Why brand podcasting is a 'missed opportunity'

By Alison Lowe | 25 November 2015

Following news that a brand podcast from General Electric (GE) has topped Serial to become the most popular, we ask if Australian brands are missing a big opportunity.

GE-produced brand podcast 'The Message' has this week knocked out big hitters Serial, This American Life and Radiolab to claim the top spot on Apple's list of most popular podcasts – the first time a piece of content marketing by a brand has done so.

Even GE was surprised by the popularity of the content, which it produced with Panoply, the podcast network owned by digital publisher Slate. “The performance of The Message “exceeded all our expectations”, Andy Goldberg, GE’s chief creative officer told the FT. “It’s had a different reach than video on either mobile or desktop. It opens up opportunities for where you can reach people.”

Sarah Mitchell, head of content strategy for Lush Digital, a Perth-based content marketing agency that promotes podcasting to brands as part of their content marketing strategies, called podcasts a missed opportunity that brands ought to start exploring further.

“Only 3% of marketers are using podcasts to there's a wide open field for it. The public are all switched on all of a sudden – people who never listened before are involved now and they're looking for more.”

“It doesn't matter what industry you're in, the top players have podcasts. It's really an opportunity for brands to get moving on. There's a gap and a window for brands to come in and dominate,” she said.

Mamamia's head of podcasts, Monique Bowley, told AdNews that podcasting represent a unique and valuable proposition for brands, centred around being able to offer more targeted content, to have an “intimate” conversation with potential consumers, and being able to do so even while listeners are on the go.

It's part of why the female-centric Australian publisher this week announced that it will be pushing podcasts big time in the coming year, building on the success of its launch of five podcasts in 2015, each of which reached top 10 in their category in iTunes worldwide.

Bowley said: "The rise in podcasts this year is due to two big reasons: Firstly, for busy women, there is a physical limit to the number of hours you can spend in front of a screen. So in all those times they can't be - whether it's cooking, at the gym, driving - women are listening to podcasts to stay connected.”

A major advantage of podcasting is that brands have a chance to literally “get in women's ears”, generating a level of intimacy with them that other marketing strategies do not offer, added Bowley.

“We know radio as a medium has always been intimate but podcasts heighten this further because they're mobile optimised, so they're usually consumed via earphones. You're not skim reading something or half watching; someone is telling you, person to person.”

Bowley admitted there's a “big old gap in the radio market for niche content” which Mamamia intends to exploit through partnerships with brands, with companies like McDonalds and HP getting in on the action in Australia to date.

Mitchell agreed that a major part of the advantage of podcasting is that the content can be consumed while potential customers get on with their busy lives.

“It's habit forming, and in a world where no one has enough time, it's one of the only mediums that you can consume while you are doing other things, like driving and exercising, so that makes it an incredible opportunity for brands,” she told AdNews.

To the extent that they do appeal to one group more than others, Mitchell said research tends to show that podcast listeners are more educated and affluent than the average population.

However, she warned that one of the nuances of podcast marketing is that it can take a while to gain traction.

“People do it for a couple of months and think it's not working. We find it takes five and a half to six months for people to catch on – that's the sweet spot. And you need to be on iTunes and in the podcast directories,” Mitchell added.

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