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What Are Ownable Conversations?

Published on Apr 19, 2024

What Are Ownable Conversations?
Lieu Pham
Lieu Pham studioID

Following last year’s tumultuous economic conditions, 2024 is already proving to be a more stable year, as a majority of marketers reported their budgets would increase (38%) or stay the same (43%).

While investment remains steady, creating a content strategy, especially identifying what topics to invest in, is not an easy proposition. As more players become clued into the benefits of content marketing, competition has only grown more fierce. The way to get ahead? Today’s marketers must focus on content distinction rather than just differentiation. 

This can be achieved by developing your “ownable conversations” — an internal content strategy for how your brand will tackle table-stake conversations or content marketing topics without sounding generic.

Modern content marketers know that we’re not just competing with category competitors.

We’re competing against anyone who is in the conversation, from media companies and award-winning journalists, to think tanks and consultancies.

The competition is stiff so content marketers need to go that step further.

Chances are, if you’re a technology company, you’re covering digital transformation and AI adoption. If you’re in HR, you’re talking about the future of work. If you’re in finance, you’re probably educating your audience about projected economic conditions as inflation begins to cool. The problem is, your competitors are probably doing the same thing. 

When everything’s been said before, you need to find a way to go beyond the status quo.  

What Are Ownable Conversations?

Ownable conversations are defined as editorial perspectives that highlight a brand’s unique value and category expertise to its audience. 

These perspectives are a value proposition that you apply to existing and trending topics that are important to your audience. Across industries, there’s a glut of content marketing topics like ESG, AI, and work from home. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t cover these topics too. In fact, you should — if they’re important to your audience. But you must find a way to put a unique spin on the topic.

Let’s look at what that looks like for some of the topics above as an example: 

  • For ESG: produce a framework for measuring the impact of ESG

  • For AI: analyze what AI could mean for conversational marketing

  • For work from home: commission a study on the ROI of remote workers

When you approach them from a different viewpoint, you can find uncovered territory on even the most well-worn topics. But it’s not enough to simply suss out the unsaid. To offer something truly valuable, you need to get clear on what gives you the authority to approach that topic in that way. 

So, what’s your angle? What’s your zag when everyone zigs? 

🌍 Related Reading: Crisis Fatigue + ESG Messaging: How to Recenter Trust in Your Brand’s Narrative

The Benefits of Ownable Conversations

A recent study on the role of emotion in B2B marketing shows that professionals seek content that will fulfill the desire for personal growth and competency. This affirms similar studies revealing that professionals want brands to help them enter a lively debate, give them a provocative insight, and have their thinking challenged.

Through ownable conversations, we can do just that. We can show our true expertise and leadership around a key aspect of a conversation in a more subtle way, because an ownable conversation is much more humble by nature. Instead of trying to evangelize an idea, an ownable conversation will provide a point of view that sparks a bigger conversation around that view. 

Ownable conversations also ensure that your content strategy is unique to you, and not just a rehashing of what your competitors are covering. This approach makes you memorable, helps to build your brand, and most of all delivers what many professionals crave: knowledge. 

💬 Related Reading: How to Create Ownable Conversations: A Step-by-Step Guide to Engaging with Niche Communities.

Examples of Ownable Conversations at Work

Ownable conversations are internal guides — the strategic backbone of a great content marketing program and content strategy. And the very best ones are found at the intersection of what’s going in the cultural zeitgeist and the unique value only your brand can offer. Let’s take a look at three examples of ownable conversations in the wild:

Patagonia: Ending Commercial Overfishing

The Conversation

By outdoor enthusiasts, for outdoor enthusiasts, Patagonia understands that their audience is all about action when it comes to protecting the planet. Patagonia’s ownable conversation on ending commercial overfishing marks just one of many climate-facing issues the outdoor gear giant is deeply invested in rectifying.

Via an array of stunning campaign assets, Patagonia makes a clear and emotion-tugging plea: 

We must protect our ocean so it can protect us.

As one of the most-loved outdoor gear brands in the world, Patagonia has built up some deep pockets. But instead of funneling all of that money back into the business, they use their resources and connections to partner with marine scientists, climate activists, and other stewards of the sea in order to shed light on the issues of overfishing in a way that only their brand can.

What’s keeping your target audience up at night? Use 2024 Audience Snapshots to refine your marketing strategy with expert analysis of our engagement data

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Why It’s Effective

With 4K films and photography, thought-provoking think pieces, impact-driving petitions, and a host of partner activists in tow, Patagonia’s not only created an ownable conversation — but a full-on ownable conversation campaign

While the message is delivered in nearly every format across every channel, the end goal remains the same: drive awareness of the damage being done and spur people to join the brand in taking action. 

Rather than going all-in on shock-and-awe storytelling of greedy fisheries, suffering sea creatures, and dying oceans to make a case, Patagonia paints an even more poignant picture. Newborn fish flutter through ribbons of seagrass and colorful coral reefs sway hypnotically as the ocean churns.

They show us exactly what we stand to lose if we don’t act now. 

Patagonia invites us to see the ocean as the living, breathing entity it is — and get to know the scientists and activists on the front lines fighting for change. In doing so, they inspire hope and movement — instead of making us want to bury our heads in the sand.  

Highlight Reel: A Few of Patagonia’s Ownable Conversation Campaign Elements

IBM: The Cost of a Data Breach 

Into the Breach by IBM | Podcast on Spotify

The Conversation

Security professionals know that strong security plans offer a combination of tools, human expertise, and experiences to get the job done. IBM’s podcast “Into the Breach” goes beyond the numbers of its much anticipated annual report, Cost of a Data Breach. As the description states:

On this podcast, you’ll hear from a variety of cybersecurity professionals to better understand the underground world of cyber.

IBM goes beyond the ‘breaking news’ story and provides a deeper level of analysis that only IBM can offer. Without this unique spin that IBM delivers, the podcast would lack value and fall into the abyss along with the rest of surface-level content on the subject.

Why It’s Effective

Rather than a doomsday approach, the podcast arms audiences with the knowledge and tools to avoid data breaches and helps them to protect their data, whether at an individual or organizational level. What is particularly interesting about this podcast series is that it focuses on very specific breaches and stories, interviewing a range of voices to add color to what could be a very complex subject. 

World Economic Forum: Building an Inclusive Metaverse 

The Conversation

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is an international non-governmental and lobbying organization for multinational companies. The brand leverages content as a thought leadership vehicle, spanning events, podcasts, news, and analysis. The independent international organization has capitalized on its 30-year-old brand reputation, proprietary research, and access to leaders and experts to monetize its insights and knowledge across its digital properties.

While the Metaverse is a trending topic, WEF clearly knows where it can add real value in this arena, taking its unique perspective of how we can build a more inclusive Metaverse world. 

Why It’s Effective

Every piece of content highlights WEF as an influential leader and policy broker, facilitating real-world change and critical conversations. By doing so, they position themselves as a leader in the business and policy world and reaffirm their mission to improve the state of the world. 

Take a Stand Against Bland, Mediocre Content

In our annual content marketing prediction survey, over half of marketers (56%) said improving story quality was one of their biggest goals for 2024.

So, consider ownable conversations your quality assurance against bland, mediocre content.

As marketers and content creators, it’s our mission to ensure we’re providing the most value we can — not only to deliver on business goals, but to also ensure that we truly serve our professional communities. Ownable conversations are the next evolution of content strategy, giving us a roadmap for how we can elevate our programs to address our audience’s needs.

Ready to get going on your ownable conversation? Read How to Create Ownable Conversations: A Step-by-Step Guide to Engaging with Niche Communities.


Lieu Pham is the Global Head of Strategy for Industry Dive’s content studio, studioID, and the co-host and co-producer of the Into the Funnel web series. She is also the author of NewsCred’s Are You Ready? The Integrated Marketing Organization whitepaper, and studioID’s Definitive Guide to Brand to-Demand Marketing.

You can follow her on Twitter at @lieuthi or connect with her on LinkedIn.