From Marvel to McDonald’s, brands are quietly launching podcasts that Gen Z & Millennials are actually tuning in for. Here are six that have captured young listeners’ attention…
Young consumers are fueling a podcasts frenzy, prompting media giants, marketers, and big brands to jump into the medium as fast as they can. According to our2018 TV & Entertainment survey, 57% of Gen Z & Millennials listen to podcasts, and 29% listen weekly, with Millennials more likely to tune into the medium than Gen Z. An Ipsos-iHeartRadio study also pointed out that Millennials listen to more audio than any other generation, thanks to their love of podcasts and music, per Ad Age. The study also found Millennials listen to more types of audio, at more times, and in more places than any older demo. Streaming services like Spotify have seen 12-34-year-old monthly listeners grow 3-9% year-over-year since 2017 in turn. The Los Angeles Times reports that podcasts could be a driving force behind audio’s rising popularity: According to Adobe Analytics, 25-34-year-olds caused a 60% rise in the number of people listening to podcasts via mobile apps, when compared to January 2018.
Brands are keeping a close eye on the podcast boom, and they have a clear cash incentive: Adobe’s study reports that six in ten listeners look up products and services they hear about in podcast ads, and nearly a quarter actually buy something. Ad spend on podcasts rose 86% from 2016 to 2017 for a total of $313.9 million, according to the IAB and PwC. The report even predicts that revenue will rise to $659 million by 2020. That’s still a small share compared to other areas like TV, but the rapid growth shows that marketers are picking out podcasts as an important new channel to reach young consumers, per the Wall Street Journal. So, which brands are quietly launching podcasts that people are actually listening to? Here are six:
1. Trader Joe’s
Trader Joe’s is staying true to their brand with an “oasis” of a YouTube channel and podcast presence. Fast Company reports that while other food-related brands are trolling each other with oddly human brand personas (ahem, Sunny D), Trader Joe’s has decided to keep things simple and soothing on these two mediums. Their podcast Inside Trader Joe’s covers the inner workings of the beloved grocery store, according to the New York Times. While host Matt Sloan starts off the first episode by saying, “This isn’t going to be a commercial,” the podcasts often promote their products and boast about how well-treated and compensated their employees are. But the promotional parts of the program hasn’t stopped the grocery chain’s Brandom from listening: It peaked at number five on the iTunes Top 100 and has an almost-perfect five star rating.
Coca-Cola first got in on the audio game in 2015 with a teen-targeted iHeartMedia collab. AdAge reports that the show, iHeartRadio First Taste Fridays With Coca-Cola, was the first project of iHeartMedia’s branded content division and aimed to give “first tastes of the hottest new music and behind the scenes artist interviews.” The first episode included exclusive interviews, premieres of new music, and surprise artist visits. More recently, Coca-Cola announced the launch of their first independent podcast, Total Refresh. In seven twenty-minute episodes that aired from April to July of this year, hosts interviewed the company’s leading executives, including Coca-Cola North America President Jim Dinkins.
3. General Electric
The most popular podcast on this list? General Electric’s The Message. As reported by Adweek, GE’s head of media innovation announced at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Mobile Symposium that the podcast and its sequel generated almost eight million downloads. The first iteration of the series took the top spot on iTunes podcast charts, according to Fast Company, for its Serial-style telling of a fiction sci-fi story that BBDO New York’s Creative Director describes as “behav[ing] like nonfiction–with supporting evidence spilling across channels.” The extra-terrestrial story was such a hit that GE followed it up with LifeAfter/The Message to keep the engagement going.
After inciting angry crowds and online fury, when the fast food brand under-estimated the Rick and Morty fandom by not stocking enough Szechuan Sauce when they brought it back (per the show’s demands), they turned their mishap into a marketing moment. McDonald’s capitalized on the fan fervor by teasing an event on Twitter, launching wewantthesauce.com, and offering a three-part podcast series with stories from the failed first release, per the Detroit Free Press. As a creative apology to customers, McDonald’s launched The Sauce, a parody of the popular podcast Serial that explained why the fast food chain fell so short of the Rick and Morty fandom’s expectations when they released Szechuan sauce. The program broke into the iTunes Top 100, reports the New York Times.
Marvel is getting in the podcast game to reach young listeners with a new ten-episode show. Marvels will be their third collaboration with the podcast service Stitcher, where it will join the more than 700,000 podcasts estimated to be active across platforms right now, reports Kidscreen. The new series will recreate the eponymous comic series, but according to The Verge, it will be “offering a more grounded, personal take on the superhero genre,” similar to the brand’s two podcast predecessors. Wolverine: The Long Night and Wolverine: The Lost Trail took cues from S-Town and Serial, much like McDonald’s did. Marvel’s bet on this medium could indicate a larger shift for entertainment brands, showing how they’re getting creative to restructure content to fit in new spaces.
Advertising Age reports that Starbucks launched their first content series in 2016, which included written stories, videos, and yes, podcasts. The podcast portion of Upstanders went on for two seasons, each with ten episodes that spotlighted social issues by telling inspiring stories from across the country, including a town in Michigan that came together to give every one of its high school students a college scholarship. Like many of these branded podcasts, it didn’t focus on the Starbucks brand or product but rather “storytelling in the public interest.” It was marketed to Millennials through Upworthy and Mic.com.