Turn up the volume! Podcast marketing becomes brands' new favorite

Mumbai: Covid-19 disruptions and months-long lockdowns hampered the marketing industry for the last two years. While some mediums became irrelevant during the pandemic, others witnessed enormous growth. One leading example of the latter is podcast! Experts feel that with the restriction on movement during the pandemic, podcast emerged as a screen-free comfortable medium to deliver content to the listeners and consumers are increasingly inclining toward passive entertainment leading marketers to invest more in audio advertising.

According to a KPMG study, podcast consumption increased by 29.3 per cent in the first year of the pandemic. A survey by Spotify and YouGov says that as of 2021, 50 percent of Indians prefer listening to at least one episode of a podcast every week. In 2018, PWC estimated that among 500 million internet users in India, only 40 million ever listened to a podcast. But the number changed dramatically during the pandemic as the listener base increased to 57.6 million monthly listeners, revealed another PWC report of 2020. The PWC Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2020 study also predicted that India’s podcast listening market, the third-largest globally, is expected to reach Rs 17.61 crore by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 34.5 per cent.

By offering advertising opportunities, the podcast is emerging as an influential platform. The key reason behind brands' interest and increasing spending on podcast advertising is that it works, and it works more effectively compared to the traditional advertising mediums that have become increasingly less effective. It is a popular medium especially among millennials and gen-Z as the medium lets them learn more about self-love, discover something new, cope with anxiety, or simply entertain themselves.

Surge in ad sales

Spotify, which is believed to be the largest music streaming app in India, recorded a surge in ad sales from a big investment in newer services such as podcasts while recording a 16 per cent increase in paid subscribers in the fourth quarter of last fiscal year. According to reports, Spotify has recorded major growth in the regional market, leading them to launch 30 new podcasts with local creators.

Local creators tapped into the trend by understanding the need of the time. While the pandemic brought unavoidable challenges to life, podcasts made content consumption easier.

As digital players are moving back to the traditional way of storytelling, open mics and sharing content through audio, audio platforms expect even bigger growth numbers in the upcoming years. Gaana.com, another leading music streaming app, is also eying to improve its marketing efficiency by 50 per cent by the end of 2022, tells Gaana head of marketing Shashwat Goswami.

Goswami says that their efforts are dedicated to diversification and personalisation. Revealing the marketing strategy for the year, he states, "Our major focus is non-music content for the year because the growth trajectory in the future will be led by podcasts."

On being asked why is so hopeful about the growth of podcasts, he explains that podcasts are highly personalised and getting hyper-local. “Podcasts are becoming increasingly popular among local communities, if it goes at the same pace, we can expect growth in tier 2 and 3 cities,” he asserts.

Brands are all up to leverage the medium

This change in numbers attracted many brands to invest in the medium. If we see the trends, brands like Oppo, Netflix, HDFC Life, Unacademy, Cadbury’s, and many more started investing in the medium a long time ago.

The Man Company, an ultimate solution to becoming a gentleman, is soon launching a very exciting show with a significant modern gentleman as the host and an amazing lineup of guests, reveals The Man Company director-brand marketing Rumi Ambastha.

Ambastha feels that this becomes a platform that's worth exploring both from an education and entertainment perspective.

QuackQuack founder and CEO Ravi Mittal says, “The usage of podcasts is going up in India. Our observation shows people who were listening to music are now also switching to podcasts for entertainment, knowledge and inspiration. We are finding this concept interesting for marketing our products.”

“Podcasts should see continuous growth in India for now as people opt to get more productive with their free time and consume more audio-based content. Audio-based marketing has a tremendous scope from a sponsorship point of view if done in the right manner leading to a win-win for the podcast and the brands,” he adds, while evaluating the future of podcast marketing.

The popular dating app Bumble also collaborated with JioSaavn during the pandemic to spread the message of being together among young adults. With a highly-engaged and young user base, JioSaavn was the perfect destination for Bumble to build a community to foster safe, meaningful, and true connections.

Dairy Milk Silk also launched a campaign with Spotify to bring lovestruck couples together. The campaign was targeted toward the couples who couldn't meet during the lockdown. According to Spotify official data, the campaign reached five million+ listeners and eight thousand Spotify users opted to gift a Dairy Milk Silk to their loved ones.

Well! Not just the mainstream brands but other industry players are also investing in the medium. Scenic Communication, a leading communication agency, has invested in the medium by collaborating with leading podcasters.

Scenic Communication co-founder Anindita Gupta says, “We invest in the medium by collaborating with leading podcasters.” She added, “as a communication agency we are aware of how significant this platform is going to be in the future of brand engagement and we are working towards a strategy to involve most of our clients to create a presence on this platform.”

The relevance of podcast: Explained by experts

Gupta feels podcast as a medium has rapidly evolved over the last five years, mainly as an alternative to video, as it allows people to reduce screen time, multi-task, and still consume content of their choice.

“Over a period of time, podcasts also became a source of knowledge, entertainment and news, helping both podcasters and brands to engage with a fast-evolving audience willing to 'Listen' instead of being attached to an 'immersive viewing' experience all the time. This is how podcasts started as a marketing medium and are now used as a tool for brands to showcase their products and services,” affirms Gupta.

Adding to it, The Man Company’s Ambastha says, “podcast emerged as an interesting respite from all other video streaming platforms. So one can say podcasts literally and figuratively found their space and voice during the pandemic.”

“Podcast is a welcome change from the erstwhile omnipresent mobile phones. Gives you the liberty to watch and do other household chores or workout all while listening to your favorite personalised podcasts,” she explains

Pulp Strategy founder and MD Ambika Sharma shares that podcasts are a great way to reach hyper-targeted audiences.

“Podcasts can be information, and engagement on-demand while audiences are on the go, they are easy to tune into and offer the advantage of repetitive engagement if the content is great. It is a very useful medium for new-age brands that are majorly targeted to millennials and gen-Z and if we deep dive into the demographics of the users of audio platforms, we realise that 75 per cent of their consumers are from these age groups. Hence, audio streaming platforms become relevant for dating applications,” she further says.

4AM Worldwide chief creative officer Anand Nair thinks that audio-based content has certain transparency and intimacy to it. “The beauty of listening to a well-conducted podcast as it transports the listener to the room where the host and the guest are conversing makes it feel like a personal experience. Whether from entertainment or from a learning perspective, this kind of engagement is remarkable in the times we live in where distractions abound,” asserts Nair.

“podcasts make more sense for a certain type of brand targeting a certain type of audience thanks to the level of intimate and extensive engagement it offers. It makes the speaker appear as an authority thus inducing trust which is the precursor to most purchase decisions,” he further says, adding that, “If used strategically as part of a larger media plan, it can help build recall and become a channel to build more evangelists for the brand since the audience listening are likely to  be among the influencers of their social circles.”

Moreover, podcasts appeal to the mass audience as it has the added advantage of less attention span which does not require any extra screen time making them an ideal option for consuming productive content even in a busy schedule.

Grapes Digital CEO and co-founder Shradha Agarwal thinks that “the listenership for podcasts is growing, but on a small base because in the end, it's difficult to define how many listeners have actually tuned in for how many minutes. However, there is an immense scope in the industry to grow- all that is needed from the providers is to experiment with the varied forms of content.”

“In recent times, various categories of brands have started advertising audio marketing. The brands usually tap the millennials or people in the age bracket of 20-40 years. With the rising popularity of podcasts and the wide reach it exercises, diverse brands are foraying in this platform where e-commerce, fintech, education, food delivery apps etc are highly active on the platform,” Agarwal attests.

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