, General Mills built a name for itself as a trusted source of content to its consumers through print, radio and more recently, websites and apps. Today, General Mills’ three main brand sites currently have 400 million annual visits and deliver more than six billion annual impressions. More than one million consumers interact with General Mills’ platforms each and every day.

After successfully building a member base that rivals the likes of Conde Nast, AllRecipes and The Food Network, General Mills shifted its mindset away from using its websites as the hub of consumer interaction to meeting consumers with the right content wherever they are. The company has concentrated efforts on synchronizing its messaging between owned media to paid media, to enhance the value of both the brand and product, and breaking down the traditional silos between paid, owned and earned media teams.  

General Mills knows that its audience is its biggest asset, and they treat them that way. It’s an intimate and symbiotic relationship, one in which General Mills’ members and visitors provide the company with a wealth of information. In return, the company personalizes their experiences based on a connected understanding of their online and offline behavior.

There’s no doubt that owned media can give marketers a better understanding of their audience, and a comprehensive measurement strategy can help further hone their experience with your brand.

Take a close look at your owned media spaces. Are you using them to truly connect with consumers, and do you know exactly how it is impacting your business? If not, it’s time to rethink your approach to make them a more impactful lever for your business and to provide maximum value to your best consumers.  

Want to know more? View IRI’s owned media webinar with General Mills and/or contact me at to discuss how you can best set up, measure and manage your owned media platform for success. 
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