Is podcasting the new Instagram for retailers?

Ben StevensFeatures News

#everyonehasapodcast

Earlier this year the New York Times declared that we have reached “peak podcast”. If you try to search for this article on Google, at least four podcasts including “The PEAK Podcast”, “Peak Podcasts” and “Personal Peak Podcast” will be suggested.

750,000 podcasts, 30 million episodes and an unfathomable amount of hours are now available to anyone, anywhere, for free.

However, there is good reason why the market has reached “peak” saturation. Anyone able to stand out from the masses will have access to a gigantic potential following of very loyal listeners. Around 51 per cent of the US (163 million people) have listened to a podcast, and of those 81 per cent listen to each episode in its entirety.

This, along with ridiculously cheap production costs, make podcasts prime-marketing real estate for brands.

“We saw the rapid growth of podcasts and knew it was something we could make successful for our clients,” senior account manager at Social Chain, which produces podcasts for PrettyLittleThing (PLT), Amy Miller told Charged.  

PLT, along with the larger Boohoo family, owes much of its meteoric success to its mastery of social media, boasting 11.6 million loyal Instagram followers and 314,000 Twitter followers.

Despite this, podcasts represent largely uncharted territory for brands, especially those accustomed to basing their entire marketing strategy on static images.

“The level of information you can get from one forty-minute podcast is like no other, you can tell a whole story and pretty much captivate the audience for the duration of it”

“What once would have been a print ad in a magazine can now be translated to a 40 minute audio piece in which you can pick out the emotion, thoughts and messaging directly from a brand,” Miller added.

The transition from highly engaging images which need to convey a brand’s personality in just a few words (if any) to conversations stretching to an hour requires a dramatic strategic rethink for retailers, forcing them to flesh out their branded messages to fill this new space.

“People want so much more from a brand nowadays, not just clothes, they want the brand to become a lifestyle and we’ve managed to achieve this through PLT’s podcast,” she continued.

“The level of information you can get from one forty-minute podcast is like no other, you can tell a whole story and pretty much captivate the audience for the duration of it. Print and even some forms of social just simply aren’t the right platform to talk about particular messages – podcasts create a much more authentic way of listening in which the audience can relate to easily.”

PLT’s podcast Behind Closed Doors is one of the few branded podcasts succeeding in the space, with each of its near 40 episodes achieving tens if not hundreds of thousands of views across various platforms.

It has been so successful that its sister brand Boohoo sought to capitalise on its popularity, launching its own podcast Get the Scoop in September.

While other branded podcasts like Ebay’s Open For Business have achieved moderate success by offering advice on how to start a business, PLT stuck to what it knows best.

As its head of marketing Nicky Capstick told Charged: “Influencers have become a huge part of our brand and we utilise them to connect with our customers on a personal level.”

It seems that PLT’s success using influencers to grow their social media operations works just as well in podcast form as it does on Instagram and Twitter.

By featuring the hottest influencers in its podcasts and even focusing on social media itself as a subject, PLT has been able to replicate its success by offering its fans content that will appear familiar, negating any potential barriers for fans to adopting a new form of media.

While the last wave of social media challenged marketers to convey their personality in blocks of text no more than 140 characters long, podcasts challenge them to dramatically expand their scope

As Miller explains: “A branded podcast such as this one aims to connect with the consumer or listener on a whole new level, it isn’t a sales message, it’s a form of communication and connection.

“The podcast aims to talk about topics such as the power and influence of social media, what it’s like to be an influencer or celebrity in this day and age, and discusses a whole other range of topics such as body positivity, relationships, careers and health.”

Though the podcast landscape is still being discovered, podcasts exist within the wider social media ecosystem, a tool that PLT has also been able to use to its advantage.

“One thing to reference in regards to success of podcasts is the strategy behind it, it’s not as simple as producing a podcast and pushing this out on say iTunes or Spotify, a whole promotional plan needs to accompany this in order for it to succeed and data needs to be studied in order to see how effective it can be,” she added.

Social media marketing has always been a tricky game, presenting as many pitfalls as it does opportunities for any brands using it as a promotional tool. Invariably those who succeed have a self-assured, fully formed and consistent message about who they are and what their brand stands for.

While the last wave of social media challenged marketers to convey their personality through static images or in blocks of text no more than 140 characters long, podcasts challenge them to dramatically expand their scope and keep fans engaged for long period of time, without the help of visual stimulation.

Though the medium is as different as it could get, brands which have a deep understanding of their values and personality will relish the opportunity to fill this new-found space and continue to stay on top of the social media marketing game.

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Ben StevensFeatures News

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