Branded Podcasts: Giving voice to corporations

Branded podcasts are audio content created by companies to fulfill a series of functions, both communicative and commercial. In Italy, the process of adoption is much more recent, and in recent years, brands have learned to exploit the potential of this new format, which allows companies to establish a privileged relationship with listeners-customers by inserting itself within the customer journey. 

We’ve written a post that explains what a podcast is, its (not so) brief history, its main characteristics, and the state of the art of Italian podcasts. In this post, we’ll take a look at the specific category of branded podcasts

 

Branded podcasts: Definition, goals, advantages 

Gaia Passamonti, in Podcasting Marketing: Giving voice to the brand for a successful content strategy, defines branded podcasts as follows: 

“Original audio content, available in mp3 format for streaming or download on listeners’ devices, produced by a brand or a company as part of its content marketing strategy. A branded podcast aims to offer an authoritative insight or a new perspective on a topic relevant to them, which is within the narrative identity territories of the brand or company itself to the acquired audience or to those to be reached” (Podcasting Marketing, HOEPLI, 2020, p. 29).  

Branded podcasts can take on an ad hoc formula depending on the needs of the company’s communication. Passamonti distinguishes three types of branded podcasts:  

  1. Journalistic: Uses recordings and structures typical of the industry, whether it’s a “flash” format like news or in-depth formats like investigative reporting 
  2. Educational: Have a more didactic and formative approach, such as tutorials for the optimal use of products or technical topics to be explored in detail 
  3. Editorial or narrative: Starting from a central theme for defining its identity, the brands can experiment with different formats for entertainment, involvement, and amusement. 

Brands are always looking for new tools to differentiate their content offerings, to increase the loyalty of existing customers, and to access audiences that are considered relevant but sometimes elusive. Integrating branded podcasts within the content strategy responds to this dual need, while achieving different and equally important objectives, such as the following

  • Attract potential prospects by opening and manning a new channel and activating new digital touchpoints  
  • Articulate the brand narrative  
  • Launch products or product lines with innovative formulas 
  • Improve brand perception  
  • Offer a new perspective on corporate messages or product lines 
  • Promote listening to sponsored content  
  • Create communities of interested and active consumers 

The new format has undeniable advantages, which can be enjoyed by companies that have the ability and foresight to integrate them into their marketing plan right away: 

  1. Increased connectivity and receptivity 
  2. New opportunities for the brand to be visible, newsworthy, and shareable 
  3. Ability to minimize unwanted advertising, giving the brand “extra time” 
  4. Ability to promote positive associations so that brands are memorable 
  5. Stronger engagement as a result of brand mentions 

 Before delving into each of these five points, it may be helpful to take a look at our 10 tips for making the perfect podcast and taking full advantage of these benefits. 

 

1. Increased connectivity and receptivity 

In this year marked dramatically by the pandemic, the podcast,  and the branded podcast in particular,  is affirmed as the format which, more than others, has experienced a moment of exceptional affirmation. The results emerging from the 2nd Edition of the Ipsos Digital Audio Survey speak for themselves:  

  • The number of listeners increased by 4 percentage points, rising from 26% to 30% of the population between 16 and 60 years old 
  • The penetration among young people is considerable, and the average cultural level of the audience is also relevant. About 52% of those under 35 listen to podcasts, 19% of whom are students, 22% are graduates, and 10% have a profession requiring a high level of education or specialized professional skills.

Three pieces of data are also particularly significant in terms of the greater capacity for connection offered by the format and the greater receptivity to the messages communicated, qualities that brands can exploit to enhance the attention given by their audience: 

  • Listening occurs mainly at home (80%) and in multitasking mode (77%), and the percentage of those who say they do not perform other activities when listening to podcasts increases 
  • The use of the smartphone is absolutely central for 78% of the listeners interviewed 
  • The percentage of those who listen to podcasts for their entire duration increases to 61% from 2019. Listening to a podcast about something in line with one’s interests thus becomes the largely prevalent mode of fruition. This is a figure of great relevance, which we can consider as a sort of synthetic indicator of the ability of supply to meet demand. 

These statistics highlight the great mobility and broader portability of the podcast format and testify to the possibility of extending the opportunities for listening throughout the day. 

 

2. New opportunities for the brand to be visible, newsworthy, shareable 

Since June 2019, audio content has been indexed by Google, which has included it among the SERP search results (Search Engine Result Page). Distribution opportunities are increasing as the use of the different platforms (Spreaker, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, and especially Spotify) grows, and brands and companies, in a still relatively uncrowded context, are faced with the opportunity to generate more traffic on their channels and at the same time collect useful information about the profile and habits of listeners.  

In order to fully exploit the traffic generated on the web, also for branded podcasts, as it happens for other digital content, online adv activities are necessary to acquire visibility, newsworthiness, and shareability. In this case, however, we start from an advantageous position. We can count on data coming from the advanced targeting of communities of listeners already grouped based on precise interests. Listening to conversations on different platforms completes qualitative profiling.    

The promotion of a branded podcast can take place through advertising messages on social media, in particular on Facebook and Instagram, which provide valuable statistics on devices used, interests, and geolocation, and through Google Ads, which allows the activation of search ads, display ads, and YouTube ads. 

 

3. Minimize unwanted advertising by giving “extra time” to the brand 

Now widely entrenched, the widespread use of ad-blocking software on the internet also has an immediate bottom-line impact. According to a 2018 study by Statista, the loss of revenue in the U.S. due to ad-blocking apps (on browser and mobile) would even triple in the last four years, increasing from $3.89 billion in 2016 to $12.12 billion in 2020. 

Global Web Index’s 2019 report confirms this established “skip” habit: 

  • 47% of global Internet users now use an ad blocker 
  • “Too many ads,” “annoying or irrelevant ads,” and “intrusive ads” are the top three reasons for default ad blocking

Precisely because they allow you to more effectively reach your audience, and particularly your ad-avoidant audience, branded podcasts are an effective means of communication and a powerful element to add to the marketing mix. 

An important BBC study conducted in 2019 on a sample of users who said that they regularly avoided advertising showed how branded podcasts opened up an additional space for dialog between brands and consumers, precisely because of they are not confined and constrained to dedicated moments of the day. For 94% of listeners, their impact increases when other activities are in progress. Podcasts would produce “extra time” for brands and over time would also create an additional business opportunity to be added to the marketing mix. According to the research, doing other activities while enjoying the podcast would make listeners more engaged (+18%), with higher emotional intensity (+40%), and greater capacity of their long-term memory (+22%).  

 

4. Ability to promote positive associations and make brands memorable 

Keeping the brain engaged in another activity, in addition to listening, would therefore improve the ability of brand messages to be “memorable.” The content of the podcast would be absorbed through “low-involvement processing”, a much more “efficient process in terms of cognitive fuel consumption” that is capable of lasting longer. Moreover, branded podcasts would promote positive associations based on the words used, which users listen to and tend to remember as a consequence of a mechanism which is mostly unconscious and therefore particularly important when multitasking. 

 

 5. Stronger engagement produced by mentions of the brand produce 

The BBC study reports that brand mentions during the podcast would offer an average of 16% higher engagement and 12% higher memory encoding than the surrounding content. This is somewhat of an exceptional effect, considering that global radio benchmarks show on average a 5% lower score for each brand mentioned than the interest found with narrative content. The intimate and conversational nature of the podcast would thus create a high engagement status every time the brand is mentioned, with immediate consequences on all other brand expression metrics: increased awareness (↑ 89%), consideration (↑ 57%), preference (↑ 24%), and purchase intention (↑ 14%).  

 

buddybank: Enhancing the value of a community to provide financial education 

For the rebranding of buddybank, the bank model designed exclusively for smartphones, UniCredit wanted to launch a new brand platform that would represent a real and immediately perceptible renewal. It was therefore necessary to redefine the concept (“Bank of now, bank of wow”) that resulted from the “profound reworking of corporate values.”  

The rebranding, which involved all the communication assets (logo, app design, website, advertising, and layout of the payment cards), served on the one hand to define the new objectives after the market launch and, above all, “to consolidate the link with the customer base, privileging the segment represented by Generation Z.“ The exclusive communication partner, from the strategic positioning consultancy to the declination of the creative concept, was the communication agency Connexia.  

Buddybank’s content strategy is therefore part of a marketing plan with the target audience of young users. For this reason, buddybank developed two formats, two products, and two channels that could intercept the behaviors of the desired users. It resulted in a series of videos distributed on YouTube with live broadcasts from Alcatraz in Milan, exclusive interviews with Italian indie singers, and a spin-off of the successful podcast “Morgana,” “Sono io l’uomo ricco” (I am the rich man) and dedicated to the financial empowerment of women. In the second case, the category of listeners to be reached becomes even more niche: Not just young people but young women. Buddybank’s content strategy provides a particularly effective example of how video and podcasts can be used in synergy as branded content with its own identity and autonomy.  

 

The collaboration between brands and podcast producers 

The podcast “Sono io l’uomo ricco” (I am the rich man) is the result of the collaboration between buddybank and storielibere.fm, a platform for producing and distributing audio content that hosts a library of storytellers and makes it available to investing companies. 

“Why do women have a bad relationship with money or why don’t they have one at all?” is the reflection from which buddybank started with authors Michela Murgia and Chiara Tagliaferri, with the aim of using an entertaining and insightful product to tell stories of exceptional women and their relationship with money.  

“Sono io l’uomo ricco” is structured in the same way as “Morgana,” with an initial narrative part that tells the story of an extraordinary woman and a final interview with a guest who contributes her point of view to the discussion. It is in this second part that the host naturally mentions the brand and the mission of the podcast.  

buddybank and storielibere.fm testify to the principle of a dialog between brands and publishers, and represents an episode of success in an Italian context,which is growing even if still in its infancy and decidedly immature compared to markets like the US. 

The strength of an original branded podcast made by professionals lies in the verticality of the content that no other medium offers today. Companies can thus count on a waiting audience, qualified and mobilized, and scouting between stories and storytellers, looking for a “value match” that is as centered and authentic as possible (source: brand-news.it). 

 

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