As consumers discover new ways to block and skips ads, marketers are scrambling to come up with content that can captive audiences for longer.
The answer for a growing number of brands is podcasts, an old medium that is making a huge comeback.
Examples include Shopify’s TGIM (Thank God It’s Monday) podcast aimed at entrepreneurs, Slack’s Variety Pack podcast about office culture and the Upstanders podcast from Starbucks about “ordinary people doing extraordinary things.” Brands such as eBay, GE and StateFarm are also using podcasts to try to build brand awareness and consumer engagement.
Consumers appear receptive to the medium’s renaissance, according to a recent survey of about 1,000 podcast listeners published by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and Edison Research. It shows 65 percent of podcast listeners are “more willing to consider purchasing products and services they learn about during a podcast.”
What’s more, 60 percent also said they prefer to buy products of equal quality and price from companies that advertise on their favourite podcasts. The survey said 45 percent of listeners have visited a podcast sponsor’s website.
While podcasting is far from new, the medium is hot again due in part to the popularity of true-crime drama Serial, which raised the bar for quality, says Steve Pratt, principal at Pacific Content, which does podcasts for brands such as Shopify, Slack and Envoy.
“It started changing audiences’ perceptions of podcasts into something more like Netflix for radio,” Pratt says.
He says most innovative marketers today understand that to get people’s attention, you can’t interrupt them as much as you could before.
“You have to earn their attention by creating value and putting them first,” says Pratt. “It’s a little bit of a blue ocean space where brands are figuring out how to take advantage of podcasting’s resurgence.”
Many brands are partnering with established podcast companies like Pacific Content in Canada and Gimlet Media in the U.S., the latter of which is behind the eBay podcast Open For Business.
Some brands are hiring their own podcast experts, including Intercom, a Dublin and San Francisco-based tech company.
But podcasts must be done well if they are to do their job, which is to build strong connections with consumers, and create value through brand awareness and positioning.
“Podcasts are phenomenal for letting people know what you are about, without having the show be about you,” says Pratt of Pacific Content.
“No one wants to hear a 30-minute eBay commercial, but there is a large audience that’s interested in a show about starting a business in 2016 and what the elements of that are,” Gimlet Media co-founder and president Matt Lieber told Adweek.
For brands looking to do their own podcast work internally, finding the right talent — a mix of rich audio and long-form storytelling skills — can be a challenge. It’s a skill often honed in public broadcasting organizations such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) and National Public Radio (NPR) in the U.S.
In fact, most of Pacific Content’s staff is from the CBC. Pratt co-created one of the world’s first music podcasts during his time at CBC. Lieber’s background includes producer roles at places like NPR and MTV Networks.
Consumers expect podcasts today to be highly professional, says Ute Preusse, founder at director of strategy at Vancouver-based agency Will. She says brands should meet that high bar, or not bother.
“Podcasts require a big commitment to achieve reach — as the brand needs to consistently deliver great content that is both relevant and captivating,” Preusse says. “Clients need to invest significant resources (time and money) into the right writing and performing talent to compete in that media.”
In fact, her agency discouraged one small brand from creating its own podcast, simply because it couldn’t commit the resources required. Instead, the brand chose to sponsor existing popular and brand-relevant podcasts.
“It’s something a client needs dedicated talented resources for, unless it’s a natural extension of their primary line of business, such as media or entertainment,” Preusse says. “It’s a daunting task. Albeit, potentially very powerful.”