Podcasts are all the rage – listenership among the general public grew again in 2019. And now, a new study from BBC Global News suggests branded or corporate podcasts – shows that are produced on behalf of a company – are a more effective way to reach consumers than TV or radio ads.

Interestingly, the study relied on neuroscience to achieve its results. Researchers at the firm Neuro-Insight surveyed nearly 2,500 consumers across four continents, measuring “second-by-second brain activity” while respondents were consuming content both passively and actively.

They found that mentions of a brand within a branded podcast stand out to and stick with listeners. Company mentions within a branded podcast deliver 16% higher engagement and 12% higher memory encoding than the surrounding content on a show. Comparatively, brand mentions on radio score 5% lower than surrounding content.

Interestingly, podcasts are an especially great way to reach people who typically avoid ads. The survey found that podcasts out-performed TV ads by 22% on measures of engagement, emotional intensity and memory encoding.

As a result, branded podcasts contribute to brand growth in a number of ways:

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

What is a branded podcast?

In 2018, Fast Company called branded podcasts “the ads people actually want to listen to.”

But, they’re not strictly advertising or promotional. The best branded podcasts still stick to the core of what makes a good podcast: great storytelling, compelling conversations, and content people want to hear.

One great example is Inside Trader Joe’s, which gives Trader Joe’s fanatics a behind-the-scenes look at the store’s history, operations and employees.

Other branded podcasts take much less of a “selfie” approach. Sephora’s #LIPSTORIES is an interview show where guests have “relaxed, fun, and honest chats about self-image and how we can all be a little more confident.” Shopify publishes two podcasts: Shopify Masters offers ecommerce marketing advice, while Vanguard shares stories from businesses in “unexplored communities and unexpected subcultures.”

There are many, many more examples, but the common denominator is brands producing shows that are thoughtful and compelling.

Why are branded podcasts better for advertisers?

According to the BBC Global News study, part of the reason why branded podcasts are so effective is because of the way people listen to shows. In all, 94% of consumers listen to podcasts while they’re doing other things, like chores, driving or exercising. This type of listening drove higher levels of content engagement, emotional intensity and memory. Here’s how the report describes it:

Keeping the brain occupied with an activity enhances the ability for brands messages to achieve cut-through.

The state of activity means that the podcast content is being taken in through ‘low-involvement processing’ – a much more ‘fuel-efficient’ process that has a lower cognitive load. As such, engagement with the content can last much longer; good news for this long-form format.

And if the neuroscience explanation doesn’t work for you, just ask a podcast listener why they prefer ads on podcasts over TV and radio. When I shared this report in the March Slack channel, a few colleagues chimed in with their personal experiences:

Andrew Grzywacz 10:17 AM

the ads during podcasts are also really effective, because i hear the same ones across every show over and over again

i cook with blue apron. i have a sonos speaker. Etc

Bill Moody 10:17 AM

yea exactly

it also resonates more when the hosts of the podcasts are reading the copy

it always sounds pretty organic

and authentic

as if they ACTUALLY use the product

Andrew Grzywacz 10:20 AM

conan o’brien’s ad reads are the best because of this

partly because they involve a lot of dunking on the advertisers too

which is somehow endearing to the brand

Tom Korolyshun 10:22 AM

Agreed the satirical ad reads somehow have an endearing effect

And podcasts can be real cultish (not in a bad way). Like I know hosts I listen to (Conan is an exception) aren’t making a ton of money so I want to support them haha

These observations relate more to host ad reads, rather than branded podcasts as a whole. But they’re still relevant and demonstrate that brand mentions aren’t seen as intrusions in the world of podcasting – as long as the mention is presented in a way that is authentic and organic.

So, if you’re a brand choosing how to spend your marketing budget, you might want to consider native content like a branded podcast over traditional radio or TV advertising. It’s possible you’ll get more bang for your buck.