Podcast Basics

Why Every Company Should Start a Branded Podcast

7 min read

Are you intrigued by the idea of a branded podcast? Wondering whether you should start one for your brand?

Storytelling has been a key component of brand marketing for decades. Companies use stories, culture, education, and entertainment to build their brands, showcase their values, and further their missions. And so, considering the popularity of podcasting, the emergence of the branded podcast is no surprise.

Companies of all sizes are starting their own branded podcasts, either on their own or with the help of the major podcast production companies, such as Gimlet, Panoply, or Pineapple Street. It’s a powerful way to tell their stories and engage with their fans on a deeper level than blogging and tweets could ever provide. 

What exactly is a branded podcast? Are they effective tools to foster your brand? In this article, we’ll explain everything about them, show you some examples, and help you get started.

What is a Branded Podcast?

A branded podcast is a marketing initiative by a brand that’s not strictly promotional, but definitely, ties into the brand’s messaging. These kinds of podcasts exhibit the same storytelling qualities of a typical podcast while aligning with the brand’s mission. In 2018, Fast Company called branded podcasts “the ads people actually want to listen to.”

Lex Friedman, the CRO of Midroll, puts it succinctly

No one wants to listen to a 10-episode podcast about how great ZipRecruiter is at finding a job or helping hire the right applicant. But if we can create a show with someone like entrepreneur and author Seth Godin about what it means to be successful and being the most productive person around, that’s going to appeal to exactly the kind of people that ZipRecruiter wants to reach.

Some branded podcasts are more promotional than others. Inside Trader Joe’s, for example, gives fans a behind-the-scenes look at the store’s history, employees, and operations. The show is entirely about Trader Joe’s, but it produces content that Trader Joe’s shoppers care about: health, sustainability, environmental impact, etc.

Example of a branded podcast.

On the other end of the spectrum, General Electric’s The Message (and it’s sequel Life After) is an eight-part science fiction podcast series that follows a group of cryptographers investigating mysterious transmissions using real technology developed and sold by General Electric. It’s a unique way to bridge the gap between entertainment and GE’s commitment to tackle the world’s biggest challenges. 

Another example of a brand running its podcast successfully.

Are Branded Podcasts Effective?

A BBC Global News neuroscience study discovered that branded podcasts are more effective than TV or radio ads. Researchers surveyed 2,500 consumers across four continents and measured their “second-by-second brain activity” while respondents consumed content. 

They learned that brand mentions within a branded podcast tended to stand out from the surrounding content, delivering 16% higher engagement and 12% higher memory encoding than the surrounding content. That’s 5% higher than radio. Furthermore, their engagement, emotional intensity, and memory encoding around brand mentions beat TV benchmarks by 22%.

The same study found that this engagement leads to better brand growth the eyes of listeners: 

  • 89% higher awareness
  • 57% higher branded consideration
  • 24% higher brand favorability
  • 14% higher purchase intent

What’s the cause of this effectiveness? The same reason many people love podcasts: The intimate and conversational nature of podcasting creates higher engagement and a feeling of closeness to the content. Plus, branded podcasts are a good way to reach people who avoid ads. 

But do branded podcasts drive sales? Absolutely!

NPR discovered that 75% of podcast listeners take action in response to a sponsored message on an episode, including branded messaging. Since consumers need to hear messaging 25 to 30 times before taking action, a branded podcast is a perfect opportunity to deliver that messaging without hitting them over the head with advertisements. 

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10 Examples of Branded Podcasts

We already spoke about The Message and Inside Trader Joe’s, but here are some more examples of popular branded podcasts. Notice how all of these shows align with their brands’ missions without being overly promotional. 

1. #LIPSTORIES by Sephora

#Lipstories, a podcast by sephora

#LIPSTORIES is a branded podcast by retail chain Sephora. They publish stories about influential female thought leaders, creators, and business founders. While Sephora is a makeup company, the show focuses on female innovation, ingenuity, and inspiration. 

2. Slack Variety Pack by Slack

Slack Variety Pack show logo.

Slack’s mission is to help teams and businesses work together more effectively, so their podcast is full of stories about successful companies and the people that power them. They use lifestyle stories to talk about working in the modern age and how culture and teamwork fit in. 

3. Why We Eat What We Eat by Blue Apron

Why We Eat What We Eat featured image.

Blue Apron dives deep into the question, “What should we have for dinner?” They appeal to their foodie fans by exploring the origins of food trends and the unseen forces that affect our eating habits. 

4. Shopify Masters by Shopify

Shopify Masters podcast.

Shopify Masters tells the inspiration stories of innovators, creators, and entrepreneurs. They cover the whole gamut of business: product development, operations, marketing, etc. They connect with young entrepreneurs who have a passion to start their own businesses, which ties directly into their ecommerce platform.

5. Open Account by Umpqua Bank

Open Account podcast show.

Umpqua Bank’s branded podcast is all about smart money management. They tell success stories and offer financial advice. Their goal is to break that taboo around money so we can all talk about it honestly. 

6. The Sauce by McDonald’s

The Sauce, another branded podcast worth listening.

McDonalds’ podcast was created as a response to a PR problem in 2018 due to the shortage of their popular Szechuan sauce. This three-part series that unpacks the entire incident. It follows the same investigative format as Serial. 

7. Open for Business by eBay

The Open for Business show.

eBay’s podcast is for listeners who are building their business from the very beginning. It’s a hybrid journalism/interview show that focuses on entrepreneurs who turned simple ideas into big companies. 

8. The Distance by Basecamp

The Distance show.

Project management tool Basecamp knows the importance of organization and process for businesses. Old companies know what it takes to survive. Their branded podcast focuses on companies that have grown for 25 years or more. Each episode unpacks the lessons they’ve learned about staying in business. 

9. Innovation by Johnson & Johnson

Innovation, a podcast by Johnson & Johnson.

Johnson & Johnson is a company that focuses on healthcare innovation, so it’s no surprise their branded podcast explores new healthcare treatments, inventions, and concepts. 

10. .future by Microsoft

.future a show by Microsoft.

As a forward-thinking company that’s tackling big technology and engineering problems, Microsoft’s .future branded podcast explores how the future will affect our lives. They touch on lots of big topics, like health, data, gaming, and engineering, and discuss how we – as a society – will change. 

How to Start Your Own Branded Podcast

Starting your own branded podcast is similar to starting any other kind of podcast. Read our full guide on starting a podcast to learn how. That said, there are a few differences worth mentioning.

Put some resources behind it

Your branded podcast is a reflection of your brand, so it deserves some support. If you skimp on the production value, listeners will associate poor performance with your brand. So it’s important to behave like a high value show. That means…

It may help to look at similar podcasts in your niche to see how the competition looks. Study how they tell their stories, run intros and outros, and how they layer sound effects and music. Identify the episodes that fans seem to love the most and then reverse engineer them to learn their secrets. 

Align your show if your brand’s mission

Your branded podcast content should serve the same mission as your company. Whereas your sales team serves the mission by selling products and services, your podcast serves the mission through education, inspiration, and entertainment.

For instance, if you sell products to help busy families stay organized, your branded podcast might have episodes about organization, productivity, and getting by as a parent.

Sell yourself, but not too much

A branded podcast is not a tool to sell your products and services, but it’s all right to mention them from time to time. Focus on the stories and how they can change your listeners’ lives. 

For example, many of the guests on Shopify Masters are Shopify store owners, developers, or company employees who inevitably mentioned the product, but the purpose of each episode is to educate and inspire, not sell subscriptions.

Fold your podcast into other marketing initiatives 

Your branded podcast is a powerful asset, so you’ll want to market it as best you can. Make sure your social media, email marketing, public relations, content marketing, and other teams are aware of the new show so they can help you promote it. 

Start a Branded Podcast Today

A branded podcast is a powerful way to grow your brand, nurture your audience, and delight listeners with great content. Plus it puts your products and services in front of potential customers without seeming overly promotional. If you take your time and develop quality content that people love, they will reward you with their attention. 

Ready to start a branded podcast? Start your free 14 day trial with Castos, a podcasting platform that gives you the tools to grow your audience, and connect with your community. Register now.

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Dennis is a content marketer and web developer with years of experience helping startups and small businesses build their online platforms. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and daughter.

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