Starbucks recently announced that they will be forming their own production company to create video that tackles issues of social consciousness in America. These videos will include nonfiction long-form television and documentary films. Already known for being a socially conscious brand, Starbucks will now employ this owned-media strategy to build a closer relationship with their client base. This type of content marketing is indicative of an emerging trend amongst high profile brands that are diving head first into brand publishing and developing owned media strategies.
Owned media strategies differ from those strategies that employ either paid or earned media. The latter refer to more traditional means of either running ads to generate awareness or acquiring it through either public relations efforts or simply word of mouth advertising. Owned media can be anything from a website to a blog, but surprisingly do not necessarily include social media. The major reason is that owned media strategies seek to control content.
Starbucks recently learned the hard way why it pays to have control of the subject with its recent “Race Together” campaign where Starbucks set out to generate conversations about race at its stores across America. Unfortunately, social media attacked this iniative in only the way that social media can – with skepticism and outrage bordering on visceral hatred.
Perhaps Starbucks is investing in an owned media strategy to avoid this from happening again. By owning the distribution channels and limiting reactions from social media, Starbucks will have better control over its content and can improve its ability to build a closer relationship with its true customer base. The downside is that an owned media strategy is expensive to maintain and requires a real committment of time, energy and resources. It takes courage and vision but without it they risk blending in with the crowd (or being steamrolled by it) with a lack of differentiation and authentic engagement.
Like most things in life, it is easier to buy something than to build something. It will be interesting to see how Starbucks tries to further build its relationship with its customers to not only improve the coffee experience but make the world a better place to live.