As consumers try to cope with day-to-day life, they are turning to the intimate, genuine voices of podcast hosts for information, comfort, escape and entertainment.
Since the arrival of the pandemic, daily podcast audiences are listening to more titles and more often. Nearly half (48%) of self-help podcast listeners and 42% of health podcast listeners are spending more time with their favorite shows than they were a year ago, according to a recent Pandora Soundboard User Study of listeners aged 18 and older.
And though most are likely sick of words and phrases like “unprecedented” and “trying times,” brands should find ways to embrace the “new normal” in podcast advertising: authentic messages that meet what’s happening in the moment.
When people went into isolation at the start of the pandemic, it was unclear how podcasting and the advertisers who had invested so much into this medium would weather the storm. This young, emerging industry became incredibly vulnerable at that moment.
But it quickly became apparent that podcasting could provide a vital service.
Consumer behaviors and longing for connection and information changed dramatically, and podcasting became the respite they desperately needed. Mental health experts, specialists, therapists and psychologists got behind microphones in their homes to offer guidance, share information, create community and speak in a way that felt authentic, organic and right for the moment.
And with the support of advertisers, these empathetic voices served consumers well.
Well-being is top of mind for many consumers, with 62% of Americans agreeing that their health is more important now than before the pandemic. That general attitude is impacting podcast listening. Listenership for health and fitness content is up 44% since 2019. When many people lost access to therapists, doctors, support groups and community during this time, mental health and wellness podcasts filled the void and ensured you weren’t lost. People found ways to stay and feel connected through the podcast hosts they so intimately came to trust.
The act of listening to podcasts is itself becoming a safe space, especially for younger audiences who are growing up and coming of age. According to an SXM Media study, listeners ages 18 to 24 listen to podcasts to improve their mood and feel less alone. Gen Z is embracing podcasts, especially creators, with 44% saying they find podcast hosts to be relatable and authentic, and 42% saying they trust and value the opinions of the hosts they listen to.
Listeners have come to podcasts with a vengeance and it is thrilling to experience. The trusted voices of podcast hosts can deliver brand messaging beautifully to audiences, even when they are in vulnerable places.
Brands stepping into podcasting and this dynamic content experience will be met with a loyal and engaged audience. And they owe it to these listeners to be as authentic as the content.
Create a connection: The goal for brands should be to create a genuine message that connects with consumers where they are. Your products and services are important to consumers’ everyday lives, but they need to know how you are going to lift them up and inspire them through these universal moments like the pandemic. To really drive impact and success, keep in mind what people have been through and that society isn’t on the other side just yet.
Trust the host: Host-read ads allow brands to tap into the voices of those who have built equity with this critical audience. Give them the freedom and authority to deliver your brand messaging in their content with grace, goodwill and authenticity.
Find ways to fit in: The good news for brands is that podcast audiences are more receptive to ads. Identify how your product or service can artfully and respectfully weave itself into the podcast genres you advertise on. Be the brand that stands out by crafting your message to creatively align with the content.
Don’t tell, show: Brands don’t have to say the big, bad words that are causing stress and concern to demonstrate their understanding. Think of ways to feature your products and services in ways that are subtle yet relevant and respect the content and moment in time.
No matter what comes next, brands should be prepared to meet the moment with podcast listeners and this medium has proven that it can and will deliver.