Unless you’ve been living under a rock this past year, it would have been impossible to miss the meteoric ascent of podcasts. In April, Edison Research declared that podcasts had finally arrived: More than half the country had listened to one, and some 62 million Americans listened to one each week. Their appetite for podcasts was staggering, with weekly listeners consuming, on average, seven podcasts, according to Edison.
Historically, podcast marketing has been the domain of direct-to-consumer brands, but not anymore. Now, bigger, more established brands are quickly moving into the space. After all, podcast listeners are a marketers’ dream: “Women age 25-34 are the really sweet spot for podcasting listenership,” according to Edison Research, and 44% have a household income of more than $75,000 a year. Best of all, they’re a captive audience: 70% say they do nothing else when listening to a podcast, with nearly all finishing (or almost finishing) whatever podcast they download.
As a marketing executive at iHeartMedia, an audio company and podcast publisher, I am frequently asked how smart brands should navigate the sprawling podcast space. With active podcasts in virtually every category imaginable, it can be daunting to figure out where to show up, let alone how.
Identify The Right Voice For Your Message
I often find myself reminding clients that the same rules of the road that apply in other mediums apply to podcasting: Just because it works on TV or on social media doesn’t mean it will work on a podcast, which boasts a rare mixture of both scale and intimacy. In that regard, it’s a unique opportunity to nail your brand voice.
Unlike TV and digital, which rely on the visual to drive a message, podcasts usually lean on their hosts. Familiarizing yourself with a host’s backstory and audience can help your brand decide if there’s an organic way to weave your messaging into the show. For example, Rise and Grind, ZipRecruiter’s branded podcast, is hosted by serial entrepreneur and Shark Tank investor Daymond John. Can his experience as a leader, founder and risk-taker inform your brand’s messaging? How does his own experience dovetail with your pitch?
I advise marketers to listen to podcasts, paying special attention to the difference between host-read ads and dynamically inserted ones, also known as programmatic ads.
Podcasters enjoy tremendous credibility and authority with listeners — how else can you sustain audience interest for upward of an hour? Podcasting parallels radio in this way. Our research shows that most listeners perceive a “deep connection” with their favorite on-air personalities, and radio is viewed as twice as trustworthy as social media.
I find that’s why so many podcast sponsors still prefer host-read ads — because the audience connects with the hosts and, by extension, the products they pitch. On the other hand, dynamically inserted ads offer more flexibility, frequency and scale.
Reach The Audience Organically
The temptation may be to use in-house experts on your podcasts. The upshot to using your own team members is that they’re arguably the most passionate advocates of your brand. Just be mindful of the medium. Being able to command listeners’ attention is crucial here.
Another temptation is to hammer listeners over the head with branding and product placement instead of finding organic ways to weave your message into the narrative arc. This is where your producers can be especially helpful. Lean on them for guidance. They know what works and, more importantly, what doesn’t.
Branded podcasts have proven an effective and buzzy way for brands to reach new audiences (and to deepen relationships with existing ones) while unpacking and tackling complicated or nuanced subject matter. For example, Spit, the branded podcast by 23andMe that my company produces, explores the family histories of celebrities via their DNA. But branded podcasts are also an effective tool to reinforce your brand messaging: Outdoor gear retailer REI recently launched Camp Monsters, which tells family-friendly campfire stories of America’s scariest monsters.
Marketers are seeing the results: Brand recall in podcasts is higher than other forms of digital advertising, according to Nielsen. Listeners often engage with podcasts in their entirety, and that presents a truly compelling opportunity to integrate your brand into a podcast’s storytelling. Tell me: In what other medium can you do that?