Lis­ten Up!

Why com­pa­nies from Casper to Pru­den­tial are cre­at­ing their own branded pod­casts

Fast Company - - Contents - By Jeff Beer

Why com­pa­nies from Gen­eral Elec­tric to ebay are pour­ing ad dol­lars into pod­casts.

As pod­cast­ing grows— 57 mil­lion Amer­i­cans tuned in to at least one a month last year, up 23% from 2015—so do the mar­ket­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties the medium presents. Mov­ing be­yond sim­ply spon­sor­ing a few episodes (“Mail . . . kimp?”), brands such as State Farm and Slack are get­ting in­creas­ingly in­volved by cre­at­ing pod­casts of their own. GE’S break­out eightepisode ra­dio drama, The Mes­sage, topped more than 5 mil­lion down­loads and hit No. 1 on the itunes chart in 2015. The com­pany fol­lowed up with last year’s Ai-fo­cused drama Lifeafter. “Peo­ple are mak­ing a very con­scious choice—to down­load a pod­cast, sub­scribe, and lis­ten,” says Alexa Chris­ton, GE’S head of me­dia in­no­va­tion. “That [kind of] re­la­tion­ship is some­thing brands covet.”

In re­sponse, the ma­jor pod­cast­ing stu­dios are build­ing out na­tive con­tent arms. Slate’s Panoply Me­dia ex­pects such pod­casts will make up about 25% of its 2017 busi­ness, while Gim­let’s branded di­vi­sion is dou­bling in size this year. Ac­cord­ing to Gim­let, the av­er­age branded pod­cast in­vest­ment runs in the mid­six fig­ures—far cheaper than a TV spot, and with a much more at­ten­tive au­di­ence. A re­cent study from NPR found that 75% of lis­ten­ers took ac­tion on a spon­sored mes­sage. Here, a look at how four branded pod­casts are en­gag­ing lis­ten­ers.

Spo­tify, Show­stop­per

Launched in Fe­bru­ary and pro­duced with Panoply Me­dia, this series is hosted by The Fader ed­i­tor-inchief Naomi Ze­ich­ner and looks at the in­ter­sec­tion of mu­sic and TV through in­ter­views with mu­sic su­per­vi­sors for shows like Stranger Things and Girls.

WHY IT WORKS: Tack­les a fun, niche sub­ject that’s per­fect for pod­casts, fea­tur­ing a be­hind-the-scenes take on pop cul­ture.

State Farm, Color Full Lives

Aimed at women of color, this Loud Speak­ers Net­work show is hosted by An­gela Yee, Franch­eska Me­d­ina, and pod­caster Ta­tiana King-jones, who dis­cuss ev­ery­thing from re­la­tion­ships to fi­nan­cial plan­ning.

WHY IT WORKS: Puts a hu­man face on in­sur­ance, while tap­ping into the in­creas­ing di­ver­sity of pod­cast­ing’s au­di­ence.

ebay, Open for Busi­ness

Now in its sec­ond sea­son, this Gim­let series talks to en­trepreneurs about how to build a com­pany from the ground up.

WHY IT WORKS: Takes a soft-sell ap­proach to mar­ket­ing ebay’s tools for small-busi­ness own­ers.

Tin­der, DTR

The app’s six-episode Gim­let series (DTR = “de­fine the re­la­tion­ship”) un­packs dif­fer­ent top­ics around dat­ing in the dig­i­tal age.

WHY IT WORKS: Coun­ters the brand’s bro-heavy rep­u­ta­tion by telling com­pelling and en­gag­ing sto­ries tai­lored to fe­male lis­ten­ers.

Illustration by Simon Lan­drein

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