Podcasts: the perfect recipe for brand engagement

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you’ll have noticed that podcasts are big. In fact, they’re huge. When it comes to marketing, podcasts deliver amazing brand engagement, perception, and awareness. So how does the humble podcast deliver on such important metrics? We delved into the research to discover the key ingredients to its success.

October 2019

podcast brand engagement

More than 50% of Americans have listened to a podcast

Podcasting’s roots stretch as far back as the 1980s. But, it was only with the rise of smartphones that podcasts began to enter the mainstream. Things started getting serious in 2005 when Apple added podcasts to iTunes software. Since then the podcast revolution has continued at a rapid pace. Now, in 2019, more than 50% of Americans have listened to a podcast – that’s about 145 million people. Almost a quarter of people listen to a podcast every week. And investment in podcast advertising is expected to exceed $1 billion annually by 2021.

The recipe for brand engagement

The individual ingredients of the podcast engagement recipe are nothing new. We’ve known for many years that sound and stories evoke emotions and memories. But, podcasts are the first time these powers have been collectively harnessed by an accessible medium. It’s the combination of ingredients that explain why podcasts excel in brand engagement.

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Step 1. Start with emotional engagement

We all know from personal experience the sound evokes emotion. After all, it’s the most popular reason we listen to music in the first place. The science of how and why sound engages the emotions isn’t 100% clear. Researchers think it’s probably a potent combination of seven different mechanisms. But we do know that these emotional reactions are powerful and unique.

The research backs this up. One study compared reactions to visual brand stories versus audible ones. It showed that audio stories have 21% higher emotional engagement and 50% more emotional peaks, compared to visual stories. Not only was the audio more emotional, the emotions themselves were 18% more positive. This resulted in more positive emotional perceptions of the brand.

There are similar emotional engagement outcomes in podcast advertising. Podcast ads produce greater emotional brand engagement, compared to social media video ads. This result is consistent, regardless of whether the ad is host-read or producer-read.

Step 2. Mix in some memory

Sound has incredible links to memory. Think about how a favourite song from your past can seemingly transport you back in time. Or perhaps you can still remember a cheesy musical jingle from your childhood. As an audio-only medium, podcasts harness this and improve brand recall. Wondery found 38% higher memory encoding during podcast ads compared to the same brand ads on social media.

Brand engagement

Listeners often consume podcasts outside the house

Step 3: Consume!

Podcasts are the first time that a medium has brought these sonic ingredients together in an easy-to-consume package. Yes, people listen to podcasts at home as a standalone activity. But, unlike text or video, podcasts also enjoyed during other activities. We listen to them at work, in the car, on public transport, and while walking or working out. And with the rise of connected cars, podcasts will continue growing.

The opportunity for brands

We live in a visually-orientated society: we’re bombarded with visual messaging; we celebrate visual beauty over audio; and brands invest more in their appearance rather the way they sound. So, the success of podcasts should give brands some food for thought: How does our brand currently use sound? What role will sound play in our future marketing? And how should this be reflected in our brand activities and assets?

Branded podcasts for engagement

Podcast production is accessible and relatively low-cost

Compared other mediums, podcast production is easy and low-cost. Brands have a unique opportunity to create valuable, engaging content. A word of warning: While we always recommend that brands define their audio identity, in podcasting it’s imperative. Choices will be made about voice, sound, and music. And it’s crucial that these assets align with your wider sonic identity.

Get in touch if you’d like to understand sound can improve brand engagement and future-proof your brand identity.

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