Two contrasting content marketing studies have been published in the last few months: one by WP Engine/Taylor Nelson Sofres and the other by inPowered/Nielsen. The Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS) study suggests that 62% of Americans want original content directly from brands (owned media) and only 22% rely on third-party articles (earned media). The Nielsen study shows that on average, earned media (content written about a product or service on a reputable third-party) lifts brand familiarity 88% more than branded content alone. Nielsen also concluded that 85% of consumers regularly or occasionally seek out trusted third-party content when considering a purchase.
So, which is it? Do consumers prefer to be exposed to earned media or owned media? Let’s look at how each study was conducted.
Taylor Nelson Sofres Study
According to the American Marketing Association, the study by TNS was conducted using a survey that polled 1,000 American adults. Some of the conclusions include:
- 62% want to see content directly from their favorite brands.
- 60% want to see content directly from brands.
- 27% want to see branded articles on important issues.
- 16% want industry research from brands.
- 12% want funny stories from brands.
- 52% prefer to go directly to a company website for content about the brand.
- 25% prefer social media for branded content.
- 22% prefer third-party articles about brands.
The Nielsen data was gathered using an in-lab, multi-month study that exposed 900 consumers to three different types of content including branded, user-generated and credible third-party. This study made consumers read examples of the different types of content prior to answering questions. It also measured the results at three stages of the buyers’ journey.
The study found that, on average, earned media lifted brand familiarity 88% more than branded content and 50% more than user reviews.
It also found that, when measured against branded content, earned media is:
- 80% more effective at the bottom-of-the-funnel or purchase consideration stage.
- 80% more effective at the middle-of-the-funnel or affinity stage.
- 38% more effective at the top-of-the-funnel or familiarity stage.
Other findings from the research suggest the unbiased nature and credibility of the third-party content was critical for consumers:
- 85% of consumers regularly or occasionally seek out creditable, third-party articles and reviews when considering a purchase.
- 69% of consumers like to read product reviews written by trusted experts before making a purchase.
- 67% of consumers agree that an endorsement from an unbiased expert makes them more likely to consider purchasing.
What consumers did vs. what they said they would do
It’s clear that the two studies were conducted very differently and their methodologies weren’t exactly the same. Since we don’t know the exact questions that were asked of the participants, it’s hard to truly reconcile the two conclusions. It’s not even clear that the two studies are using the same definition of “third-party content”. Even if they were, this might just be a case of what consumers said they would prefer versus what they actually preferred.
The most useful conclusion to take away from these two competing studies is that both earned and owned media are valuable. Co-founder and president of inPowered, Pirouz Nilforoush, said it best: “When it comes to determining which content to utilize to best educate consumers, it is not an either/or proposition.”
When owned, paid and earned media are converged and deployed together, a true content marketing strategy begins to emerge and synergy across channels can be realized. This happens in the latter stages of the enterprise content marketing maturity model and should be a major goal for every brand that adopts content marketing, no matter which study you believe.