Stir Up Your Content With A Strong Owned Media Strategy
Starbucks is making a move bolder than their dark roast. The coffee retailer has recently declared that it will be delving into owned media by way of forming their own production company to churn out video that tackles issues of social consciousness in America. Starbucks is no stranger to backing books, music and films they believe in by promoting them in their brick and mortar locations, but now with the help of former Washington Post senior correspondent Rajiv Chandrasekaran, they will be co-producing their own projects including nonfiction long-form television and documentary films.
The partnership with Chandrasekaran should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the book he co-authored with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, “For Love of Country,” that shines a light on the journey United States soldiers take from serving overseas to returning home and assimilating back into civilian life. Documentaries produced surrounding topics covered in “For Love of Country” coincide with Schultz’s promise that Starbucks in the next five years will hire 10,000 veterans in an effort to ease their transition coming home and reclaim employment as well as a sense of stability.
Starbucks is already widely regarded as a socially conscious brand, making a move to content creation undoubtedly bold but ultimately unsurprising, though their plans for distribution have yet to be disclosed and detailed publicly. While distribution plans may be vague, the intent of this initiative is clear: Starbucks wants to own their media and their audience. Starbucks’ means of tackling content marketing is indicative of a larger trend emerging amongst high profile brands that are diving head first into brand publishing and developing owned media strategies.
The goal of any content marketing strategy is ultimately to raise awareness, promote engagement and improve overall branding and positioning, but these goals can be met by way of paid, earned or owned media. Paid and earned media refer to the more traditional means of either running ads to generate awareness or acquiring it through public relations efforts.
For decades brands have been accustomed to either paying to distribute their content or earning coverage through influencers. The problem with each of these methods is that they are to some degree subject to outside influences, whereas owned media can be definitively controlled and measured. Owned media can be anything from a website to a blog, but it may come as a surprise to many that social media does not fall into this category.
Social media is often misconstrued as owned media but if Starbucks’ recent “RaceTogether,” debacle has proven anything, it’s that brands certainly do not have control over experiences on platforms like Twitter. Truly owned media allows brands full access to their followers and use of their data, which social networks do not, or if they do (in the case of Facebook) brands are charged to reach their own audience. Social media platforms are if anything a blend of paid and earned media rather than outright owned.
What components distinguish an owned media strategy from that of a paid or earned? Content, community and context.
At the core of any owned media strategy is owning the channels and means by which you directly distribute your content to your audience. The absence of third party mediation during the distribution process is essential to creating a successful content channel, provided of course the content you are distributing engages your audience and is relevant and valuable to them.
By creating an owned channel to distribute content you are creating a forum to foster engaging conversations and forge a bond between your brand and your consumer, and facilitate connections of customers amongst themselves. As brands work to grow their community they eventually become a sustainable owned entity with a culture of its own adjacent to, but separate from the brand identity itself.
Paid and earned media are not conducive to today’s marketing strategies focused on consumer engagement. A brands relationship with its customers is limited by paid and earned media to being purely transactional. Nurturing the channel and community your brand has created allows for transforming individual interactions into a more meaningful experience for the masses.
It remains to be seen how Starbucks will handle digital distribution of their content or what form the community engaged with this production initiative will take, but as the brand’s story unfolds we can only hope the initial risk and innovation paves the way for even more inspired owned media strategies.