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How Branded Podcasts Might Be One Key To New Listeners

How Branded Podcasts Might Be One Key To New Listeners

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Written By

Tom Webster

Know the Author

October 25, 2023

New on the Product Deepdive: Amelia Coomber, Head of Growth at Podscribe, walks Bryan Barletta through the platform’s Social graph. With newly-implemented features, Podscribe can filter a given podcast’s demographics to show detailed audience makeup, as well as show other podcasts with similar audiences. See it all in less than ten minutes in the new Deepdive Quick Hit.

In last month’s presentation of The Podcast Landscape, I hinted that branded podcasts (or, at least, podcasts about brands) might be one way to introduce new listeners to podcasts. Let’s unpack that a little more, in the wake of last week’s publication of The Power of Brands in Podcasts, which quantified that opportunity a little more clearly.

The heart of this research was the response to this question: “How likely would you be to listen to a podcast about a favorite brand or product?” The word “favorite” (or for some of our readers, favourite) is doing a lot of heavy lifting here, and I ask you to take that mental leap with me – when you think of the brands you love the most, what comes to mind? I certainly have a few, and we probably don’t have many in common. But what we do have in common is that there are some brands or products that you are especially passionate about, and maybe even evangelize to your friends, whether they like it or not.

I had a quick brainstorm with my wife, Tamsen, to name the first 8-10 lesser-known brands we could come up with that inspire passion and community. Here was our initial list:

  • DVF (Diane Von Furstenberg)
  • Jeep
  • Lodge Cast Iron Pans
  • Jones Road (a line of clean makeup from Bobbi Brown – not Bobby Brown, Whitney fans)
  • Blackwing Pencils (Half The Pressure, Twice The Speed!)
  • King Arthur Flour (yes, really)
  • Penzey’s Spices
  • Honda Civic modders

After as much as five minutes of painstaking research, I present to you the full list of those brands that currently have their own podcast:

  • Jones Road (at least, Bobbi Brown has one)
  • Diane used to have one, but seemed to have podfaded after a half dozen episodes.

That’s it! Now, some of these brands have third party, “fan” podcasts (particularly Jeep), and others, like Blackwing Pencils, get mentioned in various related shows, but the brands themselves are silent.

So, how big is the opportunity here? What is the available audience for podcasts about brands? According to The Power of Brands in Podcasts, it’s pretty sizable: a potential reach of 106 million Americans 18+ – the populations of Canada and the UK combined!

For perspective, you can compare the 41% who would be likely to listen to a podcast about a favorite brand to the same response for a podcast hosted by a favorite celebrity (46%) or about a favorite TV show or movie (52%). By comparison, not too shabby!

Now here’s the thing: anyone could make a DVF podcast, or a show about modding Honda Civics. Yes, there is a power associated with a company’s involvement in a branded podcast (I’ll get to that in a bit), but if you are ever lost for a podcast idea, just think about a brand you are nuts about and make that show. Chances are, you aren’t the only fan of that brand. First one of you to make a podcast about Blackwing 602 pencils and all you can do with them gets me as your Number 2 Pencil listener.

But if you are with a brand that has a passionate community, and you don’t have your own “official” podcast, allow me to convince you that it might be a good idea. In an era where the average consumer tries to avoid advertising as best they can, through on-demand content, digital video recording, and premium subscriptions, Brand Fans (the 41% who would likely listen to a show about a favorite product) welcome our corporate overlords:

This graph is worth lingering over for a few minutes. First of all, with podcast listeners in general, a brand’s direct involvement with a podcast is not only not a negative, it actually makes people more likely to listen to it. But with Brand Fans in particular? The “kiss” of authenticity from an official podcast is an overwhelmingly positive inducement to listen. Imagine that! In an era where we profess to skip and avoid ads as often as we can, half of Brand Fans would be more likely to listen to a podcast produced by a brand or company.

Why is this? Some of it may be related to the product, or perhaps it creates an expectation of a higher production value – a “mark of quality”, as it were. In any case, there isn’t a negative association with corporate involvement in podcasts. Indeed, most fans of “indie” shows are delighted when their favorite podcaster gets a sponsor, despite what a few cranky listeners might tell you. I’ve written this before – if someone tells you that they stopped listening to your podcast because you ran an ad, you never really had them as a listener in the first place. C’est la vie.

Another thing about Brand Fans? They are natural evangelists, and not just for their favorite brands. They are, in fact, much more likely to recommend other podcasts to people in their social circle (and they are much more likely to have other podcast listeners in their social circles) than the average listener:

Make a Brand Fan happy with a podcast, and you are more likely to have gained a “force multiplier” as a listener – someone who might just tell a friend, which, until the podcast industry starts promoting itself properly, is still the number one way people discover new shows.

Finally, I want to pay off on the promise of the title of this article – how podcasts about brands might even grow the audience for podcasting. We actually asked the central question, “how likely would you be to listen to a podcast about a favorite brand or product,” of everyone in the sample. Most of the people who responded positively were, of course, already podcast listeners. Intriguingly, however, not all of them! In fact, 11% of the people who indicated they would be “very” or “somewhat” likely to listen to such a show are currently not podcast listeners:

If you are mathing at home, that’s 11% of the estimated 106 million brand fans, which works out to a potential new audience of roughly 11-12 million Americans 18+ who haven’t yet found their reason to listen to podcasts. Those Brand Fans, like the “Persuadables” we uncovered in our previous study, The Podcast Landscape, can come from all walks of life, but over index as women, and older than the average podcast listener. So, while any brand that inspires a passionate community has an opportunity in podcasting, those brands with an ardent following of older women should especially take note – your podcast could very well be someone’s first podcast.

For more on Brand Fans and the opportunity for branded podcasting, be sure to watch the entire presentation of The Power of Brands in Podcasts and download the slides (no registration required, as always).

This article was written with a Blackwing 602. PLEASE somebody make that show for me.

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About the author

Tom Webster is a Partner at Sounds Profitable, dedicated to setting the course for the future of the audio business. He is a 25-year veteran audio researcher and trusted advisor to the biggest companies in podcasting, and has dedicated his career to the advancement of podcasting for networks and individuals alike. He has been the co-author and driver behind some of audio’s most influential studies, from the Infinite Dial® series to Share of Ear® and the Podcast Consumer Tracker. Webster has led hundreds of audience research projects on six continents, for some of the most listened-to podcasts and syndicated radio shows in the world. He’s done a card trick for Paula Abdul, shared a martini with Tom Jones, and sold vinyl to Christopher Walken.

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