In an increasingly digital world where multitasking is the norm, podcasts have emerged as a critical solution for authentic and insightful information while on the go and Singaporeans are increasingly turning towards them. In Singapore alone, there are a million listeners as of 2023 and 93% embrace podcasts in their daily routine, easily positioning it as one of the most influential media channels in the country.
These were the results of the Sounds Smart Asia 2023 study commissioned by podcast marketplace Acast. For the study, individuals in Singapore aged 18 and over who regularly listen to podcasts at least once a week were surveyed. The research delved into aspects such as podcast consumption, engagement, and receptivity, to provide an up-to-date outlook on the current podcast landscape, it said in a statement.
The study found that 93% of respondents in Singapore embrace podcasts as part of their daily routine and that it requires the most focus (72%) compared to streaming TV and social media. As a result, over a third of respondents stated that podcasts are motivational, thought-provoking, and highly useful for learning. 95% of respondents also stated that podcasts discuss "things of interest”.
Acast noted that a majority of 29% view podcasts as a valuable use of time instead of aimlessly scrolling or watching television passively.
Considering how valuable podcasts have become to the Singaporean audience, it is then, an obvious choice for marketers and brands looking to gain new audiences. Acast said:
The study found that 82% of podcast listeners say hearing a brand in a podcast improves their perception of the brand.
66% on the other hand trust hosts to genuinely endorse a brand while 21% of podcast listeners have discovered a new brand on a podcast. As a result of this trust, podcasts tend to drive real consumer action with a whopping 96% of podcast listeners in Singapore taking action after hearing a podcast ad.
It was found that 49% looked into a brand's social media after hearing about it on a podcast while 38% visited the brand's website. 33% on the other hand told friends and family about the brand while 20% made a purchase and 21% found a favorite brand.
It would seem those in the advertising industry agree with the increasing legitimacy of podcasts as a medium for advertising. In a recent study by Propel, it was found that PR professionals pitched podcasts 21.23% more in Q1 of 2023 than they did in Q4 of 2022.
Both the average open rate and the response rate for podcast PR pitches increased this past quarter as well. The open rate increased from 69.95% to 75.16%, and the response rate increased slightly from 14.61% to 15.06%, according to Propel.
It's no surprise because advertising on podcasts has proven to be a highly successful endeavour by adland players. In a blog post, Spotify said that industry-wide, advertisers saw an average conversion rate of 1.28% from their podcast campaigns, with pre-roll as the most effective placement. Consumer insight companies such as GWI also say that 12% of consumers surveyed discover new brands and products through podcast ads and sponsored content - a small jump from 10% in 2019.
Are podcasts the vlogs of today?
However, what exactly makes podcasts a more trustworthy medium as compared to other forms of advertising? According to Pankaj Nayak, managing director of the media group at dentsu Singapore, the reason why they work so well is that podcasts for audio are what vlogs used to be for YouTube years ago.
They make perspectives and opinions more accessible to everyone, especially for consumers who have specific interests or motivations in listening to content, he said. They have also become an alternate source of information, entertainment, or opinion delivered through a channel that is less regulated than mass media, and with arguably less scrutiny than social media.
In a similar vein, podcast hosts of today are where influencers were a few years ago in terms of commercialisation and brand relationships, said Nayak. "There are a few famous ones in either niche or mainstream spaces with distinctive content and strong voices. The time and effort that goes into developing a podcast helps listeners discern a little more of the speaker in every episode and establish a much deeper connection than through visual and written social media content like posts, reels, videos and blogs," he said, adding:
Podcasts have come at the right time when there is increased interest and demand for audio content.
True enough, this rising interest in podcasts opens new opportunities for brands and agencies to deliver relevant media activation and ideas that are more audio-centric, said Nayak. "Marketers recognise that content and experiences are an extension of their product, and have built spaces such as Coke Studio, Nike Running, and William Grant & Sons Distillers Library," he said.
In a similar vein, podcasts also have the potential to evolve beyond being a business channel to being an important voice that drives community engagement for a brand, explained Nayak.
When the link between a brand and podcast is seamless, the brand builds a deeper connection with the listener and a stronger link to the podcast’s own perspective.
Agreeing with him, Don Anderson, founder and CEO of Kaddadle said that with podcasts, brand marketers have the opportunity to take a “narrowcasting” approach by utilising podcasts to reach specific audience segments and communities. They can also associate themselves with individual thought leaders, namely the hosts, in front of those conversations and passion points that appeal to specific listeners.
"Brands can build trust and recognition among audiences through long-term association with specific podcasts and their hosts via the various advertising offerings provided by the medium, including direct sponsorship or time-based advertising slots within the podcasts," he said.
Building brand trust
Saying that putting out a podcast alone is not enough to garner brand trust. A brand needs to make sure that it is aligning with the suitable topics and presenting itself authentically and authoritatively.
"We need to understand podcasts are on-demand, rather than pushed - so audiences naturally gravitate towards listening to podcasts they trust," said Werner Iucksch, head of social media at Media. Monks APAC. "That doesn’t mean they trust all podcasts; they trust the ones they listen to - and most likely distrust many others that don’t align with many of their views - there is an echo chamber effect there. Since podcasts tend to be long-form content, they grow to build deep relationships with their core audiences and that builds trust," he said.
Explaining his point, Iucksch said that brands that understand their audience's core podcasts of choice can get meaningful ground by leaning on the credibility, trust and complicity that exists between podcasters and each of their audiences. "It’s a shortcut - being introduced to a new brand by a trusted 'friend' will always cut through. However, brand safety will always be something to consider, especially for mass-consumed brands," he said.
If a brand can't put in the resources towards that, Iucksch advises partnering with podcasters that match their values and audience in any way they can - and be sure to measure results instead.
"The simplest way is to issue unique discount codes that will help with attribution and ROI calculation - but different brands have different objectives, so brands must work with their agencies to ensure they build a program and measurement framework that suits the brand's mission," he said.
Adding to his point, Megan Reichelt, country manager of Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan at Integral Ad Science (IAS) said that one way to build brand trust is to collaborate and interview notable leaders in the industry to bring in new listeners and give brands and podcasts authority, thus positively influencing brands.
"One good example would be #LIPSTORIES, a podcast created by Girlboss Radio and Sephora. Each episode features an inspiring, influential woman who has been a trailblazer. The series aimed to spotlight these women to inspire other female leaders, entrepreneurs, activists, creatives, and high achievers. The podcast worked well since Sephora’s lip brands are popular among consumers. They’re marrying a best-selling product through the podcast to a feel-good, inspiring message," she said.
She added that a brand can also opt to sponsor a product to get its name out there. "When sponsoring a podcast, you will typically have the opportunity to have your ad played at the beginning, middle, or end of the episode and have your brand mentioned by the host. This will also create a repository of high-quality audio content for the brand," she said.
How to invest in podcasts
As crucial platform podcasts are for brands when it comes to advertising, the truth is that not every entity has the resources to make it work, particularly when you have to factor in brand safety issues and the fact that podcast ads in themselves require a whole new set of expertise. After all, unlike radio ads, podcast placements are not about getting a message across in ten seconds, but are about creating a feeling of discovery, wonder, inspiration, encouragement, or shared values with the listener, according to Nayak. He said:
A ‘buy now while stocks last’ message will have less impact than a spot that spotlights the role of a brand in a person’s life.
For brands and marketers that are apprehensive about the investment, effort, and the prospect of failure to get a successful podcast off the ground, audio ads and sponsored podcasts are a great way to start, said Nayak "Brands can test-and-learn in this new medium with minimum risk, while experimenting with audiences, content genres and ad formats," he said.
He added that when it comes to selecting the right podcast partner, brands should look for those that match the interests of the target audience but also share a natural chemistry and personality with the brand. "The right podcast partner will bring new consumers to the brand if there is a consistent and smooth connection," he said.
Adding on, Anderson explained that when it comes to audio ads, they should be composed more as if they are talking with a friend about an opportunity they may want to consider. "The delivery should not be abrupt or forceful and should be able to blend with the natural conversational flow of the podcast," he said, echoing Nayak's sentiments.
"The marketing message should be simple and memorable – recall is important here and given podcasts are typically consumed in an on-demand, downloaded format to devices, the user may elect to skip the delivery," said Anderson.
Messaging that is precise, concise, personable and offers perceptible value should provide optimal connection and engagement with listeners, he added. "Value can come in the form of an insight, offer and clear brand positioning statement that is connected to the podcast content and category."
Anderson also noted that at the end of the day, what will determine the level of stickiness and staying power of the audience as well as shareability is the attention that is placed on the podcast content type as well as the level of trustworthiness and authoritative positioning it and the host may have within the specific content category and or industry.
Agreeing with him, Kevin Kan, chief experience officer at Break Out Consulting Asia noted that the key is to make the audio ad seamlessly blend into the content. He said:
I subscribe to the 'infomercial'. Informative, entertaining but educational. This makes listeners perceive the promotional content as less intrusive and more trustworthy.
By consistently delivering valuable and entertaining content, brands can enhance their visibility and reputation over time, he said.
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