Create new markets with owned media assets that are truly useful

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At the turn of the last century, a French tire company started publishing travel guides and restaurant reviews These Michelin Red Guides, along with their coveted Michelin stars, are now iconic standards for tourists and foodies around the world. But why would a company that knew more about rubber than restaurants print them in the first place? And why would it initially give them away for free? In the company’s own words it was “an effort to encourage motorists to travel in the recently introduced automobile.”1

New markets are nebulous. In many cases, potential customers will not understand why they need what you are selling, know how to use it or appreciate the attributes that make one offering better than another. Michelin’s approach to developing the tire market at the dawn of personal automobile ownership would now be called an owned media strategy. In contrast to paid media like advertising, owned media provides an open, flexible and information rich means of communicating directly with customers. Michelin didn’t rely on newspaper ads to promote driving. It wouldn’t have worked. Instead, to cultivate and educate the new market, they created something of value that was in the service of the customers they wanted to attract. By filling an unmet need that was co-evolving with the automobile, the guides gave people a reason to drive more and made the whole experience easier and more attractive. As a result, Michelin sold more tires.

There is more here than an interesting historical anecdote. The owned media approach that worked for Michelin 100 plus years ago can be used to enter new markets now.

When looking for those opportunities, there are many things to consider, but the best guidance for this strategy is simple: be useful. Make sure your owned media assets provide something that your customers need and they will reward you.

To get started, ask what your target customers must first know about their own needs before they would value your proposed asset. What would help your customers understand how to put it to use in service of their needs? Is there a way to show customers what is valuable in this new market in an honest and authentic way? Is there a need that must first be met for the market to take off?

The answers to these questions will reveal opportunities for you to create truly useful owned media assets and, in so doing, possibly pave the way to successful new markets.

Maureen McGuire
Bloomberg L.P.

“Mike Bloomberg also understood that he needed to get his brand out there. He did that by investing in a media business that became known for reporting on and analyzing the financial markets. That was his marketing tool.”

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