“Most of the podcasts are pretty transparent,” said Matthew Quint, a brand expert at Columbia Business School. “It seems to be a very good player amid other cases in which brands in all sorts of ways have their issues in protecting consumers and duping consumers.”
Branded podcasting actually predates the release of “Serial” by at least a year. One of the longest-running branded podcasts is an interview show called “Keeping You Organized” that began in 2013. It’s produced by Smead, a company that manufactures manila folders.
Every week, the show’s host, the Smead marketing manager John Hunt, interviews a professional organizer about topics like how to efficiently dispose of the scraps left over from cutting coupons out of magazines.
“It’s not that easy to talk about things like file folders,” Mr. Hunt said. “But it is easier for us to talk about organizing.”
To some, that may not sound any more scintillating. Every week, however, around 6,000 people tune in to hear Mr. Hunt discuss decluttering or tax season. “It’s not what you’d consider an NPR kind of podcast,” he said. “But if you were to put a value on having that kind of conversation with that many people directly a week, it’s pretty good.”
It’s unclear how much branded podcasts have helped companies generate sales or reach new customers. A strategically timed announcement on “Keeping You Organized” once helped Smead sell its inventory of 24-pocket folders, Mr. Hunt said. But for most brands, the benefits of podcasting are less tangible.
“We’re always thinking about how to make sure as a brand we’re relevant, we’re contemporary and we’re interesting,” said Linda Boff, the chief marketing executive at General Electric, which began its second sci-fi podcast, “LifeAfter,” in 2016. “We get on the radar of future employees, young people who are making a choice as to where they want to work.”