Approximately 46 million Americans ages 12 and over are now listening to podcasts each month, according to a report by Edison Research and Triton Digital. While it’s not unusual to hear spoken promotions for a podcast’s sponsors during the show, an increasing amount of brands are creating their own podcasts as well. As with all branded content, reaching the consumer on a personal level is the key to success, and for these brands, that’s exactly what they’re doing.
EBay’s Open For Business podcast is about creating a business from the ground up. Hosted by John Henry, entrepreneur and founder of Cofound Harlem, each episode explores topics ranging from hiring employees to telling your brand’s story. It also speaks with business owners who have survived the experience. Open For Business even explores why immigrants make up a disproportionate amount of the country’s business owners. You’d think that a podcast by eBay would be about auctions and how to list items to sell. Instead, the global auction house is appealing to the American spirit of making one’s own way in the business world.
If real-life murder mysteries get you excited, Investigation Discovery continues the action with exclusive detective interviews that you can’t see on the TV shows. The network’s podcast, aptly named Detective, delves deeper into cases that investigators will never forget. The first season focused on Lieutenant (Ret.) Joe Kenda of the Colorado Springs Police Department and star of Investigation Discovery’s Homicide Hunter.
Kenda’s serious yet entertaining storytelling paints a vivid picture of what it’s like to stare into the face of tragedy, solve the case and somehow manage to keep his sanity. Season two features interviews with Detective Garry McFadden, a 27-year veteran of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. McFadden stars on the new show I Am Homicide.
The Message is an eight-part science-fiction thriller series about cryptographers who try to decipher a message from an alien. Since launching last year, the series has been downloaded more than five million times and became No. 1 on iTunes.
“It opened up a new story medium for us, something we hadn’t done, and with a new audience,” says Andy Goldberg, GE’s global chief creative officer. “Not necessarily a different audience—they may be engaging with us in other ways—but sometimes when you engage with an audience in a different form it takes on a whole new association, which is good. Creatively what I love about it, is it was something we hadn’t done before, and many brands shy away because in a way it’s such a throwback to old school radio. It’s branded GE Podcast Theater for a reason, but at the same time it’s not like there’s a GE ad interrupting the middle of the story.”
“We developed this idea of doing branded content, and I was like ‘branded content has been done before. That’s been going on for years,'” Goldberg continued. “When we looked at the podcast space, we felt it was getting past the stage of [only] interviews with Serial-type podcasts happening and people tuning in over and over again. And it was a bit of a throwback in how old storytelling would happen, and I think that intrigued me a lot.”
What better way to empower bank customers than to educate them about money? Last September, Umpqua Bank launched Open Account, a podcast created by former MTV correspondent SuChin Pak that “gets honest” about money and why there is a culture of silence around finance and financial literacy. By December, the first three episodes had been downloaded 70,000 times, the highest number of downloads of any other new podcasts launched at the same time.
Collaboration company Slack hosts a podcast called Slack Variety Pack, which has been described as “Office Space meets Monty Python.” The idea is to present “stories about work and life, told in a very human voice,” explains Bill Macaitis, Slack’s chief marketing officer. “Funny, inspirational, serious, innovative. It was something we hadn’t seen a lot of podcasts doing.”
The bi-weekly show aims to represent both the serious and silly sides of work collaboration, from how to be productive at a hockey game to kids wondering why grandparents don’t reply to emails. Slack Variety Pack wrapped its 28th episode in May, but alludes to future “podcast adventures.”
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