The sudden boom in popularity of podcasts like Serial and This American Life have caught the attention of big name brands. Companies like GE, eBay, Netflix, and State Farm are betting on the idea of branded audio shows as the next great opportunity for customer engagement.
It is well known in the marketing community how content marketing can be a powerful tool in engaging with customers and maintaining a relationship with them. Common practice nowadays is to keep up an active presence on social media and create blog posts around topics that resonate with customers.
But are today’s branded podcasts the new branded blogs? For eBay, this appears to be the case. Last year, the e-commerce giant partnered with Gimlet Creative, a Brooklyn-based Audio company to create its first branded podcast for eBay called Open for Business which is a curriculum-style guide to starting a business. This venture proved to be a winning one for eBay with the podcast landing in the top spot for business podcasts on iTunes when it launched last June.
So is this new marketing strategy as simple as sponsoring a highly popular podcast? Well the trick, it turns out, is to be as subtle as possible in promoting your brand while telling an engaging story on topics relevant to your target market.
"We knew that we wanted to use a light touch with the eBay integration in order to draw a wider audience—and ensure that people didn't feel like they were listening to an ad—but stipulated that there be one connection to the brand per episode, in most cases, a true story of a small business that found success on eBay," explained Annie Lupardus, director of communications at eBay.
"The creative bar for branded podcast is much higher than blogs or other online written and snackable content,” says Shoshana Winter, chief strategy officer at Vizeum.
This new medium of advertising is certainly a challenging one to enter. This could be good news however, since brands won’t be stumbling over each other to get on board with this strategy. This leaves the door open for savvy marketers who manage to perfect the balance between telling an engaging story and seamlessly integrating their brand into it. But be warned. Without a deep understanding of the podcast ecosystem,
"any marketers doing podcasts just because others are doing them will simply add to the internet wasteland of short-sighted marketing tactics," added Paul Feiner, marketing lead at education-based content marketing platform The Big Know.