When it comes to marketing, audio has always taken a back seat in comparison to its siblings: vibrant visuals and the written word. The growing popularity of podcasts may be on course to change that though, as weekly listeners doubled between 2013-18, with around six million Brits now tuning in. Of course, brands aren’t far behind adopting the medium – but the question is, should they?
You only have to think back to the golden days of AdLand to know that audio has power. ‘Washing machines live longer with Calgon’ and ‘Just one Cornetto’ will forever be etched in my brain, alongside the iconic Intel Inside jingle. But ads are interruptive, requiring a very different approach to content we choose to enjoy. With that in mind, podcasts as a medium become quite alluring, with growing interest to back it up.
Why consider a podcast?
So you’ve seen the listening figures and your interest has been piqued. But beyond an upward trend (and there are plenty of those in marketing), what else have podcasts got going for them?
Promote an intimate relationship with your listeners
You’ll be in their cars, in their homes, playing through speakers, playing through smartphones. In short, you can occupy your audience’s personal spaces by invitation – unlike ads. As long as you’ve got enticing content, podcast fans will happily listen to you as they cook, clean, and commute. Essentially, you simply become part of their everyday life.
Which leads me nicely onto…
Become a fixture in your audience’s schedule
The big plus with this is that audiences don’t need to tune in or be online at a specific time to see your content – they’ll come to you when they’re ready to listen. So while podcast-listening may initially seem like a passive activity, where audiences can be engaged in other tasks as they listen, they’ve actively decided to share some of that time with you.
The ability to multi-task is one of audio’s biggest bonuses. I could be Queen of Multi-tasking, but I’d still find it difficult to tidy up and watch a TV documentary without missing potentially important visual details. I couldn’t read a magazine and cook at the same time.
Podcasts allow people to engage with content at the same time as carrying on with daily life, without slowing down or missing anything. In short, it’s a format that blends seamlessly with busy lives.
Ripe for repurposing
Getting into the expense side of things, a high-quality podcast might require a few purchases of some decent microphones and editing time. Beyond that, it’s pretty straightforward to get up and running. Compared to video, it’s a fairly low barrier to entry and about on par with writing if you factor in any research you might need to carry out.
But there’s plenty of opportunity to repurpose too. In many cases, podcasts aren’t even the primary material, often springing from the likes of:
- Radio shows and features (Desert Island Discs, Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review)
- Written articles, with more in-depth discussion (HowStuffWorks.com articles becomes Stuff You Should Know)
- Informal videos (à la ‘The Nine Club’ skateboarding podcast)
You could even turn these into audio soundbites for social media, animations, and so on. It’s not just content marketing heaven, it’s efficient.
The drawbacks of podcasts
Like with any ‘new’ trend hailed as the next ‘must-have’ in your mix, there’s a little more you’ll need to consider.
You’re late to the party
Given that podcasts have been around for well over a decade, carving out your own niche could prove challenging. It’s not really enough – particularly with your brand reputation on the line – to just find your own voice interesting and hope others will too.
Where’s the value?
Podcasting is a different kind of animal to social, written and visual content. With so many platforms for users to listen on, reliable analytics are difficult to come by and conversions may be difficult to attribute to podcast-listening alone. You’re going to need a joined-up marketing strategy and make use of social to gauge reactions and interest.
Remember, podcasting is a long game. If you’re expecting to see overnight results, this might not be the format for you.
There is a demand – but this isn’t advertising
Users don’t appear to be resistant to a podcast simply because it’s from a brand. Start-up bank Monzo’s proposition is renowned for being centred on its users – those users have taken to its community forum to voice their interest in hearing a podcast from the brand.
Even if you’re lucky enough to have users that engaged, your reasons for choosing to podcast need to be rooted in authenticity. In other words, the content you’re producing needs to have a neat angle that relates to your brand without coming across as one long ad.
Lyft, the taxi service, has found a remarkably human angle for its podcasting endeavours, putting a spotlight on their drivers’ backgrounds and stories. There’s something very Humans of New York about it. Meanwhile, in a bid to drive brand awareness of its tea, Mail Metro Media has partnered with Pukka Herbs to launch a wellbeing podcast.
From taxis to tea, it might seem like there’s scope for everyone to get involved with podcasting. Ultimately, keep in mind the golden rule of content creation: do your research (the listening demographics might surprise you) and use that to create something you believe your audience will value.
The rest is up to you!