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Market Voice 13 Jul 2021 - 4 min read

2021’s most valuable brand-owned media channel might surprise you (hint: it’s not social or the web)

By Jonathan Hopkins - Co-Founder, Sonder | Partner Content

The most valuable media channel of 2021 that brands own and control themselves has an average click-through rate around 100 times higher than most ads. It’s not a page on the latest social media platform, a digital screen network, or a brand activation zone. It’s bigger than Facebook, trusted, brand-safe and personalised. But marketers need to respect – and better leverage - its value. Because hot channels rarely equate to valuable channels, says Sonder's Jonathan Hopkins.

“Hot channels rarely equate to valuable channels. The super hot audio platform Clubhouse is already slowing. Anyone who remembers MySpace, Google+ or Vine knows new is fun but not always effective.”

Jonathan Hopkins, Co-Founder, Sonder

As all marketers know, being at the forefront of what’s new this year is a stimulating part of the job and within any organisation there is  relentless pressure for the marketing function to be in-the-know when it comes to what’s hot in the consumer and communications world.

However, without wanting to be a party pooper, hot channels rarely equate to valuable channels. There is a myth that the latest is indeed the greatest. History has proven time and time again that hot channels can quickly crash and burn with no audience, no trust and no returns. The super hot audio platform Clubhouse is already showing signs of being a shooting star.  And a anyone who remembers MySpace, Google+ or Vine will attest, new is fun but not always effective.

As marketing guru Seth Godin recently said, “the technology keeps changing, but connection and trust are what still work. You can race to be first on a new platform, but it’s far better to be the voice that we would miss if you weren’t there”.

So the most valuable owned media channel of 2021 is not a page on the latest social media platform, it is not a digital screen network, it is not a brand activation zone, it is the channel that epitomises connection and trust: it is…email.

Email is the safe, personal place where your customers want to hear from you directly, one-to-one. They have opted into receiving messages from you (a brand they feel connected with) and they trust that you will deliver content they value.


Highly valued asset

As we know, customer value = monetary value and email is consistently valued the highest of all owned media channels, averaging at $187K for a solus email with modules, tiles, imagery and content:

Email is the safe, personal place where your customers want to hear from you directly, one-to-one.

Why so high?

Email is the highest valued owned media channel for marketers and brand partners for a number of reasons:

  • Scale
    Email currently has nearly three times as many user accounts as Facebook and Twitter. I bet your email database is bigger than your organic reach on social platforms.

  • Flexible
    There are multiple media format options, like solus, shared, tiles, image modules and 1-click embedded transaction solutions.

  • Brand safe
    Unlike many paid media channels, owned emails are a premium, safe environment.

  • Targeted
    The marketer can segment and tailor messages down to individual customers and minimise wastage (no cookies required and no nefarious targeting practices at play).

  • Engaged
    The customer has opted-in to receive it, so is highly engaged in the brand and message.

  • Personal
    Messages are received on a one-to-one device (a phone or a computer).

  • Actionable
    Increasingly customers can add offers to their loyalty accounts within the email itself, removing the need to click-through to a website.

  • Evergreen
    Customers often keep emails and use them at a later date (unlike ads on screens, websites or social media).

  • Performance
    Average open rates of 30 per cent are remarkable compared to average click-through-rates under one per cent.
  • You own the data
    Unlike social and off platform channels, you own the email addresses and are not at the mercy of the global tech companies.


Leveraging email’s media value

Email’s media value should be recognised internally to ensure that rather than spamming cluttered emails out to a large base on a regular basis, they are seen as an integral part of a carefully considered relationship management plan.

External to the business, email media value can be leveraged with partners for direct or indirect revenue in several ways:

  1. Charging vendors/suppliers for promotion of their products
  2. Recognising the media value in brand partnerships deals
  3. Charging partners to feature their offers and benefits

With automated email technologies, sophisticated algorithms now ensure that whilst customers receive the same type of email (e.g. ‘your weekly offers’), they include completely different messages tailored to individual interests based on purchasing behaviours or pre-stated preferences. This level of sophistication carries a further premium in value as the partner gets zero audience wastage which is something hard to find in paid media channels.

Many businesses have harnessed the power of email to great effect for themselves and their commercial partners. For example, American Express Offers is leading the world when it comes to optimising its email programme with external partners. It knows what each cardmember wants and tailors offers to their needs, which delivers a win for the customer, the merchant partner and itself. By communicating the value of its owned media with partners American Express has attracted more offers and increased the offer size.


Caution: Risk of overdose

Of course, having recognised the power of email it can become a drug, which some may, and in fact do, overdose on. The danger of hammering your customer base with multiple emails is that they lose their efficacy, become an annoyance and your customers unsubscribe.

The key is to find a balance and give customers what they want. We have worked with retail marketers who fretted about sending out nine emails a week, yet when asked, 73 per cent of the recipients said it was ‘just the right amount’! It comes down to smart customer segmentation and identification of optimal send rates and content mix for each segment.


The future

GDPR and tightening privacy regulations will require organisations to recontact their customer database to ensure acceptance, but this is the perfect opportunity to ask customers what they actually want to receive in their inbox!

Email is your most valuable asset, we ask you treat it with the respect and attention it deserves. Nurture it, observe it, measure it and learn from it. Do that and it’ll deliver significant returns for your business and your partners.

Jonathan Hopkins is Founding Partner of Sonder which has helped unlock more than $8 billion in owned media revenue for corporations around the world including American Express, Virgin, Kelloggs, KFC, Woolworths Group, Telstra, CBA, Myer and Crown Resorts.  Jonathan has 25 years’ experience working in media marketing and is passionate about helping companies unlock the value of their owned assets.

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