Why Branded Podcast In 2021 Is The Best Way To 10x Your Business?

create branded podcast content

Are you an entrepreneur or marketer thinking of starting a branded podcast? Perhaps that’s what got you here to this post. If you’re looking to start your own podcast, I’ve written a detailed post where I walk you step-by-step through the process of starting a podcast.

Brands have been actively engaging in podcasts for many years due to the nature of engagement with its target audience.

From paid sponsorship spots, being guests on other podcasts (aka podcast tours), to start their own branded podcasts, brands have always played big in the podcasting space. But of the three, branded podcasts have always had the edge. Why?

How effective are branded podcasts?

How are top brands using their branded podcasts effectively?

In this post, I will dive into all of them.

To begin with, let’s look at how these 3 options play out to a brand decision-maker.

Podcast Sponsorship vs Podcast Tour vs Branded Podcast

When it comes to brands, podcasts squarely fall into the marketing bucket. And the question you are looking for an answer to is: “What is the RoI?”

You are looking for ways to measure the return of investment and invest your time and money in activities that generally have the maximum RoI.

Return on Investment

There are typically three kinds of returns you should expect from podcasting, irrespective of the option you pick:

  1. Brand awareness
  2. Brand engagement
  3. Lead generation and sales

Podcast sponsorships, podcast tours, and branded podcasts play a big role in creating brand awareness, engagement, and generate leads and sales.

While Podcast Sponsorships and Podcast Tours are a great way to get in front of your target audience, create brand awareness, and generate leads, they don’t necessarily play a role in driving brand engagement.

And that’s why Branded Podcasts stand out.

Because branded podcasts offer a melting pot for listeners to experience the brand first-hand, establishing trust, driving brand engagement, generating leads, and even sales.

But are branded podcasts effective?

Effectiveness of Branded Podcasts

Just a year ago, the BBC had published a detailed piece on why branded podcasts are uniquely effective. While you can read the article yourself, here are the key findings:

  1. Branding stands out from the content, helping land the message
  2. Branded podcasts achieve unique cut-through with ad avoiders
  3. Podcast listeners are active
  4. The activity makes listeners more receptive
  5. Branded podcasts drive positive associations
  6. Podcasts provide extra time for brands

“This study provides real empirical evidence demonstrating the opportunity in the audio space for brands, and partnering with experts in this space offers an exciting and effective way for them to reach audiences in a genuinely meaningful way.” — Richard Pattinson, Senior Vice President, BBC StoryWorks at BBC Global News.

3 Key Findings From Branded Podcasts Statistics:

Brand Mentions

“Brand mentions in the podcast deliver on average 16% higher engagement and 12% higher memory encoding than the surrounding content.”

The very fact that listeners are experiencing the content from earphones or inside car speakers makes them perhaps very intimate to the listeners. This nature of the podcast environment creates an elevated state of engagement for brand mentions.

The study also discovered that ad-avoiders are pretty easy with branded podcasts. The study says that the engagement, emotional intensity, and memory encoding around brand mentions of these “hard to reach but commercially-desirable group (of people)” beat TV benchmarks by at least 22%.

Active Brain, Active Mind

It’s well known that an active mind is more receptive. The study goes on to say:

“Keeping the brain occupied with an activity enhances the ability for brands’ messages to achieve cut-through.” and goes on to say “The state of activity means that the podcast content is being taken in through ‘low-involvement processing’ – a much more ‘fuel-efficient’ process that has a lower cognitive load.”

Extra Time for Brands

Unlike Ads, people willfully consume podcast content. In other words, branded podcasts get “extra time” with their target audience (and with their full permission!). Also, since listeners consume podcasts while multitasking, brands get their exclusive mindshare. This very thing puts brands without branded podcasts at a huge disadvantage.

5 Best Branded Podcasts From Top Brands

When it comes to creating branded podcasts, brands achieve varying degrees of success. While some of these branded podcasts even go on to win awards (Shorty, Apple, etc.), some others just do the job. Some brands choose to create limited-series podcasts, while some others have a longer-term strategy.

But what does success look like, with branded podcasts?

I picked 5 shows from a shortlist of over 62 branded podcasts to give you an idea of:

  1. why they started them.
  2. how they’ve used these podcasts to drive brand engagement.

Let’s look at these 5 branded podcasts from these lenses.

the sauce podcast by mcdonalds

The Sauce by McDonald’s

McDonald’s never intended to start a branded podcast…but for a PR nightmare. Here’s what happened…

In 1998, McDonald’s introduced a limited-edition “Szechuan sauce” for promoting an animated Disney film called Mulan. You cannot imagine what this promotion did….20 years later…

In 2017 Rick and Morty, a popular American adult sitcom reminded its fans of this “Szechuan sauce” with this trailer for its newest season. Lo and behold, this triggered a tsunami of interest from Rick and Morty fans, that even went on to sign petitions to bring back the sauce.

McDonald’s reintroduced a “super-limited batch” of the sauce in October 2018, they weren’t able to meet the demand. This resulted in riots in some stores and bad PR for the brand.

That’s why McDonald’s decided to create a limited 3-episode branded podcast called “The Sauce”. You can read more about it in this article in the New York Times.

How did the podcast impact the brand?

‘The Sauce’ by McDonald’s, though a limited-series with 3 episodes, helped retell the negative story that was starting to make rounds.

Instead of talking about “look at these riots at McDonald’s because they ran out of a sauce”, all of a sudden people were now talking about “The Sauce Podcast by McDonald’s”.

Smartly enough, the branded podcast by McDonald’s had just 3 episodes with really smart titles:

  1. Episode 1: Good Intentions
  2. Episode 2: The Szechuan Sauce Riots
  3. Episode 3: Making Amends

That was indeed a smart move by a brand that had a worldwide presence!

work in progress podcast

Work In Progress by Slack

Slack is not a newbie when it comes to podcasts. Much before launching their own branded podcasts, they played big by sponsoring podcasts. Slack tested the waters of branded podcasts with its first show ‘Variety Pack’ focused on the future of work. The success of the show led to ‘Work In Progress’, a show catered to a much wider audience base. Rightfully so, the show was also launched on SiriusXM and turned out to be a big hit.

How did the podcast impact the brand?

Slack’s first show, ‘The Slack Variety Pack’ saw nearly 2 million listens over the first 15 episodes. They’ve used the podcasts effectively as a way to market themselves without being sleazy. The CTAs (Calls to Action) in their episodes were very natural, less salesy.

One example was when they ask you to tweet at their Twitter handle to get featured on a future episode. Asking listeners to use a specific hashtag to share feedback was another.

Slack used their branded podcast to find and connect directly with potential and target users and existing user base. They used their podcast to drive brand engagement, and brand adoption by connecting with decision-influencers.

inside trader joes podcast

Inside Trader Joe’s by Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s is a well-known brand in the United States with a cult-like following. Back in 2018 when they launched a limited-series of the show Inside Trader Joe’s, they didn’t expect to see what eventually happened. The show was featured at the top of Apple Podcasts (iTunes, back then).

While there are many stories about why they started a branded podcast, here’s what they wanted to do with it: The mission was to tell Trader Joe’s story. The story about the chain and the culture. They believed the best way to do that was to connect their customers and fans with people inside Trader Joe’s.

That’s also the reason why the show is hosted by the company’s marketing director, Tara Miller, and VP of marketing products Matt Sloan.

How did the podcast impact the brand?

The podcast has been consistently featured in the Top-20 in the Food category on Apple Podcasts. When most high-touch businesses like stores and supermarkets have struggled to connect with their customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Trader Joe’s has used its branded podcast to connect with its customers.

They’ve used the podcast to give customers an inside view of how they are continuing to serve while following all safety measures.

command line heroes podcast

Command Line Heroes by RedHat

The Command Like Heroes Podcast is an award-winning podcast from RedHat. On the show, you get ‘root access’ to stories behind how developers, programmers, hackers, geeks, and open source rebels are revolutionizing the technology landscape.

What’s interesting about this podcast is the way they bring together a legendary brand, a revolutionary idea (open source technology), nerds, and storytelling. The show attempts to put a person and a face to some of the biggest technology creations that we know of.

The show is a great example of one that doesn’t stick to a stereotype podcast. The host seamlessly moves from narratives to interviews in mini-seasons rather effortlessly with a clear focus – give the listener ‘root access’ to these stories. The show also cleverly uses the term ‘root access’, a term that’s only familiar with techies, and uses them in the show description.

How did the podcast impact the brand?

After the first 24 episodes, the podcast got over 600,000 unique listeners, with over 1.4 million downloads, and audience retention of over 75% through the end of each episode. Those are big numbers for a brand to be engaging with.

To top it all, the podcast won the Shorty Industry Award for Best in Technology.

Keeping You Organized by Smead​

Keeping You Organized by Smead Manufacturing

Everyone uses notepads, stickies, folders, and other stationeries at work. But how often do you know who makes them? Well, that’s why this podcast has been featured in this list here. Smead is a popular office organizing products like folders, whiteboards, etc.

Starting with the name of the show – ‘Keeping You Organized’, the producers of the show have done so many things right. The show focuses on you, the listener, and your needs. That’s where the show goes beyond the needs that their products address.

The show dives deep into topics that its audience cares about. Organizing remote meetings, organizing diet, work from home routines, organizing for empty nesters – these are just some titles of episodes from this podcast.

How did the podcast impact the brand?

One of the biggest reasons we don’t know the names of office supplies and office organizing product suppliers is because we don’t buy them. Oftentimes, it’s the people in the office procurement teams that make these purchases.

It’s by focusing on broader-ranging topics related to organizing, that Smead’s branded podcast stands out. The show helps the brand be on top-of-mind of target users, thereby turning them into effective influencers and ambassadors of the brand.

Ready to Create a Branded Podcast?

Since you’ve come this far, chances are that you are considering starting a branded podcast. If so, we can help. But if you think you need more inspiration, we shortlisted 24 branded podcasts for you to draw some ideas and inspiration from.

We believe podcasting is marketing. And that’s why it’s important to not just focus on the content creation, but also to pay special attention to its positioning and distribution. That’s what we do when we work with our clients or in the courses we create.

Podcasting is growing in popularity and adoption far and wide. As the number of podcasts is rapidly increasing, it’s more important now than ever before to focus on creating a very high-quality podcast. Because at the end of the day, listeners care about content and not about the brand.

Let's Engage

Like to explore working with us on a branded podcast? Please fill out the details and send it our way.

We’ll be in touch with you within the next 48 hours.

Karthik Vijayakumar

Managing Partner at Design Your Thinking Labs. Storyteller, producer, copywriter, digital marketer, and artist. Helping purpose-driven entrepreneurs and brands. Husband to a makeup artist, dad to a 7-year old.