Branded content is content that an advertiser sponsors or produces for audience consumption. It is used by advertisers to create a connection between content an audience would be experiencing on their own and the brand’s values. When done correctly, it can be a powerful tool for increasing brand awareness.
In the world of podcasts, branded content is beginning to become more popular. It makes sense – podcasts are either short-form or long-form content based in storytelling. When that storytelling is tied to or presented by a brand, it is considered branded content. But what do agencies and marketers really think about this creative outlet and how likely is it that this trend will take off?
Over the last three years, the CUMULUS MEDIA | Westwood One Audio Active Group® has commissioned Advertiser Perceptions, the research firm that measures industry sentiment among agencies and marketers, to conduct a study looking at what these groups believe about branded podcasts and how often they are being used.
Here are the results:
Branded podcasts are being discussed among agencies and marketers
47% of agencies have had discussions within their company or with any of their clients about creating a branded podcast, up from 38% in 2019 and 31% in 2020, a dip likely due to the COVID pandemic tightening creative budgets. Among marketers, an impressive 42% have discussed, down slightly from 2019 due to COVID.
Branded podcasts are intriguing to agencies and marketers with over half finding them to be an interesting opportunity
Strong interest in branded podcasts exists. Over half of agencies (60%) and nearly half of marketers (48%) find the prospect of using a branded podcast as an advertising opportunity for their company or client to be very or somewhat interesting. Interest is up particularly among agencies, with growth from 52% since 2019.
Slightly more marketers than agencies have used a branded podcast for their company or clients with both groups seeing growth since 2019
38% of agencies and 42% of marketers say they have used a branded podcast for advertising or marketing purposes. Both groups have seen usage increase since 2019 and have seen an even more drastic recovery since 2020’s dips.
29% of agencies and 23% of marketers are currently producing a branded podcast
Current production of branded podcasts is growing among agencies, up to 29% producing a branded podcast now from 18% in 2019. For marketers, nearly a quarter are currently producing branded podcasts.
In the next six months, 31% of agencies and 26% of marketers are likely to create a branded podcast
The future of branded podcasts is bright. In the next six months, 31% of agencies are likely to create a branded podcast for marketing purposes, up from 23% in 2019. For marketers, 26% are likely, dipping slightly from the previous year.
Best practices: If a brand is going to capitalize on the interest for branded podcasts, here is how to maximize the impact
While interest in branded podcasts is high, the decision to produce one should not be made lightly. Steve Goldstein, CEO of Amplifi Media and podcast expert, calls branded podcasts “the most challenging category in all of audio” in his discussion of why most branded podcasts fail.
Enthusiasm for branded podcasts is important but it can’t be the only driving force. Smart creative choices need to be made in order to develop effective branded podcasts.
Goldstein has taken what he has observed in the branded podcast arena and developed best practices for using this challenging marketing opportunity:
- Originality matters: Too many podcasts in the branded sector can feel like just another interview with someone who has successfully built a business. Developing a unique point of view on the subject matter or filling a need for an audience can help branded podcasts separate from the pack of similar-sounding content. For example, NCMIC, the largest U.S. insurance provider for chiropractic doctors, services a massive community of 40,000 time-starved clients. Goldstein partnered with NCMIC to develop the podcast Chiropractical, giving the company a fresh new way to connect with these doctors and offer valuable information to their specific group.
- Thinking big matters too: Big swings can pay off. For example, Pacific Content, together with Dell Technologies, developed the podcast called Trailblazers. With CNN’s Walter Isaacson, the podcast “explores digital disruption and innovators using tech to enable human progress.” It’s a big topic that makes sense with the brand and is delivered by a reputable name. Thinking big can also refer to scale, or huge global firms using branded podcasts to communicate with their worldwide constituencies as in the case of Goldstein’s work with EY. In another “thinking big” branded podcast moment, Sound That Brands produced Powered by Audio with major social media executive Randi Zuckerberg. The goal was positioning European tech manufacturer EPOS as a thought leader in audio among Chief Technology Officers and CEOs.
- 30-minute commercials don’t fare well: Podcasts have to put the listener first and deliver compelling content. It can’t feel like a commercial, especially when there is a branded component. It might work in late night TV, but there are few examples of podcasts that sound like commercials being able to break through. Ford, for example, released Bring Back Bronco: The Untold Story, a podcast that highlighted one of the most beloved automotive brands and explored how the model was brought back after being discontinued. Instead of being an extended Ford commercial, it successfully spoke to the heart of fans of the brand.
- Use podcasts to augment the product: More and more TV shows, movies, and streaming platforms are using podcasts to extend the reach of the original programming. For example, Netflix releases “companion podcasts” to go along with many of their big show introductions, a smart move considering how many podcast listeners are also video streamers. Recap and rewatch podcasts follow hosts along as they are experiencing the shows or movies. Brands can do this too. Use a podcast to enrich the experience a consumer has with a product. It’s branding, just outside of traditional methods.
- Fit the brand: There are countless examples of brands who have employed this best practice and made it work to their benefit. Nike does a marvelous podcast called TRAINED about just what one would think it would be – training, just using the resources of Nike. Netflix’s series You Can’t Make This Up offers behind-the-scenes info on their true crime stories, arguably one of the most popular content genres today. Another great example is Trader Joe’s remarkably successful fast-paced series. The podcast is hosted by two long-time employees, adding to the authenticity of the series. Episodes take listeners behind the scenes of the store and offer advice on in-store products. The series continues to grow because it provides useful and valuable information for fans of the store. It fact, episodes often result in food bloggers and websites covering what’s new.
In his latest two-part blog series about branded podcasts, Goldstein outlines four more best practices, or the “essential ingredients to win with branded podcasts and determine if it is right for your business.” They include prioritizing listeners and sonic branding, making something useful and valuable, and innovating to stand out.
Goldstein and Sound That Brands also list the nine questions brands should ask themselves to determine if they should create a branded podcasts. Click here for the checklist.
- Branded podcasts are being discussed among agencies and marketers
- Branded podcasts are intriguing to agencies and marketers with over half finding them to be an interesting opportunity
- Slightly more marketers than agencies have used a branded podcast for their company or clients with both groups seeing growth since 2019
- 29% of agencies and 23% of marketers are currently producing a branded podcast
- In the next six months, 31% of agencies and 26% of marketers are likely to create a branded podcast
- Best practices: To create compelling branded podcasts, be original, think big, put the audience first, use podcasts to augment your product experience, and fit the brand
Lauren Vetrano is Director of Content Marketing of the CUMULUS MEDIA | Westwood One Audio Active Group®.
Steve Goldstein is CEO of Amplifi Media.
Contact the CUMULUS MEDIA | Westwood One Audio Active Group at CorpMarketing@westwoodone.com.