CMOs from David Jones, Mecca, Hi-Pages on boosting awareness and loyalty while cutting wastage - Sonder
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The rise of owned media: CMOs from David Jones, Mecca, Hi-Pages on boosting brand, awareness and loyalty while cutting wastage

This article first appeared in Mi-3 here

Retail media is approaching peak hype but owned media offers significant potential for brands across finance, utilities, home improvement, entertainment and education sectors as well as in retail. Sonder’s research with leading CMOs highlights how different sectors are now putting owned media at the heart of their strategies – and making huge gains. CMOs from David Jones, Mecca, Hi-Pages and more weigh in.

2023 marked a tipping point in the owned/retail media sector as the conversation transitioned away from focusing exclusively on the grocery and liquor sector to department stores, banks and pure-play digital businesses.

We had the launch of David Jones Amplify, the first premium retail media business with a highly attractive advertising offer for endemic (suppliers) and non-endemic brands (products they do not supply). Cash Rewards launched Circuit, the first media business in the pure-play offers space. CBA became a publisher with the launch of ad-funded Brighter magazine joining the likes of Qantas, Bunnings, Officeworks, Coles and Woolworths who all have highly successful customer magazines.

In such a dynamic marketplace, we wanted to get a perspective those taking the leap into owned media leverage as well as those watching from the sidelines. We commissioned independent research with senior marketing leaders from retail, liquor, finance, utilities, home improvement, entertainment and education sectors. The research was conducted by TRA (The Research Agency) and below is part one of the core themes:

Now, more than ever

Marketers are facing storm clouds from the economic downturn, proliferation of channels and overwhelming complexities of data and martech. The pressure to deliver ROI on marketing investment has never been more prominent. “The media proliferation is so much more diverse now than 15 years ago,” as one retail marketing leader explained. “Now you’ve got this explosion of digital, and you’ve got this audience that is completely proliferated. So therefore, the best way to talk to your qualified customer is when they are shopping, or when they are in the environment, and the headspace, and that’s in the in the moment of purchase. Everyone is so busy. You’ve got to talk to them when they’re in the moment.”

Owned media’s increasing importance for marketers has never been more evident. David Jones CMO James Holloman encapsulates it well: “Owned media is experiencing a renaissance as people recognise that their real estate is extremely valuable for communicating with and telling stories to their core customers. By talking to a qualified customer who is interested in that particular category, you reduce wastage caused by inefficient marketing strategies.”

Our owned media is one of our unique differentiators.

— Kate Blythe, CMO, Mecca

Kate Blythe, CMO at beauty retailer Mecca is all-in on owned media’s potential. “The power of your owned media is pretty phenomenal in terms of how you build brand awareness, but also hook your customers in for long term loyalty as well,” she says. “We absolutely evaluate owned media, it is a super important lever for the business. Our owned media is one of our unique differentiators.”

The penny has dropped

Loud and clear from the research was that marketers’ understanding of the owned media opportunity and the use cases is much clearer than it was a year ago. Marketers are able to describe a clear delineation between ‘using’ and ‘selling’ their owned media and typically do both simultaneously. As one CMO put it, “How can we talk to our customers and talk to them in a more relevant way so that we don’t have to pay externally to do so?”

Owned media > retail media

The research highlighted the dangers of using the term ‘retail media’ as a catch-all for owned media leverage in non-retail sectors. For example, financial marketers often dismiss leveraging their own channels for significant commercial gain as something exclusively for retailers when clearly that is not the case. In one instance a finance brand was found to be giving away over $1bn globally in owned media value without realising! It does now.

A great conversation is more important than just selling advertising. You need to find the right balance.

— James Holloman, CMO, David Jones

Operating at a premium brand department store David Jones, James Holloman understands the delicate tightrope of brand protection versus commercialisation very well.

“I think that as long as those principles are there, that you remain customer centric for your primary business, because what you don’t want to do is distract your primary business,” says Holloman. “The real art is to balance what will be commercial and what will be editorial, even on digital screens or billboards in stores, you still want to be talking about what’s relevant at the moment. A great conversation is more important than just selling advertising. You need to find the right balance.”

Smarter not harder

One of the often-cited benefits of using owned media for proprietary marketing is the efficacy of the channels for reaching customers already engaged with your product or brand and connecting with them at a relevant point in their purchase journey. As one retailer put it, “It’s media that is frequented by your customers, where they’re actually trying to buy something. And you’re using that space to also advertise and maybe shape that transaction a little bit more, or direct it.”

I think owned media is super critical. Because if you can turn a first-time user into a repeat user and then an advocate, then it is the flywheel.

— Stuart Tucker, Chief Customer Officer, Hi Pages

Owned media is a “smarter not harder” way of engaging with customers because it focuses on targeted communications with qualified customers which generates significant return for the business, in contrast to forms of paid media. An entertainment marketer put it succinctly: “Using owned media is how you communicate smarter. It’s always easier to get a customer to come back than to gain a new customer.”

The savings from effective use of owned media channels was a common theme, with one retailer CMO saying, “I think it usually starts with cost efficiencies in terms of how can we talk to our customers and talk to them in a more relevant way – so that we don’t have to pay externally to do so.”

Sonder’s full Annual Owned Media Report & Ranking can be downloaded here.

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