To be reliably successful in generating earned media requires high quality content and effective distribution – a critical mass audience has to be reached quickly to kick-start discussion and sharing. Earned media does have some value in driving sales but has a stronger role in building fame, engagement and insight for future campaign innovation.


Earned media is what consumers do on behalf of a brand. This would cover word-of-mouth, advocacy, social media activity that drives 'retweets' on Twitter, 'likes' on Facebook and other sharing. It can exist on- or offline, although for ease of measurement most studies focus on digital earned media.

Key insights

1. Achieving brand growth without paid media is rare

Marketing effectiveness expert Les Binet cautions that true viral successes are extremely unusual and that, while great creative work is really important, it requires budget, exposure and scale to have an impact. Quoting famed marketing academic Andrew Ehrenberg, who found advertising to be a “weak force” on consumer choice, Binet advocates the need for a weak response from a large number of people. Yet, while earned media can boost campaign effectiveness by 26%, still in today’s world there is no substitute for leading with paid media. Without it, earned media is unlikely to gain much traction.