Podcasting is one of the fastest-growing digital channels in terms of adspend and Marketing Scientist Peter Hammer says podcasts provide marketers with an excellent opportunity to achieve brand impact with B2B audiences.

It’s an exciting time to be a podcast fan, with new high-quality series coming out on almost every conceivable topic. No longer dominated by just news and true crime, (I’m looking at you Serial), there is truly something for everyone. And just as the variety of podcasts has developed, so too have the opportunities for B2B marketers.

According to the latest IAB US Podcast Advertising Revenue Study, podcasting is one of the fastest-growing digital channels in terms of adspend, with revenue projected to more than double between 2022 and 2025, approaching US$4 billion. This is being driven not simply by the growing number of podcasts and listeners but developments in adtech which allows ads to be dynamically inserted into podcasts, helping marketers reach niche audiences.

There’s also a growing number of B2B marketers creating their own podcasts. Look at any list of the most popular business podcasts and you’ll notice lots of familiar brand names. Aside from being produced by or in association with a brand, these podcasts differ in that their advertising message is typically incorporated into the content itself, rather than being dynamically inserted during an ad break.

While there are some studies of varying quality about the efficacy of podcasts in general, there is little about B2B specifically, meaning that questions about the role of the medium persist and how branded podcasts might aid the growth of B2B brands.

Measuring the impact of B2B banded podcasts

To investigate B2B podcasts, the Marketing Scientist Group conducted a study with the support of UK-based podcast agency Lower Street. The aim was to understand B2B podcast usage behaviour and how different brand metrics were impacted. This study used our new research tool, ContentFX, previously used to measure TV sponsorships, written branded content, digital video and social media posts.

We recruited a sample of 511 business decision makers located in the US and UK to complete a podcast usage survey and listening experiment. This group was found to be fairly heavy consumers of podcasts, with 71% claiming to listen to podcasts every week and 41% listening daily.

As part of the research, we tested 10 different B2B branded podcasts using a forced exposure methodology to understand the brand impact of the content. The podcasts covered a range of categories including technology, finance, consulting services and digital marketing.

B2B podcasts and brand metrics

When controlling for awareness/consideration, only awareness and favourability increased on average. We saw an average uplift of 20% in prompted awareness and favourability between the control and exposed groups but largely no difference in consideration and purchase intent.

This finding was particularly interesting, as some marketers rely heavily on direct response “promo codes” to measure the success of their podcasts. Based on these results, it does not seem wise to focus on lower-funnel purchase signals when it is upper-funnel metrics that see greater movement. Luckily, it seems that some marketers have already applied this knowledge, with Manning Gottlieb OMD reporting more demand for higher-funnel KPIs for podcasts.

Brand mentions and impact

How often a brand should be mentioned in a podcast is a key question for marketers and content producers, as branding is thought to impact appeal and the listener experience. But is this true for B2B podcasts?

Our study discovered that podcast clips with more brand mentions resulted in higher sponsorship noticing or brand cut-through. This is important, as those with more sponsorship noticing also performed better on enhancing brand opinions, as well as the increased likelihood to take action and make recommendations. This is consistent with other research from the BBC and Neuro-Insight which found that brand mentions in the podcast delivered 16% higher engagement and 12% higher memory encoding on average.

Interestingly, we also found there was no relationship between the amount of brand mentions and overall podcast likeability. This implies B2B listeners expect or will tolerate certain amounts of branding (within reason) in the podcasts they consume.

Impact of liking on other metrics

Past research has shown that program liking positively affected advertising memories. So it’s not surprising that podcast likeability also influenced brand metrics. Specifically, those who liked the podcast had 3.1x more brand awareness, on average, and 2.1x more favourability compared to those who disliked the podcast.

We also found that respondents with more decision-making influence liked the podcasts more and found them more relevant. Additionally, the more respondents that liked the podcasts, the greater the likelihood they would listen to other episodes in the series.

This data proves that understanding what makes a likeable podcast for your audience is important for brand outcomes, as well as the impact on key audiences, and the likelihood of creating repeat listeners for your podcast.

What this means for B2B marketers

These findings support the use of branded podcasts to impact B2B audiences for brand building. Specifically, we have demonstrated that branded podcasts can boost awareness and favourability for B2B audiences and that brand mentions and likeability can boost the impact for brands.

However, it’s important to note that creating an original B2B podcast is not for everyone. Branded podcasts are unlikely to reach large mass audiences, nor have they demonstrated much ability to move lower-funnel metrics that might deliver short-term sales.

To ensure the greatest chance for success, marketers should focus on making their podcast relevant and likeable. This will prove increasingly challenging as more high-quality B2B podcasts are produced, forcing marketers to think carefully about how they can make their content stand out and worth listening to.

Done right, however, podcasts offer significant opportunities for marketers, helping achieve brand impact among typically hard-to-reach B2B audiences. It turns out it’s not just an exciting time to be a podcast fan; it’s an exciting time to be a podcast marketer too.