Moving Beyond The PESO Model in Marketing
Jun 6, 2023|Read time: 9 min.
- The PESO model removes the traditional marketing silos, segmenting all the channels brands use into distinct groups. It aims to foster brand credibility, authority, thought leadership, and trust.
- It’s not working, though — PESO is too channel-focused. It shows you how to distribute, but doesn’t reveal what the audience actually wants or how to align media strategies with those wants.
- Brands must go beyond PESO and embrace a methodology that builds authentic consumer connection by consistently providing value on the audience’s terms.
Is PESO still the ideal marketing model?
PESO changed the game for marketers, but is it still the best way to do things nearly a decade later? Does marketing need to evolve? In this post we define PESO and its impact and provide a replacement that puts the consumer at the heart of marketing, instead of the channel.
What is the PESO model?
An acronym for paid, earned, shared, and owned, PESO is a media channel classification paradigm used in marketing and communications. It helps marketers understand all of the options for advertising and marketing their offerings and narrative. PESO originated in the public relations industry before becoming the dominant strategy in modern marketing.
The PESO model presents a method for creating integrated, multi-channel digital marketing by taking content and distributing it across channels more holistically. It unifies cross-channel efforts to begin creating consistency.
Also, PESO removed the traditional marketing silos, finally placing advertising, PR, and more under the same roof, which made that consistency possible.
The PESO model comprises the following media types:
Paid media, which PESO leads with, is the parent category that includes paid, brand-controlled media channels — methods that place a brand message in exchange for money. It includes things like social media ads, television ads, boosted content, lead gen, and other paid media campaigns.
Earned media is coverage of a brand or organization by a credible, non-brand source like bloggers, journalists, and influencer marketing. Word-of-mouth, podcast appearances, investor relations, article placements, and media coverage fall under this category.
Shared media is a large category that contains everything from community and partnerships to shared social media platforms, and distribution and promotion — things like social network content curation, reviews, charity sponsorships, and user-generated content (UGC).
Owned media is the content and channels owned directly by a brand, published to brand controlled venues. It includes lead gen like email marketing, apps, webinars, video content, content marketing like blog posts, and all aspects of organic search engine optimization (SEO).
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PESO model popularity and its benefits
PESO became extremely popular with the 2014 publication of Spin Sucks: Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age by Gini Dietrich.
At the time, marketing operated in completely siloed ways. The difficulties of that approach are obvious, from lack of consistent messaging to the inability to be agile across channels.
Marketing, PR, and other disciplines were similarly disconnected from one another. The philosophy of traditional marketing also still held sway, preventing better prioritization of marketing and PR efforts and other efficiencies.
Paving the way towards unified marketing
A panacea for marketing stagnation, the PESO model revolutionized and unified brand marketing efforts and provided the blueprints for operating in a multi-channel world. For a time.
The PESO model helped remove the hurdles that traditional marketing approaches unintentionally created. Marketing professionals knew all these disparate efforts were connected, but PESO systematized it and showed the linkages needed for omni-channel, integrated marketing.
Seeing the whole picture let marketers view their efforts through paid, earned, shared, and owned perspectives, revealed channel integration opportunities, and made marketing spends less opaque and more understandable.
Problems with the PESO model
The disadvantages of the PESO model center around the fact that it prioritizes paid and focuses on channels over consumers.
However, content distribution is only half the battle. What about the audience? When it comes to understanding what your audience actually wants and satisfying them, PESO offers few answers.
PESO didn’t explain how to reach audiences with the right message at the right time. It didn’t consider the ways owned efforts could increase impact in non-owned channels. It didn’t solve the riddle of maximizing ROI, either.
In practice, PESO informed tactics do not create an infrastructure or a lasting method for capturing attention and fostering the trust brands need. They rely on marketing methods that are dollar in dollar out, efforts that stop the moment the brand isn’t paying. The PESO model encourages brands to exist across channels, but building the long-term credibility, authority, thought leadership, and trust brands need just doesn’t happen without a foundation of assets to capitalize on the attention and buzz created.
A modern alternative to the PESO model
The limitations of PESO — focusing on channels over what consumers actually want and need — are currently pulling down its utility and effectiveness. Every brand operates through the PESO lens, practices integrated marketing, and has a crystal clear channel understanding, but few brands truly center the consumer.
Owned asset optimization (OAO) is a paradigm shift towards audience desire without ignoring the wins of PESO. Instead of prioritizing traditional marketing channels, OAO develops brand-controlled assets purpose-built to connect authentically, and over the long term, with consumers. It moves from interruptive strategies to reception marketing and puts assets, and consumer connection, at the center of the marketing universe.
Owned asset optimization isn’t just a distribution or marketing model — it’s a brand infrastructure project. It goes several steps further, in fact. OAO:
- Puts the consumer at the center of the brand’s strategic marketing focus
- Understands and delivers what consumers actually want
- Builds an infrastructure of brand owned and controlled assets to keep delivering value
OAO vs. PESO
Assets vs. channels
OAO builds purpose-driven performance assets — brand-owned and controlled properties built to provide exactly what the audience wants in the long term — that aren’t channel-limited and don’t simply turn off when brands stop spending.
Investing vs. spending
OAO doesn’t talk in terms of allocating your marketing spend. It talks about cost-effective investment in the properties brands own, making them value-delivery machines, and ultimately, creating the priceless trust that traditional interruptive marketing distribution is failing to achieve.
Don’t forget your audience
Putting your audience “first” requires the sophisticated consumer behavior insights only available through search engines. This “search intent data” is a massive, unfiltered, and honest collection of all Google searches that can be leveraged for audience alignment. OAO strategies build assets that match solutions with audience problems, then distribute those assets across the right channels, to find the right audience.
The real customer journey
OAO acknowledges that consumers do not act in accordance with simplistic funnel stage models. It also doesn’t try to shoehorn consumers into that prescribed journey, instead building all the necessary touchpoints and being ready whenever and however the audience chooses to engage. OAO’s infrastructure is created with the non-linear buyer’s journey — how real people behave in the marketplace — in mind.
Direct audience access, less gatekeepers
Brands that don’t just spend money on channel based marketing and work, instead, on developing their own powerful assets into in-house, controlled channels create opportunities for direct access to their audience. Using the properties your brand has full creative and technical control over, you gain unmitigated audience access and the power that comes with it.
Narrative control considered
PESO only partially addresses controllability. Control, in OAO, means that brands dictate their story, plot points, throughline, and positioning instead of third-parties and marketing channel gatekeepers. This control, combined with direct audience access, makes marketing content far more effective.
Return on investment addressed
While PESO maps out the channel and integration opportunities, OAO jumps ahead to address the question of maximizing ROI across all channels. Because OAO centers consumers, regardless of channel or funnel stage, it guides more aligned marketing content everywhere. Better audience alignment means higher engagement and ROI regardless of how the campaign is distributed.
OAO transcends PESO
When it comes down to a choice for marketers — the new way, with OAO, or the old way, with PESO — one achieves unified marketing and one unified the channels, one centers the needs of real people, one just shows you how to distribute marketing content. Which one are you picking? Here’s how they stack up:
|Unifies digital marketing as a whole
|Unifies the most common marketing channels into a broader communications strategy
|Builds content around consumer needs
|Builds content based on the channel
|Guides your overall marketing strategy
|Reveals distribution opportunities
|Reveals what people want and how to satisfy them
|Reveals integration opportunities
|Builds venues you own and control to deliver long term value
|De-silos PR and marketing, tying media relations and other forms of marketing together
|Lifts ROI across all other marketing efforts and campaigns
|Doesn’t rely on a pay-to-play model
|Optimizes the customer journey and each touchpoint along the way
|Brings transparency to the competitive landscape
|Earns brand equity, trust, and achieves audience alignment
|Builds brand awareness AND lead generation for full-funnel marketing
|Ties universal ROI metrics to often hard to measure results
The PESO model is a PR industry derived media and distribution model that segments the marketing channels brands can utilize into discrete groups. It includes all channels and content types across paid media, earned media, shared media, and owned media. The PESO model removed the division between PR and marketing and led to a more omni-channel marketing approach.
The PESO model was popularized in 2014 in PR pro Gini Dietrich’s book Spin Sucks: Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age.
The most critical element of the PESO model is its focus on populating a brand’s marketing across channels. This channel-first approach prioritizes the needs of the brand and their marketing message, often at the expense of actual connection with their audience, and repeatedly hits consumers with transactional content as they move between channels.
PESO model examples include:
-Paid: digital advertising, ads on social media, articles sourced through paid publishing, sponsored content, paid lead generation efforts
-Earned: articles written in media publications, word-of-mouth positivity around a brand, content posted by industry influencers
-Shared: organic social media posts, user or customer reviews, posts in social forums, posts on media sharing sites like Reddit
-Owned: all the brand-owned content across content marketing efforts and channels like podcasts, blog posts, videos and other visual content, search engine optimization efforts
The PESO model is flawed because it puts paid first and only zeros in on the channels, leaving actual consumers behind. PESO answers where to distribute marketing materials, but it says nothing about what consumers actually want. It does not cross into the realm of understanding consumer needs and satisfying them. The PESO model encourages brands to operate paid campaigns — tactics that stop working when the brand stops spending — instead of building an infrastructure that garners trust and delivers wins far beyond the initial investment. Maximizing ROI also falls by the wayside with PESO.
PESO unifies the available marketing channels into a distribution strategy for brands but stops short of asking what the audience is actually looking for across those channels. OAO takes a different approach, prioritizing the creation of assets that are purpose-built to align with audience needs and connect with consumers to deliver value wherever, whenever, and however needed. OAO guides your overall marketing strategy by creating consumer needs-driven owned assets and content that foster authentic relationships, regardless of the channel.
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