As podcasts have grown in popularity, they have also provided a new marketing opportunity for tech companies and international megabrands to create audio content that will draw even more people to their products. But while Facebook’s “Three and a Half Degrees” or McDonalds’ “The Sauce” might seem like little more than extended advertisements, some brands have found a way to make their podcasts engaging and original while plugging their products.
Inside Trader Joe’s
As whimsical as the grocery store chain that it came from, “Inside Trader Joe’s” takes listeners behind the scenes with stories about the chain’s founding, where their most beloved products originated and the carefully curated branding the grocery store has cultivated.
The show is hosted by marketing director Tara Miller and vice president of Product Marketing Matt Sloan. The first season focused on the history of Trader Joe’s, featuring interviews with founder Joe Coulombe himself, and more recent episodes take listeners behind the scenes of the store’s various sections — there’s a “We’re Nuts About Wine And Cheese” episode and an episode called “Frozen. The Foods.”
The podcast has the same earnest dash of humor that makes the Fearless Flyer (Trader Joe’s newspaper-esque product catalog) as beloved as Trader Joe’s products themselves to devoted patrons. It also doesn’t shy away from high production: An episode about how Trader Joe’s discovers new products brings listeners to a factory in France complete with sounds of machinery and people rapidly speaking French in the background.
The hosts embody the company’s employees in the best way — they’re passionate about their jobs bringing bubbly voices to the show that perfectly reflect the store’s approachable branding. A couple episodes in, listeners will feel like they are at the local Trader Joe’s with the hosts, complete with the chain’s trademark Hawaiian shirts.
In Your Dreams
Mattress company Casper might be best known for its blanket advertising on many podcasts in the earlier days of the medium, so it should come as no surprise that the brand had its own podcast.
Comedian Chris Gethard hosted the show, bringing not only his humor but also his experience hosting the interview podcast “Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People.” He was joined by self-proclaimed dream analysis expert Gary Richardson, who picked apart dreams submitted by listeners and a comedian guest on each episode.
The show was sparsely produced and felt amateurish, which only added to its comedic appeal. Casper gave Gethard free rein to make the podcast however he wanted it, and this carte blanche yielded in a series of hijinks and jokes peppered throughout the dream analysis premise.
The guests — including former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Bobby Moynihan and “The Tick” star Griffin Newman — bolstered the podcast’s hilarity, offering their own hyperbolic sleep experiences for Richardson’s questionable-at-best analysis.
Despite the improvisational feel that Gethard cultivated, he also managed to develop a narrative storyline that carried through all nine episodes of the show. “In Your Dreams” managed to recreate the imperfect, internet-blogger feel of early podcasts while delivering humorous and captivating content at the same time.
You Can’t Make This Up
Netflix has proven to be a master at branded podcasting, with eight podcasts to its name available on Apple Podcasts, including “Strong Black Legends,” a weekly interview show featuring black Hollywood stars, and “I’m Obsessed With This,” which features entertainment critics discussing Netflix content they can’t stop binging.
But one of its best offerings is “You Can’t Make This Up,” a companion podcast that goes behind the scenes of Netflix’s true crime documentaries. It tells the stories of how a national platform can affect the lives of real people in documentaries, how filmmakers make decisions about telling a true story and gives listeners an exclusive look at content that didn’t end up making it onto the documentary.
The podcast’s success is largely due to Netflix’s large library of well-produced narrative documentary series, like the Emmy-winning “Wild Wild Country” and “Making a Murderer,” which gained national notoriety upon its release in 2016.
Most episodes of the podcast are based on interviews with the directors behind the documentaries, hosted by a rotating cast of journalists, podcast hosts and comedians, including NPR’s Kelly McEvers and comedian Michael Ian Black.
While every episode is fascinating, one humorous highlight is the “American Vandal” interview — the Netflix mockumentary’s “directors” Peter Maldonado and Sam Ecklund talk about the central criminal of their show’s second season: “The Turd Burglar.”
You probably know Tinder for its hookup culture reputation — and not for its award-winning branded podcast, “DTR” (the show won Best Branded Podcast at the iHeartRadio Podcast Awards in 2019).
Host Jane Marie, a “This American Life” veteran, brings a public radio curiosity to the world of dating in the digital age. Episodes in the first season focus on the small, often overthought aspects of online dating — how to craft the perfect first message, what pictures make a profile appealing, etc.
The writing is quick-witted, and the captivating anecdotes are full of advice for using the app effectively. Living up to its brand, Tinder isn’t afraid to delve into the explicit — an entire episode is devoted to dick pics and open discussions of sex.
The second season has a different approach — on each show, Marie and a comedian guest (episodes have featured Patti Harrison and Aparna Nancherla) take over a random Tinder user’s profile: They swipe for them, engage conversations and send people on dates. Because the stakes are non-existent for the listener, making matches and engaging in online dating becomes a whole lot more fun as the hosts provide commentary that’s both entertaining and offers sage advice for the average Tinder user.
The podcast not only enhances the experience of using Tinder and similar dating apps but also provides an amusing look into the complex world of online relationships.