Apparently, this podcasting this has really caught on. All kidding aside, there are now more than 750,000 podcasts on the market and podcast fans populate about half of the households in America. And podcasting is even more popular in Australia, Sweden, Spain, and South Korea. It is a global phenomenon driven by smartphones and a desire for a steady stream of information and entertainment. 

Needless to say, marketers have taken notice. The spend on podcast advertising was over $479 million dollars last year and expected to exceed a billion dollars by 2021 in the U.S. alone. It isn't just the appeal of a booming new market that is attracting these ad dollars. In an age of banner blindness and ad blocking, marketers are enthusiastic to find a platform with engaged audiences that stay tuned in, even during the commercial breaks. In today's distracted culture, it is hard to balk at a medium in which a full 70% of people say they listen while doing nothing else. 

The medium attracts men and women in almost equal numbers and an almost even number of adults aged 18-54. Though the podcast audience is still mostly white, the numbers are climbing across ethnic groups. People are listening to learn, be entertained, stay up to date, relax, and feel inspired. 

Unlike its audio predecessor, radio, podcasts offer unrivaled intimacy. Often a headphones-on experience, a podcast isn't background noise, skimmable, or swipable. Podcasts provide the kind of lean-in experience that actually harkens back to radio's early days, when families would gather around and listen to breaking news or serialized entertainment with rapt attention.

Three Keys to Effective Podcast Marketing

So, if you are considering jumping into podcasting to deliver your marketing messages, here are some key considerations:

A natural fit: While podcast advertising can be dynamically inserted, many podcast ads are still done the old-fashioned way, with the podcast host reading ad copy. This may sound old-timey and potentially lacking in the hyper-targeted bells and whistles that marketers have come to rely on. However, here's the thing: It works. While all advertising benefits from a solid contextual fit, this type of podcast ad benefits from its tightly woven integration into the programming that surrounds it. In fact, the tighter the weave, the more effective the advertisement. 

Thus, not only should the podcast itself be selected for its ability to reach your desired audience, marketers must create messaging with the same care as the podcast producer. In fact, the latter may well be willing to help with your creative. If so: listen. This is not a question of campaign supremacy. Rather, this is a situation in which the marketing message that fits most naturally into the context of the podcast itself will be best received by the audience--and most effective. 

Effective as one, two, three: Most podcasts offer three spots for host-read or pre-recorded advertising: pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll. It is well-documented that brand recall is higher when consumers are exposed to advertising multiple times (particularly across different channels). For podcasts, campaign effectiveness improves if a brand appears in more than one ad within a given podcast. 

Given the medium, this approach offers marketers a distinct storytelling opportunity. Start by conceiving of your creative within the context of a specific topic, or the general subject matter, of a particular podcast series. Remember that a natural integration is essential to maximize the impact of podcast marketing. Then, take this a step further by creating a narrative of your own that creates its own storytelling tension with a satisfying payoff in the end. 

Integrate to do great: It might be tempting to look at the vast podcast audience and try to carve some of it out all for yourself. However, the podcast ecosystem's vast reach poses its own challenges. Most people discover podcasts through social media and word of mouth. So, if you boast a large following and network already, you have a shot at do-it-yourself podcasts. However, you'll still have to tackle compelling content creation and mastering podcast production, of course. 

Given that the most effective podcast advertising aligns with a production's subject matter, partnering with an established podcast producer on a branded podcast or series is an option well-worth considering. While this is not an inexpensive marketing solution, it packages in production and promotional costs. If the alignment is tight enough, audiences won't bat an eye at that brought-to-you-by message. A professional production partner knows audiences (and how to attract and satisfy them). A good branded series can capitalize on a current trend and feature advertising that his a shorter lifespan or cover an evergreen topic and be discoverable--and enjoyable--for a long time to come. 

The Payoff

More than half of podcast listeners say that they are somewhat or much more likely to consider a brand they learned about in a podcast ad. Brand recall studies are typically quite high for podcast advertising. In fact, podcast advertising has been found to increase key metrics like awareness, ad recall, affinity, recommendation and purchase intent. This is a lean in medium where consumers are not prone to ad skipping. Unfortunately, marketers have taken some misguided paths with digital marketing. With podcasts, we can apply many lessons learned and create a message that makes the most of the medium.

Podcasting provides an opportunity to reach audiences of all types in the context of content they are excited to consume. And unlike much of the distracted viewing or swift swiping in digital, podcasts provide attentive audiences. Now deliver a message that's well-worth listening to. 

Published on: Jul 15, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.