Brand Equity Magazine

Podcasting for Marketing, and Why it's not Just for iPods
By Jeff Zweig, Chief Guru, Web Guru Asia

My previous articles have dealt with RSS. In them I touched briefly on the subject of Podcasts. Now it's time to look at Podcasts in more depth, with some suggestions for how we as marketers can help promote our brands through Podcasting.

First, though, let's clear up a common misunderstanding. According to Webster's Dictionary, the word "Podcast" comes from a combination of "iPod" and "broadcast", which has led many people to assume that Podcasts are just for iPods. This is far from the case. Podcasts are downloadable media files (audio or video) and can be played on any digital device with the right drivers and software, which includes almost every laptop and desktop computer, as well as every PDA and MP3 player and many mobile phones (and, yes, every iPod too).

What does this mean to us as marketers? Simply put, Podcasting is a content delivery channel that is readily accessible to the majority of consumers. And Podcasts are highly portable - you can play content whenever and wherever you want - on a plane, at the gym, anywhere you can take your playing device.

This combination of accessibility and portability has helped some Podcasts become wildly popular. The most downloaded Podcast to date featured Ricky Gervais (David Brent from The Office) and was distributed via the online edition of The Guardian newspaper. It was downloaded over 8 million times, generating enormous publicity and some serious brand awareness for The Guardian. It probably helped shift some advertising units on www.guardian.co.uk too.

All the major international media organizations are now heavily invested in Podcasting. CNN is a good example. Have a look at http://edition.cnn.com/services/podcasting and you'll find daily and hourly Podcasts in both Audio and Video ("Vodcasting") formats, all of which you can subscribe to via an RSS aggregator. For an Asian example, have a look at what South China Morning Post is doing at http://podcasting.scmp.com. BBC Radio also uses Podcasts, and it has a good guide to downloading and playing content, which you can check out at http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/waystolisten/podcasts.

It's not surprising that media organizations should be into Podcasting - they already have a lot of audio or video content. But what about other types of company, how can they benefit from Podcasting? Let's look now at some of the ways that we as marketers can use Podcasting.

These fall into two broad categories. Firstly, marketers can leverage off other people's content, through advertising or sponsorship. Secondly, marketers can create their own content and use it to generate online interest and brand loyalty. The following are just a few suggestions for some ways in which we can use Podcasting to promote our brands:

1. Sponsorship of Podcasts

This works in a similar way to brand sponsorship of television of radio shows. If a particular Podcast has good coverage in the demographic we want to market to, or has a particular synergy with our brand, then sponsorship is an interesting option. An example here would be a high-energy breakfast cereal sponsoring a Podcast on health and fitness. If you want to see a list of the types of Podcasts out there, have a look at the Podcast Directory on http://www.podcastingnews.com.

2. Advertising on Podcasts

This is already becoming big business, with online ad syndication networks and Podcast hosting companies offering programs that allow advertisers to insert their ads into video Podcasts ("Vodcasts"). The day I write this article sees the launch of a new industry association, with some pretty big names onboard - a sure sign that Podcast advertising is being taken seriously. Have a look at http://www.downloadablemedia.org for more information.

3. Product Knowledge

Podcasts, and particularly Vodcasts, are ideal for spreading product knowledge and offering suggestions for using a product or service. A good example here would be a regular Vodcast for a food brand that shows creative new recipes. With distribution via your own website, Vodcasting can be much less costly than traditional advertorials - and it can provide information of genuine value to customers.

4. Training

If you have a brand that features regular upgrades, you can distribute upgrades via RSS and then provide training via Podcasts or Vodcasts. http://screencastsonline.com does something like this, with video tutorials for Mac, PC and iPod. Sales agents working in the field can also receive training on product updates via Podcasts.

5. Viral Marketing

The Internet is a great place to try out fresh marketing ideas without the need to pay too much for airtime or media space. There is a great deal of synergy between viral marketing and Podcasts, particularly for new product launches. You can distribute branded video clips via Podcasting and encourage recipients to pass them on, either by forwarding the file or forwarding a link. If the video content is compelling, it can get passed around a lot, generating that all important Internet buzz that help a brand take off.

These are just a few broad suggestions. The specifics of any campaign using Podcasting will depend on the brand and the target audience. The only limit to what we can do with Podcasting is our own creativity as marketers.

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