Helping brands find their voice in a booming medium

March 12th, 2020

Adweek recently hosted the 2020 Challenger Brand Summit, an annual gathering of marketing thought leaders in NYC. AKA a training camp for hungry underdogs. So, we sent our own team of challengers to join the conversation on how brands are punching above their weight. One of the hottest topics? Podcasts. Surprised? Don’t be.

After all, the audio revolution is here.

While over-the-top video content gets the majority of headlines, we’re also seeing an incredible proliferation of podcasting these days. Sources say: more than 50% of US citizens (12+) have listened to a podcast as of 2019, a sharp increase of 25% in just two years*. And content creators are more than filling the demand. With over 1 billion podcasts in circulation and 200,000 new names in 2019 alone**, they’re quickly becoming the dominant form of audio consumption.

So, what’s fueling the demand?

According to Spotify’s Global Head of Advertising, Julie Clark, this is all due to a combination of several factors that can be summed up as “passion-focused experiences.” We’ll let her explain:

“Podcast listening provides relief from the visual overload we experience every day. It sparks the imagination in a way that books do, but is ideal for multitasking. With a variety of high-quality content available, consumers can find passion topics that feed their need to be entertained, for companionship, or to be educated.”

How can your brand take advantage of the boom?

With so much demand and such a variety of content, it’s no surprise brands are turning to podcasting as a bigger part of their content and targeting plan. And guess what? It’s working. Recent studies have shown***:

  • 81% of podcast fans have taken action based on an ad they heard
  • 52% of consumers trust a brand more if they sponsor a podcast they listen to
  • 87% of podcast listeners pay attention to the ads, 90% of those listeners think the ads are effective and 56% have purchased an item advertised to them

So how can your brand catch more share of ear? There are a couple ways in.

As an advertiser:
The name of the game is relevance when choosing which podcasts to sponsor or advertise on. Start by determining how well you know your current or prospective customers. Build-out detailed demographic and psychographic audience segments. Then, find out what each of those audiences are deeply passionate about. Chances are, there’s a podcast for that (and we can help you find them).

The other consideration is creative content. A few key questions you’ll need to answer include:

  • What products or services do you have that can authentically connect to the podcast genres you’ve selected?
  • What is your brand voice on streaming channels? Note: it may be slightly different than the one you use on broadcast, etc.
  • Do you want your ads to be pre-produced or host/producer read? If the latter, make sure you’ve listened to the podcast in advance and nuance your language to the personalities reading them. It can make a big difference between paid impressions and earned impressions, especially if they riff off the content you give them.
  • Do you want your ads to be baked-in or dynamically inserted? The former ensures your ad lives within the fabric of that podcast forever. The latter inherently feels more “paid,” but allows you to dynamically change the content, positioning and targeting of your ads.
  • Have you built a trackable testing cadence? A test and learn strategy is crucial to scalability. Even with all the “perfect” audience parameters in place, messaging may perform differently across publishers and over time. Make sure you’re paying close attention and optimizing often.

Spotify is making some impressive advances in this space. Specifically, their new Streaming Ad Insertions (SAI), which offer a simple, transparent way to target specific audiences (based on their logged-in data), track impressions and engagement in real-time, report on gender, age, device type, and listening behavior and measure how listeners perceive your message and take action upon hearing it. One brand that’s successfully implemented SAI is Puma, which recently teamed up with the podcast Jamele Hill is Unbothered to drive an ad recall lift of 18 points.

As a content creator:
If you consider yourself a passion brand, one option is to turn the mic around and be the content creator. It’s a heavier lift for sure, but when done well, can elevate your brand as a trusted expert— building exponential equity and consideration.

The balance to strike is content that meets both your brand’s needs, as well as your audience’s. Make it too much about the brand, and you risk turning off a large number of listeners. Too much about the audience’s needs, and you shouldn’t expect a return on all your efforts.

A few tips to stand out:

  • Production quality: These days, anyone with a smartphone can start a podcast. But is that the production quality you want your brand to be known for? Invest in proper equipment, or even an audio booth (hint: Yamamoto has a great one).
  • Diversity in thought: Be planful, but not too precious about your content. Bring in outside “experts” to share opinions, be transparent and authentic about your own challenges and goals, and don’t take yourself too seriously. Remember, this is entertainment.
  • Listening to your audience: Elicit feedback and engage in conversation. You must be adaptable and open. And your listeners will reward you with their time.

Interested in learning more? Give us a call.


* 2019 Edison Research
** Julie Clark, Global Head of Advertising, Spotify
*** IAB & PWC FY 2019 Podcast Ad Revenue Study