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An Introduction to Branded Podcasts

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In the early 1900s, radio was the revolutionary new technology that allowed businesses to extend their reach to the masses. Then, with the rise of television, radio became increasingly irrelevant.

But concepts have a way of coming back ‘round again, and the popularity and effectiveness of the audio format has exploded once more in the form of podcasts.

 Take a look at these podcast listener stats from eMarketer:

podcast listener stats(Image Source)

If you’re unfamiliar with podcasts, in a nutshell, they’re a form of on-demand radio one can stream or download on one’s computer or mobile device. It exists outside of FCC regulations, faces no time constraints, and grants an amazing amount of creative freedom to producers.

As podcasts have skyrocketed in popularity, businesses have begun to embrace the medium, sponsoring high-trafficked shows or creating their own content in a new trend known as the “branded podcast.”

But what is a branded podcast, exactly? And how can it help your brand expand its reach in new and interesting ways?

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What is a Branded Podcast?

Branded podcasts are...well, podcasts created by brands. It’s really that simple.

It’s important to note that a branded podcast is not a commercial. Rather, it’s an episodic show (usually related to the brand’s industry) that only makes small passing mentions of the host company while diving into a specific topic and/or featuring relevant guests. This makes them an interesting form of content marketing.

Advertising for the host brand is kept to very small spots. The show keeps a loose affiliation while providing value to the listener through a specific topic they will find useful.

The listener then identifies the brand with the topic and in doing so, they have an increased awareness of the host company without having to sit through ads.

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How Popular are Podcasts?

Podcasts are hugely popular. They offer portable entertainment quality that can’t be duplicated by standard radio. There 550,000 active podcasts in more than 100 languages, totaling in 18.5 million episodes.

podcast stats(Image Source)

Creating a branded podcast makes sense when you realize that 64% of the US is familiar with the term “podcasting” and 26% of U.S. citizens listen to podcasts every month.

podcast demographics(Image Source)

Podcasts are most popular with the 25-34 year old demographic, which averages six hours and 37 minutes per week listening to their favorite shows.

Depending on your target demographic, this could very well be the best channel to reach a captive audience as more and more people become ad-blind and averse to overt sales messages in an oversaturated market.

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How Effective are Branded Podcasts?

It’s easy to understand why creating a branded podcast is a good idea, considering that 69% of podcast listeners say that the shows they listen to turn them on to new products. Business podcasts also see a 14% lift in purchase intent from their audiences.

It was NPR who discovered that 75% of podcast listeners took action in response to a sponsored message on the shows that they listen to, including branded messaging.

Lex Friedman, the CRO of Midroll, talked about the effectiveness of branded podcasts by saying:

No one wants to listen to a 10-episode podcast about how great ZipRecruiter is at finding a job or helping hire the right applicant. But if we can create a show with someone like entrepreneur and author Seth Godin about what it means to be successful and being the most productive person around, that’s going to appeal to exactly the kind of people that ZipRecruiter wants to reach.

NPR says that consumers need to hear messaging 25 to 30 times in order to take action and engage with a product or service. Listening to a branded podcast series gives them that chance without constantly bombarding them with advertisements.

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What Are Some Examples of Branded Podcasts?

There are a number of branded podcasts that have gained popularity thanks to their ability to be relevant to the sponsoring brand without falling into the trap of being overly salesy.

Slack Variety Pack

Lifestyle shows like Slack Variety Pack have proven to be very effective. This series includes 20- to 40-minute episodes covering work, life, and everything in between.

Created by Slack, it includes self-contained lifestyle stories all conveyed in Slack’s brand voice. It focuses on modern society, specifically the role of company culture and teamwork within it.

Since Slack’s product focuses on bringing teams together through effective communication, this podcast is perfect for its intended audience. The show conveys the message of the product without shoving it down the audience’s collective throat.

Shopify Masters

Entrepreneurial shows are also fairly common in the branded podcast world. Shopify Masters is a show that is owned and created by the e-commerce platform Shopify (if you couldn’t tell by the title). It tells inspirational stories of innovators and entrepreneurs.

Many entrepreneurs who are working hard to start a business might have a need for a sales platform like Shopify, so it makes sense to offer them inspirational stories that motivate them to hit the ground running. The show ensures that the listener will associate that drive and passion with a product that they could use to achieve their goals.

Open Account

Open Account, a branded podcast created by Umpqua Bank, is all about money. The show speaks to prospective banking clients by offering financial suggestions and success stories, and reminding listeners that “it’s okay to talk about money.”

Even though this show has not produced an episode in over a year, the entire series remains on-demand and continues to serve individuals looking to take charge of their finances—not to mention, give Umpqua Bank a continuous boost in awareness.

Basecamp The Distance

The Distance is a podcast series that was started by Basecamp, a workplace productivity and project management tool. It has nearly 60 15-minute episodes that offer advice to businesses about staying in business.

It’s a perfect fit for new business owners struggling to stay afloat. If these professionals find that the information offered on the show is useful, they’re likely to associate that quality with Basecamp as a company, building both brand awareness and loyalty in one fell swoop.


#LIPSTORIES is a podcast started by the retail chain Sephora. It includes stories about influential female founders, creators, and thought leaders throughout the professional world.

While Sephora is a makeup company, the show does not focus on makeup or beauty. Rather, the focus is on female ingenuity. It seeks to inspire a female audience while increasing awareness of the Sephora brand and giving it a positive association.

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Putting It All Together

In an ever-crowded market, brands need to have their ears to the ground in order to embrace new innovations at a moment’s notice.

Branded podcasts are the promotional wave of the future, along with video and other formats that turn traditional marketing on its head.

Branded podcasting is one of the best ways to build awareness, identify with your audience, establish loyalty, and address potential customers in a way that doesn’t just push your products or services in their faces, but rather helps them achieve their goals.

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