Why brands should make the leap to podcast advertising

In an exclusive guest post for ClickZ, Stuart Last, COO at audioBoom, explains who is listening to podcasts, what they are buying, and how brands can capitalize on this behavior.

We’re in the midst of a podcast renaissance, marked by new shows about everything from true crime to improvisational comedy. In fact, 67 million people listen to at least one podcast per month, according to research. And the number of listeners is growing.

Yet, many advertisers are still hesitant to make the leap from traditional print, television and radio ads to podcast advertising. They don’t know much about their listeners beyond basic gender, age and location demographics associated with a download.

However, they are aware that something about the ad format is resonating: 64 percent of podcast listeners have admitted to buying a product they heard about on a podcast.

Who are these listeners? What are they buying? More importantly, how are brands capitalizing on the audience?

Stock photograph of a woman listening to a smartphone through earphones, with one finger resting on the screen.

The anatomy of a podcast advertisement

Two years ago, data-driven storytelling podcast FiveThirtyEight studied trends in podcast advertising and learned that roughly 87 percent of podcast ads “were for products or services that acquire customers online: web-based services for businesses (e.g. ZipRecruiter.com), Web-based services for consumers (e.g. Squarespace) and Web-ordered physical products (e.g. Dollar Shave Club).”

Most of these ads were formatted similarly to native ads in print – hidden in the context of the show, itself, rather than playing as a recorded advertisement. Now in 2017, this format is still the most effective. Hosts who deliver ads as part of their show lend brands an added level of authenticity from the rapport they have built with their dedicated audience.

In many cases, podcast hosts have become influencers, just like bloggers and celebrities on social media. As a result, endorsements from hosts have proven ROI.

But still, podcasting metrics have been notoriously difficult to pin down. What constitutes a meaningful impression for advertisers? Does this hold true from one podcasting platform to another?

In tandem with Edison Research, audioBoom decided to dig deeper and pinpoint the specific lifestyles and preferences of more than 6,000 frequent podcast listeners.

Who’s listening?

We were able to categorize types of podcast listeners into six distinct groups: The Fitness Fanatic, The Traveler, The Music Enthusiast, The Foodie, The Stable Homeowner and The Subscriber.

The fitness fanatic

Podcast listeners consider it important or very important to live a healthy lifestyle (63 percent); they exercise at least a few times a week (41 percent) and regularly drink bottled water (81 percent) or sports drinks (47 percent).

The traveler

Seventy-seven percent of podcast listeners have traveled for leisure in the past year – primarily domestically (71 percent), but many intend to travel internationally in the next year (40 percent).

The traveler listens to podcasts in the car (77 percent) and on public transportation (20 percent), primarily on their smartphones.

The music enthusiast

More than half of all podcast listeners spend at least $50 a year going to concerts, and one in 10 listeners spend more than $500 a year to attend live music shows. The music enthusiast pays for audio subscription services like Sirius XM, PandoraOne, Spotify Premium and Apple Music (41 percent).

The foodie

Spending upwards of $2,000-$5,000 a year on dining out (21 percent), many podcast listeners use on-demand delivery services like Instacart, Seamless and Uber at least several times per year (44 percent). Moreover, 22 percent subscribe to mail order food services from companies like Blue Apron.

The stable homeowner

More than half of frequent listeners own their home – and listen to podcasts in said home (80 percent). The stable homeowner has purchased home improvement products at least several times per year (72 percent) and is currently planning and saving for retirement (73 percent).

This person probably has a 401K (81 percent) and plans to to purchase or lease a vehicle in the next four years (55 percent).

The subscriber

Most strikingly, ninety-one percent of podcast listeners pay for television subscription services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and HBO Now.

A further forty-one percent pay for audio subscriptions for services such as Sirius XM, PandoraOne, Spotify Premium and Apple Music. And 22 percent currently have mail order subscriptions from companies like Birchbox, Stichfix and Barkbox.

Given that many podcasts are delivered in a serial format, it makes sense that ‘subscribers’ would find it easy to get on board with this method of delivery – or that habitual podcast listeners would seek this format out in other areas of their lives.

How brands can maximize the impact of podcast advertising

Brands that offer consumers fun and personal experiences – specifically geared towards travel, music, food and events (like concerts, sports) – are most likely to have success in podcast advertising based on the six groups of podcast listeners we’ve identified. Brands that provide subscription services have a high chance of successful conversion, as well.

However, brands outside of these listener profiles can still find a home in podcast advertising. For many brands, it’s simply a matter of finding the correct show, and host, and to promote the product.

At one point, even after the success of Serial, one might have assumed that true crime podcasts like Up and Vanished and Undisclosed were presenting somewhat niche subject matter.

As it turns out, those shows and other true crime podcasts have large, engaged audiences who are receptive to a variety of brands as varied as ProFlowers, LeTote and Harry’s Shave Club.

But even in the case of shows where the topic is more specific and the audiences are smaller, brands like Stamps.com, Casper and the Great Courses are still appealing to the masses.

After all, everyone will eventually need a mattress or a stamp – and having a specific brand or service recommended to you by a trusted voice makes a huge difference.

If you’re a fan of great marketing insights in podcast form, don’t miss our own ClickZ Podcast, presented by Tim Flagg.

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