Brands are getting serious about podcasts as a content marketing strategy. Podcasts lend themselves well to branded content – their storytelling nature is engaging, appealing to brands seeking a better way to connect with consumers.
Branded content strategies in podcasts can vary greatly, from subtle approaches where the sponsor is barely mentioned, to shows where the sponsor is prominently featured within the editorial, with several alternatives in between.
Branding by Association – A subtle approach to content branding relies simply on a connection with clever, innovative and appealing content to establish a brand’s connection. GE’s The Message is a best in class for this type of content marketing. The podcast was hugely successful and very innovative. The sponsor branding was very subtle – GE Podcast Theater was the producer of the show along with Panoply Networks. GE’s presence in the podcast is very understated, which in this case may well have added to both the success of the series and the effectiveness of the branding. It is really artful branding for sure.
Editorial Branding – A more overt type of content marketing is employed by eBay in the recently launched Open for Business by Gimlet Media. This type of branded podcast features the sponsor’s name and company within the podcast, and in fact, features an eBay partner business within the episode. The editorial content of the podcast is focused on entrepreneurship, and reportedly, the company had input into and final say over the direction and content of each of the six installments. It’s well done, with strong and interesting reporting elements that exemplify Gimlet’s expertise in the space.
Sponsor Produced Podcasts – In this approach to branded podcasts, the sponsor produces its own content, with or without the help of outside resources, and focuses entirely on the sponsor’s business. The McKinsey Podcast, produced by the inhouse McKinsey Publishing, focuses on educating its audience. It’s a well done B2B podcast that discusses topics like the customer experience or the Chinese consumer. It’s a great example of using podcasts to expand a customer base by positioning the sponsor company as a thought leader.
Sponsored Content – This most common approach to content marketing in podcasts is the one that familiar podcast advertisers like Mailchimp and Squarespace employ. Those companies employ native ads within popular podcast series like Serial to establish their brand. The native ads, often done by the podcast hosts, are personal and effective. I think the branding for Squarespace in the podcast series Reply All is particularly good. Hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman create quirky websites using Squarespace, and then talk about them. (Has PJ met Alex’s son yet is one, and Goldman.gripe is the other). It’s funny and, as I am demonstrating right here, memorable.
Podcasts as branded content can take many different forms and create really great exposure for advertisers. These deeply creative approaches add enormous value and impact for the brands, and generate both quality content and great buzz that is no doubt part of the momentum driving expanding interest. May they thrive..