Marketing is nothing new. Before media there were word of mouth endorsements, then newspaper advertisements and eventually radio and TV commercials. With the rise of the Internet, advertising channels exploded and now consumers are being bombarded with 10,000 branded messages everywhere. For a brand, cutting through all these commercial messages is tough. But I think there is a new tool that actually harkens back to those early word of mouth messages that is the secret sauce for marketers in 2021.
A branded podcast is a unique marketing vehicle that lets a brand create conversations with its customers. It brings the human element back into marketing by offering a conversational platform that invites listeners to engage with the brand and each other to build a community around your brand.
This relatively new marketing channel is poised to be the next big thing for brands, and smart marketers are jumping in now to build a foothold before their competitors can catch up.
As the media landscape changed with the fall of print media and the rise of digital communications, the popularity of branded content grew. Branded content is simply content created directly by a brand rather than content developed by a journalist. Today I might be reading Condé Nast Traveler and woven into the editorial content is branded advertorial content, or I might be scrolling for a new fitness routine at Furthermore, a digital magazine put out by fitness club Equinox. Brands today can literally be media publishers thanks to the rise of social media, digital sites and now podcasts.
What is a Branded Podcast?
If you’re like most adults, you’re listening to podcasts in 2021. In fact over 117 million tune into a favorite show at least once a month. The most popular reason to listen is to learn something new or simply be entertained. While initially many podcasts focused on politics, sports and hobbies, businesses are now recognizing the incredible value the medium holds.
A branded podcast isn’t simply a commercial for your company, rather it's more like a TV series focused around a particular theme and designed for you to create ongoing dialogue and connection with your customer in an environment that is conversational, casual and not overtly sales oriented.
But just because you aren’t beating someone over the head with an aggressive sales pitch doesn’t mean it isn’t working to sell your products. According to a study by the BBC, businesses with a branded podcast enjoyed 89% higher brand awareness, 24% higher brand favorability, 14% higher purchasing intent and 16% higher customer engagement.
History of the Branded Podcast
Podcasting began to take off in the mid 2000s and evolved rapidly in the next decade. Branded podcasts are still in their infancy. Of the more than two million podcasts available, there were only about 8300 branded podcasts at the start of 2021 according to Dave Zohrob, CEO of Chartable. But the success the first trailblazing companies are enjoying with them are sure to entice others to join them.
Dos and Don’ts
Podcasts can be great tools for any size and type of business, but just like any other medium, you need to understand how to use it to maximize its effectiveness. If you’re ready to consider adding a podcast here are some important considerations.
- Do come up with a creative, sustainable theme that allows you to tell a story through multiple episodes.
- Do market to your existing customers and current podcast listeners. It’s most likely that to begin with traffic will come through your existing customer and social media network, as well as from podcast fans.
- Do hire help. Podcasting is a specialized media and an outside consultant who understands the space will save you time and money in the long run. Additionally, they bring top notch production and editing equipment to the table ensuring your podcast is professional out of the gate.
- Don’t over brand. Remember a podcast is an audio, episodic conversation. Your goal is to suck listeners in with compelling content that drives engagement, leaves them waiting for the next episode and ultimately makes them want to buy your product or service.
- Don’t think like a marketer, think like a director. You’re telling a story, not selling. Remember that your podcast is about entertaining the audience and creating conversation.
- Don’t overthink it. Let your creative juices flow and be willing to tweak and adjust as your podcast evolves.
As you begin planning for your new branded podcast, one of the best ways to get inspiration and an understanding of what works is to listen to a few brands that are excelling with their branded podcast.
Since 2018 Jack Daniels’s has found marketing gold with its Around the Barrel podcast. The show focuses on telling behind the scenes stories of the brand and Lynchburg, Tennessee through conversations with interesting Jack Daniel employees and guests. One episode might be a deep dive with a master distiller and another a conversation with a popular country music star. The podcast gives listeners insight into life at the popular distillery and gives the brand a chance to present guests whose passion also intersects with those of the brand and the listener.
Trader Joe’s has a cult like following for its specialty products and their branded podcast, Inside Trader Joe’s, is one of the best out there. It’s not surprising that the vibe is fun and laid-back. It’s like having one of their Fearless Flyers brought to life. Store captains and crew members take listeners inside the store sharing how product decisions are made, on an overseas tasting trip to find new products and even why the employee uniform is a Hawaiian shirt.
What both Jack Daniels and Trader Joe’s understand is that the podcast is a way to build even stronger brand loyalty and turn customers into true brand ambassadors through engagement.
Podcasts can be a tough sell to the C-suite for marketers because they don’t have the click-through numbers that online ads and social media posts might. But that is misleading. What podcasts have is strong engagement. According to Edison Research's Infinite Dial 2021 report, people listen to at least 80% of a podcast episode. Podcast listeners are also high social media users so a branded podcast dovetails well with a digital marketing strategy.
While right now podcasts might be the dark horse of marketing, it’s a sure bet that they’re ready to climb from the back of the promotional mix. With their ability to deeply connect, engage and create communities, branded podcasts offer companies of all sizes a powerful content platform to improve and articulate their brand awareness, narrative and perception.
If you’re looking for advice on starting your own branded podcast, I’d love to have an open conversation with you about it. In the meantime, join me on Instagram or LinkedIn, or ask a question about anything podcasting, anytime (I might answer yours in an upcoming blog!).