The ROI Impact of Expert Earned Media


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According to Forrester, consumers trust expert opinions 6x more than advertising when deciding what product to buy. But earned media is impossible to control and difficult to scale. Until now. Read this research paper from inPowered and Marketing Evolution to understand how major brand marketers are leveraging their earned media, written by trusted category experts, to drive serious lifts in brand favorability, advocacy, and purchase intent and achieve ROI 7-14x campaign investment levels.

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The ROI Impact of Expert Earned Media

  1. 1. The Value of Expert Media Consumption Brand Lift and ROI Case Study Research to Assess the Value of Expert Media Consumption FROM SOCIAL BRANDS TO SOCIAL BUSINESS conference ®OCT 15-16, 2012 NY
  2. 2. 1 Foreward Social, and the fundamental change in human behavior that underlies it, has turned marketing verities on their heads. The expectations consumers have about when and how to get informed have been transformed and an explosion of new tools for meeting their needs has initiated a revolution in marketing. Nowhere is this more true than along the borderline between traditional ad formats and content. In the past, content was created by editors and became ossified at the moment of creation in great big chunks: issues, articles, pages. Advertising, however, was fluid, flexible and could be delivered in tightly engineered multi-element campaigns. Behind them both stood peer endorsement, the non-pariel power of consumers recommending products and activities to one another. Today, however, content has atomized into units as small as 140 characters and flows even more freely than ads ever could. In addition, with the advent of Social all content comes with context attached, who created it, who responded to it, what the patterns of use and influence are around any bit of content in the flow. This gives rise to the question, have we reached the point where highly targeted, highly contextualized content can be delivered in ways once possible only for ad units? And, if so, what is the value delivered? That is why we are strong supporters of the research inPowered and Marketing Evolution undertook
this summer to explore the impact of targeted content in an ad context. We think their findings, derived from real content campaigns on behalf of major brands, is illuminating and points toward the value of even deeper explorations in this area. We hope to work with these partners–and others in the market–to continuing researching the new potential for social, targeted content as a marketing tool. We keep hearing that in Social, content is king. This study may be a step toward that coronation. Mike Edelhart CEO, Pivot Conference FROM SOCIAL BRANDS TO SOCIAL BUSINESS conference ®OCT 15-16, 2012 NY
  3. 3. 2 Research Summary Conclusion Appendix: Research Methodology Table of Contents 3 4 4 7 10 11 5 8 12 6 9 14 Executive Summary Introduction The Power of Expert Content-Based Advertising The Role of the Expert The inPowered Approach to Expert Content-Based Advertising Case Study Research inPowered Drives Purchase Consideration inPowered Fills the Purchase Funnel inPowered ROI Research Summary
  4. 4. 3 Executive Summary Highlights Include: Contrary to popular belief, the future of media and branding isn’t in Pinterest, Foursquare or the slew of new video and mobile networks. These are just distribution channels. Rather, the future of media remains tethered to the people and brands that earn widespread trust. Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos once said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you leave the room.” What is most trusted today isn’t a marketer’s crafted brand message, but rather the earned media and social conversations that shape a brand’s public reputation. Whether we refer to audiences as readers, users or consumers -- people overwhelmingly trust word-of-mouth (WOM) and expert earned media over standard advertising, and Nielsen’s recent Global Trust in Advertising report supports this. In essence, consumers just want the information they need from the people they trust. A consumer’s relationship to the messenger as an independent subject matter expert is crucial in establishing this trust. Prepared by Rex Briggs’ Marketing Evolution and endorsed by the organizers of Pivot Conference, the following report demonstrates how marketers can scale their earned media successes by promoting them through owned assets and paid campaigns. Understanding the Marketer’s Dilemma: While standard advertising is highly scalable, it lacks trust in the eyes of today’s critical consumer. Meanwhile, earned media is well-trusted by consumers, but the coverage is often infrequent and cannot be controlled by the brand. Expert Content-Based Advertising is a Solution: Brands are beginning to see the value of promoting positive earned media from independent parties. This content can be curated by the brand for positive sentiment and can be deployed at any time (via paid advertising and owned social media) to fill the gaps in what might regularly be an infrequent news cycle. Considered Purchase Categories Require Expertise: Consumers often access multiple points of information to make decisions in considered purchase categories such as consumer electronics, mobile, information technology, automotive, healthcare and financial services. This goes beyond Facebook Sponsored Story recommendations as often these types of products require information from subject matter experts via news, reviews, and blogs. This deep product expertise is key in helping consumers navigate what might otherwise be a complicated product set. Expert Content Drives Purchasing and Brand Advocacy: Campaign effectiveness research for expert content-based advertising conducted in the consumer electronics and mobile categories demonstrates a high lift in brand metrics for those who read expert earned media content on its authoring site (such as news, reviews, and blog posts). Those who read this expert earned media had a 58% lift in purchase consideration and a 68% lift in likeliness to share info about the product with others (compared to a baseline control group). Using benchmarks for typical intent to actual behavior patterns, expert cotent-based advertising was estimated to deliver an ROI up to 14x the program cost in terms of incremental sales revenue.
  5. 5. 4 With the rise of the social and mobile web, marketers have never had as much freedom to target, create and scale their messages. In 2011, online ad spending increased a whopping 22 percent over 2010. The Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) President Randall Rothberg celebrated in his statement, “This is indicative of an increased awareness from advertisers that they need to reach consumers where they are spending their time—in digital media.” However, ad proliferation and better targeting do not necessarily make advertising more compelling. A recent Nielsen report indicated that only 33 percent of surveyed consumers trust display advertising. Perhaps the industry is at a crossroads, as described in Digiday’s article “Better Ads, Not Better Targeting,” which suggests that the true potential of Internet Advertising lies in making ads more meaningful. In a recent blog post, Nielsen’s Global Head of Advertiser Solutions, Randall Beard, makes the suggestion, “Overcoming the trust deficit in advertising isn’t about making ads that aren’t misleading or exaggerated. It’s about adding in social and owned media experiences in ways that give paid media more legitimacy, enabling it to work harder for your brand.” Introduction The Power of Expert Content-Based Advertising AdAge Power 150 recipient and SHIFT principal Todd Defren recently said, “Earned Media is far and away the most effective influencer of consumer trust.” Perhaps this is just a PR person’s perspective, but it makes sense that a brand’s earned mentions in reviews and social media would be far more trusted than those paid for and crafted by the brand itself. However, earned media is outside a marketer’s control. It can be positive or negative. The coverage is inconsistent, tending to spike and fizzle out. Few journalists and reviewers will repeat the same sentiment twice. It’s simply not newsworthy. Marketers can leverage the credibility of earned media through expert content-based advertising. By combining the trust of earned media with the distribution of paid advertising channels, marketers can reach their market with a more credible and compelling message and at a scale never before possible.
  6. 6. 5 The Role of the Expert “85% of respondents said the most useful and influential online content when they’re considering buying tech products are articles, reviews, blog posts, and videos by experts.” The independent expert is crucial in differentiating a brand’s value in the eyes of the consumer. In the case of a considered purchase for a stylish, technical, or higher-end product, topical experts can use their deep subject knowledge to highlight features and dispel myths for consumers. This independent and authentic voice is highly trusted simply because the brand has no control over the editorial. A survey of tech buyers reported on shows that “85% of respondents said the most useful and influential online content when they’re considering buying tech products are articles, reviews, blog posts, and videos by experts. That’s far more than 35% who cited brand content, 33% who trust family and friends, and just 6% who are most influenced by advertis- ing.” The journalist Robert Hof explains it simply: “Maybe it’s pretty obvious that people generally trust what experts have to say, since they’re, well, experts.” For those brands that do earn positive reviews from independent bloggers and media, inPowered is an expert content-based advertising platform that enables marketers to leverage their expert earned media to inform target consumers at scale through paid and owned channels. -Rob Hof, Forbes
  7. 7. 6 Discover: Every day, the inPowered platform processes hundreds of thousands of pieces of content from across the Web to discover expert content marketers can leverage to inform consumers about their products. This content is filtered for sentiment and ranked for authorial expertise and social engagement. Amplify: inPowered campaigns amplify a brand’s expert recommendations via paid advertising to reach in-market target consumers wherever they are online. A steady stream of new content keeps the campaign fresh while real-time optimization ensures maximum engagement. Users are driven to read the full story on the originating site for a more authentic experience. Marketers pay only when users read their expert recom- mendations and become better informed about their products. Measure: The inPowered platform provides detailed analytics to help a marketer understand the impact of informing more consumers through expert content consumption, including time spent reading content, lift in people reading expert content vs. organic consumption, number of people sharing out a brand’s expert content, and the percent of people more likely to consider their product after reading the expert content. The inPowered Approach to Expert Content-Based Advertising Earned media is the most trusted and effective way to inform consumers about a product, but it lies outside a marketer’s control. Earned media can be positive or negative, and its timing cannot be controlled. inPowered solves this challenge for marketers by enabling brands to discover their most influential earned media and amplify that trusted content across the web to inform tens of thousands more in-market shoppers. Through these programs, marketers can sustain the impact and influence of powerful earned media and continue to inform consumers over time about its products.
  8. 8. 7 Expert Content-Based Advertising Case Study Research Expert content-based advertising is designed to help consumers make a more informed purchase deci- sion by reading positive expert opinion about a brand or product. The inPowered expert content-based advertising program amplifies content from credible experts (such as news, reviews, and blog posts) which is selected from top sites and screened for sentiment and social media engagement. inPowered advertising drives traffic to the page of the original story source. Marketing Evolution, a leader and innovator in measuring advertising return on investment, was commis- sioned to assess the brand impact and ROI of the inPowered expert content-based advertising program. Primarily, the research and analysis focused on the impact and ROI of earned media consumption driven by the inPowered™ program. The unique challenge was to go beyond simple advertising exposure and measure the brand impact that comes from reading earned media articles. This study includes infor- mation from consumer electronics and mobile advertisers who participated in the inPowered campaigns. Marketing Evolution designed a research experiment, featuring a short brand survey. A control and test group were compared to determine the lift in brand metrics that could be attributed to reading an inPowered article. Fig. 1: Example of Survey Test Group: Surveyed after they had an opportunity to read the article. Control: Surveyed before they had an opportunity to read the article. These respondents had not previously read an inPowered™ article page. Potential sample bias of those inclined to click on the inPowered™ ad was included in the control baseline. (see Methodology Section in the Appendix)
  9. 9. 8 Expert Content-Based Advertising Drives Purchase Consideration and Brand Advocacy Compared to the baseline control group, respondents who engaged with the earned media article showed substantial increases in brand metrics (as shown in Figure 2). The perception metric of brand favorability experienced a very high level of brand lift (33%), but the action-oriented metrics for purchase consideration and brand advocacy (likely to share info or influence others) were nearly twice as high. In addition to helping inform the reader’s own purchase decision, this program encourages readers to share the earned media across their social networks. This further amplifies and endorses the positive content. When looking at brand advocacy, the results were dramatic. Respondents exposed to the article page were 68% more likely to share information, and 52% more likely to influence others than the control group (Figure 2). The fact that such a significant number of respondents were driven to share the expert content shows that they trust and value the earned media articles. In the current media landscape of social interactions, positive brand advocacy can have an exponential impact. Fig. 2: Brand Lift Earned Media Consumption (inPowered Article) I like the brand 33% 58% 68% 52% I am likely to share info about (product) with others I am likely to influence others regarding (product) I would consider purchasing (product) Bear in mind that respondents in the control group have a high level of brand favorability and purchase consideration at the onset. They chose to click on the inPowered headline to read more prior to being intercepted by the survey. The difference in impact can be attributed directly to experiencing the earned media content. Brand Lift: Percentage increase of test group over control group Source: Marketing Evolution for inPowered™ campaigns Test Period: April-Sept. 2012 Significant at >90% confidence interval
  10. 10. 9 Marketing Evolution calculated the number of people positively affected by the earned media readership at various stages of the purchase funnel. Across the metrics tested, the research shows that thousands of consumers were positively impacted by exposure to the articles. For each 20,000 guaranteed article reads, the program delivers 2,800 incremental people who
like the brand and 3,700 who will consider purchasing the product. (Figure 3). At the bottom is an inverted funnel, representing brand advocates or people who become evangelists
for the brand. Marketing Evolution estimates that a program of 20,000 earned media reads will generate 2,400 new brand advocates who are likely to share info or influence others regarding the product. Expert Content-Based Advertising Fills the Purchase Funnel 2,400 Brand Advocates 3,700 Intend to Purchase 2,800 with Brand Favorability 20,000 Guaranteed Earned Media Consumption Fig. 3: People Added to the Purchase Funnel Number of people added to each stage of the funnel per 20,000 purchased earned media article reads. Source: Marketing Evolution for inPowered™ Campaigns Test Period:April - Sept. 2012. (Exposed - Control %) x (unique people reached) Significant at >90% confidence interval
  11. 11. 10 Marketing Evolution computed the ROI that advertisers could expect to see based on the program data. The ROI was calculated by determining the number of people who engaged with the earned media and the increase in purchase consideration directly attributable to engaging with the earned media. (Figure 4) Expert Content-Based Advertising ROI Fig. 4: ROI Equation Cost Sales Revenue People consuming expert content Increase in purchase consideration Delta: Test group - control group Benchmark rates of conversion to actual purchase Price Sales Revenue ROI for expert content based advertising ranges up to 14 times the cost of the program. Based on multiple case studies, Marketing Evolution determined a range for estimated ROI. Marketing Evolution used a range of intent-to-sale conversion ratios based on benchmarks from across verticals to calculate an estimated return based on how purchase intent typically converts to actual sales. Marketing Evolution benchmarks show that a typical advertising campaign (~$10M across many different industries) brings a revenue-based ROI of 2 to 4 times the media spend. With the ability to provide an ROI of up to 14 times the investment, the inPowered™ earned media ad program should be considered for inclusion in the advertiser’s media plan to improve the overall ROI of the campaign. The ROI is presented as a multiple of the cost of the program. Price of the product is an important factor in the observed campaigns, with products at a higher selling price enjoying higher rates of return. We acknowledge that clients have to consider their actual profit margin to determine a true ROI.
  12. 12. 11 Expert content-based advertising increases the number of people informed by earned media, and the number of people who become influencers, advocating the brand to others. Expert Content-Based Advertising Drives Purchase Consideration: Those reading earned media articles displayed a 58% lift in purchase consideration. For 20,000 earned media reads purchased in a campaign, this translates into 3,700 people considering purchases as a direct result of reading the earned media. Expert Content-Based Advertising Delivers Positive ROI: Based on benchmark conversion rates, the sales revenue ROI for the studied campaigns ranges up to 14x the cost of the program. With an average campaign netting 2-4x the investment, adding earned media to an advertising campaign can increase ROI. Expert Content-Based Advertising Builds Brand Advocacy: In addition to immediate sales, expert content-based advertising encourages readers to share earned media across their own social networks, further amplifying and endorsing the positive content. Earned media readers were 68% more likely to share info about the product with others. For every 20,000 earned media reads purchased in a campaign, this translates into nearly 2,400 people likely to influence or share brand info with others. Research Summary
  13. 13. 12 Conclusion Getting Started on an Expert Content Based Advertising Approach: Expert content-based advertising is a powerful way for marketers to leverage the trust and credibility of earned media with the scalability of advertising and social deployment. The core approach remains rooted in the idea of trust itself. As demonstrated earlier, one of the most trusted accolades for a brand is when an unaffiliated content producer sings its praises. Just as marketers have embraced social and search marketing, so too should they embrace the notion of promoting earned media, especially in considered purchase categories. To make the most of expert content-based advertising, CMOs and their teams would do well to identify their top earned media stories and promote them across their paid and owned channels – ensuring sustained consumption even during news cycle downtime. Embrace Earned Media as the Driver of Trust: While many companies prioritize paid advertising to drive their organizational brand approach, it’s earned media that overwhelm- ingly makes the case to the consumer. In order to enhance credibility, brands must listen
to subject matter experts and track the sentiment and frequency of earned media stories to understand their audience’s frame of reference. It’s this data that best determines a brand’s approach across owned and paid media channels. Allocate Budget to Scaling Earned Media into Paid and Owned Channels: If all goes well with a product campaign, brands should see a natural spike in earned media coverage. Nevertheless, that coverage is indeed a spike and not a steady stream of accolades. While regular earned media has a short shelf life, brands can extend that story life by allocating budgets to the curation and promotion of these positive expert stories. Rather than highlighting a crafted brand message, brands have a chance to leverage popular stories
by cascading them into owned and paid channels. This offers additional lift to an already popular piece of content and ensures that the audience is receiving an authentic but positive experience about a brand. Meet the Informational Needs of the Consumers in Considered Purchase Categories: As stated earlier in the report, considered purchase consumers require information from subject matter experts. In most cases for products such as mobile phones, laptops and automobiles, consumers access multiple sources of information. By amplifying the content of subject matter experts, brands are in a better position to offer consumers the decision-making information they need in a medium they are per-disposed to trust. When a brand has earned multiple positive reviews on a particular product, consumers get their informational fix and that brand trust is reinforced. Foster an Environment of Converged Paid, Owned and Earned Media Efforts via Turn-Key Cross-Departmental Measurement: Although many companies silo their marketing, earned media and advertising departments, it’s important for brands to understand their true lift across all channels. A consistent measure of earned media is useful across divisions, such as the quantity and sentiment of earned media messages consumed and shared by consumers.
  14. 14. 13 It is important to note that it is not the technical side of inPowered that makes it a high performing approach for brands. In similar fashion to social media, inPowered’s true strength comes from the fact that it discovers and amplifies independent voices on behalf of brand marketers. Just as search marketing and social marketing have grown to become an important consideration in a marketer’s digital media mix, expert content-based marketing should be considered in the same way.
  15. 15. 14 Data from the two studies was combined using a weighted average based on article page readership in the sample. By comparing the response levels of the test group to the control we can ascribe causality for the difference of opinion between the two groups to article exposure Benchmark data for ROI comparison was pulled from Marketing Evolution’s benchmarks and media optimization tools. Impact data was collected from 2005-2012. The estimate for a “typical advertising campaign” was based on an average campaign size and product price point across industry verticals. The survey captured people’s perception about several brand metrics: Primary Brand Metrics: “I like the (brand)” [Brand Favorability] “I have a favorable opinion of (product)” [Favorability] “I would consider purchasing (product)” [Purchase Consideration] “I am likely to influence others regarding (product)” [Influence Likelihood] “I am likely to share info (product) with others” [Share Likelihood] The results from the two independently conducted studies were aggregated using a weighted popula- tion average for the purposes of this paper. The study focused on attitudinal changes of people exposed to independently written article page content. For comparison, Marketing Evolution also examined the impact of standard display media. The measurement was set up using an “experimental design” research framework of Control versus Exposed audience segments. Partnering with survey technology provider Vizu, Marketing Evolution used a one-question brand attribute survey to measure people’s perception about the brands and their products. The one-question survey format assured high response rate among both the control and test groups. The survey for both brands was presented on independent article pages across 104 technology websites. It ran from 4/23/12 to 9/12/12. Total sample sizes were as follows: A mobile phone company promoting a new phone A consumer electronics company promoting a new product line. Total Article Page Control: 82 Total Article Page Test: 244 APPENDIX: Methodology for inPowered Expert Content Based Advertising Research Marketing Evolution, a global leader in advertising impact measurement, was commissioned to measure the ROI of the inPowered expert content-based advertising program. The unique challenge was to measure the impact that exposure to earned media (such as new, reviews, and blog posts) has on consumers’ attitudes about two brands and two products:
  16. 16. 15 Standard Media Measurement The test group for standard media for both brands was recruited via a DHTML survey invitation after advertising exposure. The test was conducted within the media footprint of the standard media. The test group was cleaned of any inPowered media or article page exposures. The control group was collected by targeting people within the standard and inPowered ad unit media footprint. Respondents were randomly selected by Vizu’s targeting technology to be exposed not to the advertiser’s media, but instead to a placebo ad in the form of a Red Cross public service announcement. The survey invitation appeared after exposure to the placebo ad. The control group was cleaned of any previous media or article page exposure. Article Page Measurement The test group for both brands’ article page measurement consisted of respondents who were exposed to the independent article pages in the natural course of the campaign’s fielding. Respondents were primarily driven to the article pages through inPowered Ad units sold on a “cost per person informend” basis as a traffic driver for the curated earned media articles. The survey invitation appeared 15 seconds after the respondent initially hit the article page. The test group was cleaned of any previous exposures to standard media ads (exposure to inPowered ads, the navigation path to the inPowered article, was included). The control group for the consumer electronics company consisted of a subset of people who also clicked on the inPowered™ advertising to continue to the article page, but were intercepted on their way to the page with the one question survey poll. The full screen interstitial invitation spawned following the click to read more, but before the article page load. By intercepting respondents post-click to read more, we establish an appropriate baseline for comparison to article page readership. The control group was cleaned of all previous exposures to article page or standard media ads (exposure to inPowered ads was included). For the mobile phone company, it was not possible to collect a control group intercepted prior to article page viewership (but after the click to read more). An ad-exposure based control group was collected by targeting people within the standard and inPowered ad unit media footprint. Respondents were randomly selected by Vizu’s targeting technology to be exposed not to the advertiser’s media, but instead to a placebo ad in the form of a Red Cross public service announcement. The survey invitation appeared after exposure to the placebo ad. The control group was cleaned of any previous media or article page exposure. To create a comparable control, Marketing Evolution examined the standard media control baseline as well as the results from the consumer electronics study. A representative inferred control group was created by scaling the results appropriately.
  17. 17. 16 About inPowered: inPowered is changing the world of online advertising. The platform discovers positive articles and blog posts authored by credible experts and helps marketers amplify that earned media through paid advertising and social channels. Unlike other forms of paid advertising, inPowered harnesses the trust and credibility of earned media to influence consumer behavior. More information is available at About Marketing Evolution: Marketing Evolution originated cross-media research a decade ago in an effort to determine the share of the mix digital advertising should receive. Since then, Marketing Evolution has served CMOs of leading companies to measure the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns and to help optimize their marketing and media mixes. Marketing Evolution specializes in integrating marketer’s ROI data into SIRF models for budget planning, and conducting original research to quantify marketing ROI. Marketing Evolution has been at the forefront of measuring digital display, search, and social media, as well as traditional media such as television, magazine, radio, and so on. Marketing Evolution’s methodology has been praised as the “gold standard” by an independent review by the ARF and called “best practice” by ESOMAR’s independent panel of academics and research industry experts that reviewed over 10,000 papers over the past decade. Marketing Evolution’s cross media method was one of only 30 best practices in all of marketing research to receive the prestigious honor and inclusion in the Best Practices book published by Wiley & Sons. Over the past several years, Marketing Evolution has amassed an ROI database covering billions of dollars worth of marketing spending and developed software to integrate ROI data from a variety of sources. This allows Marketing Evolution to offer integrated cross media marketing mix recommenda- tions based on empirical data.