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3 ways branded podcasts are engaging listeners

By Jack Preston, Acast Creative Director, UK+ and US

Last week, I wrote about why 2021 is going to be the year branded podcasts take centre stage. And (spoiler alert) one of the big reasons is that, throughout 2020, brands really started to understand the role podcasts can play in engaging both new and existing customers.

Here are three ways they’re making the most of this opportunity, including some of my favourite branded podcast examples.

1. Sparking conversations

Someone once said to me that, if radio is the home of the interview, podcasts are the home of the conversation. That really does ring true.

So often, ‘interview’ podcasts are actually a two-way conversation between host and guest, and through this dynamic we learn so much about the host of a podcast. The intimate way we consume the content also makes us feel like we’re part of that conversation.

That’s why, when Jameson wanted to spark new conversations between old friends, they turned to podcasts for the first time. The brand was aware that many of its customers were stuck at home having the same old lockdown chats with their mates, and wanted to give them something to reinvigorate those conversations — so Nights Worth Waiting For was born.

We pulled together a collection of podcasts popular amongst the Jameson community — Table Manners with Jessie Ware, Football Ramble and Katherine Ryan: Telling Everybody Everything — to create a series of bonus episodes within their existing podcast feed, featuring celebrity guests and focusing on what we’ll all be doing when live sport, comedy, music and eating out all return.

With listeners encouraged to get involved in the conversation by tagging #JoinIn on social channels, podcasts proved to be the perfect environment for changing the conversation.

2. Providing moments of joy

It still amazes me how many happy tweets we see from fans when a new sponsor read appears on podcasts like Off Menu or Dear Joan & Jericha — there’s some real joy to be found in those pieces of ad creative for many listeners.

I’m a firm believer that there’s something in the visceral nature of consuming audio content that has the ability to play with our emotions, especially in podcasting when you’re often listening for quite a significant period of time in an intimate environment, and usually with headphones. I’m sure we’ve all seen someone in fits of laughter on public transport listening to a podcast — great podcast content can really get to us, and great branded podcast content is no different.

Last year, BT TV — a big multimedia service provider in the UK — refreshed its offering so customers could ‘sub on’ and ‘sub off’ products and packages. Bored of movies? Sub on the sports package. You get the idea.

With the introduction of this service coming at the same time as the return of the Premier League — and the point at which football managers were given the ability to make more substitutions during each match than ever before — we devised a unique campaign to help promote BT’s coverage of the beautiful game.

BT wanted to do something disruptive; something that would excite listeners. We called upon two of the UK’s most loved football podcasts: the Guardian’s Football Weekly, and Football Ramble.

On Football Weekly, a competition gave listeners the opportunity to be ‘subbed on’ in place of host Max Rushden for five minutes, where they could grill the guests. On Football Ramble, we created a piece of podcasting football history by subbing on ex-England manager — and idol to hosts and listeners alike — Sven Goran Erkissen.

The feedback from listeners was a little overwhelming, with hundreds of them registering their joy on Twitter that day. We regularly see these reactions, with brand campaigns in podcasting often hitting the spot like nothing else can.

3. Enabling self-improvement

We know from our own research that the majority of podcast listeners (79%) listen to podcasts in order to improve their knowledge. Having a captive audience, in an environment where they’re primed to learn, gives brands the power to help people on their journey — something a number of companies have been doing very effectively over the years.

But this has really come into its own recently, with brands like NatWest (Let’s Make The New Now), Vodafone (Business Unusual) and Barclaycard (Figureheads) all releasing series with us that are designed to help the UK’s army of small businesses navigate challenging times.

Whether it’s figuring out how to make remote working a success, learning how to lead a company through choppy waters, or knowing how to start a business that provides an out-of-the-ordinary service, all of the answers, advice and inspiration you’ll ever need can be found in these well-received branded podcasts.

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