Analysis of a Brand’s Paid & Earned Online Marketing Performance

Paid media refers to online marketing activity which incurs a cost for the company examples include; pay-per-click, banner advertising, paid listings etc. Whereas earned media / free media refers to publicity gained by promotion, typically editorial, this can include; article writing, re-tweeted posts, webinars etc. (Teoh, 2010)

Vibram, a shoe sole maker, predominantly relied on print media, in 2009 they took a leap and invested their entire marketing budget into online activity. Their objective; to increase awareness with hard-core trail runners about the superior performance of Vibram-soled shoes. With an integrated campaign the company targeted customers using a mix of paid and earned media:

• Ads on key websites (
• Interactive and engaging creative
• Rich Media Banner Videos
• Social Networks

With 1.3million paid impressions and 100,000 social impressions Vibram’s Return on Relationship (ROR) increased from 57% (pre-campaign) to 100% post campaign. Beyond this visibility 31 bloggers referred their brand, 39,000 interacted with ad units and 24 reviews garnered. Karen Macumber (2010) of AMP Agency said about Vibram’s campaign: “A paid media presence increases general brand awareness and legitimacy. Social media mentions give niche consumers a reason to engage with and believe in the brand on a deeper level.” (Macumber, 2010)

Another interesting example of paid and earned media working together in an integrated digital campaign is i360’s campaign on behalf of the Comedy Channel. The objective was to drive tune-in for their election night special. Again a mixture of paid search, banner advertising and social elements were adopted with the result that the show became the highest rated and most watched election special, up 45% from the previous election night special. (360i, 2010)

Both these campaigns and other similar instances showed that an integrated approach was proving the most successful, earned and paid media complemented each other. It is clear that paid for media is a volume driving tool, raises awareness of the brand and is likely to add credibility. Earned media (typically via social media) builds on this initial awareness and builds relationships with consumers by informing, interacting, advising and (ultimately) selling to them.

Nielsen (2010) case study with Facebook showed that a homepage ad on Facebook with social advocacy raised recall by 6%, awareness by 4% and intent to purchase by 6% in comparison to those only exposed to the ad:

To date companies have favored the paid for media routes which allow for quantifiable results and ultimately provide credibility on their ROMI. Statistics clearly show the advantages of earned media, and reservations over measurability are now dismissed with new technology and techniques. Companies should not be bypassing this relationship building and effectively free publicity of earned media particularly in today’s economic climate.


360i, (2010), Integrated digital marketing campaign drives tune-in for “Indecision 2008: America’s Choice”, [Online] Available: [Accessed: 14th November 2010]

Macumber, K. (2010), Case Study: The Brand that went 100% Digital, [Online] Available: [Accessed: 14th November 2010]

Nielsen, (2010), Nielsen April 2010 efectividad marketing social media, [Online] Available: [Accessed: 14th November 2010]

Teoh, N. (2010), Understanding the Difference Between Paid and Earned Media, [Online] Available: [Accessed: 14th November 2010]

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