How Podcasts Improve Your Company's Brand Lift


You're reading a post from Backyard Media's Podcasting 101, a series of guides meant to explain podcasting and podcast advertising to companies that are new to podcast sponsorship. To see our other guides, click here

As a company that's starting to advertise on podcasts, you want to know that your ad campaigns will be effective. We have plenty of research that shows podcasts are the ideal digital medium to find new audiences, generate interest in your brand, and ultimately increase your sales. Brand lift, a term that involves a customer's view of a brand and their intention to buy a product, is a key step to acquiring new customers. Today we'll look at how podcasts do in terms of brand lift, and what this research means for podcast sponsors.


How much do podcasts impact brand lift?

First, let's look at a March 2018 study by Nielsen Research that examined consumer behavior, specifically the buying behaviors of self-identified podcast listeners.

This survey is nearly unique, because it exposed listeners to podcasts from different Apple Podcasts categories: some heard comedy shows, others listened to politics podcasts, etc. No matter the category, all of the podcasts had ads in them. Before listening to the podcast, researchers asked listeners to rate how likely they were to buy a particular brand's product, and after hearing an ad from that brand, asked them again.

Below is the percentage increase in respondents who responded affirmatively that they were "very or somewhat likely to purchase", separated by podcast category:

Source:  Nielsen

Source: Nielsen

There are a few interesting points to draw from this graphic. First, there is a small but noticeable range in brand lift increase across the categories tested (7 to 14%). The median lift was 9.3% and the average was 10.5%. As well, researchers saw the highest brand lift in the non-culture podcast categories: business and news/politics podcasts. Cultural categories like comedy, sports and society/culture podcasts all had a lift in the high single digits.

We believe this difference comes from a combination of factors. It says something about the types of listeners drawn to these different shows - their buying behaviors, amount of disposable income, and their demographics. It may also result from listeners' differing expectations when listening to different podcasts. For instance, those listening to a business podcast about marketing for startup companies may be more primed to purchase advertised products than those people tuning into a comedy podcast.

Second, all of these podcasts' brand lift increases are high when we compare them to the percentages we see for other types of digital media advertising. One study (PDF download) from the Interactive Advertising Bureau compared brand awareness and other brand lift increases for ad campaigns that ran across multiple media channels. It found that when it came to brand favorability and brand consideration (two metrics closely tied to brand lift), most media channels were lower than podcasts - with increases as high as 8.9% and as low as 0.5%, depending on the platform. For the podcasts in the Nielsen study, nearly all categories outperformed all other media channels' ability to increase brand lift.

A related effect is how podcasts can simultaneously increase brand awareness in listeners. In that same Nielsen study, a full 68% of respondents agreed with the statement that "the podcast ads I heard made me aware of new products or services".

Last year we examined a 2016 study of the effects podcasts can have on brand lift. That one from the market research firm Edison Research found similar effects around product awareness. It examined how ads on podcasts affected the related concepts of brand awareness, brand messaging, and brand sentiment.

Here are two major points from that post about podcasts' impact on product awareness and product messaging:

[The researchers] structured the surveys so that they could gauge respondents’ product recall before and after hearing 4 to 6 weeks of ad campaigns for various products. When it came to awareness of a product (in this case, a brand of marinade), listeners’ unaided awareness jumped from about 7% to 62%.
— Nov. 2017, "How Podcasts Improve Brand Lift"
Unaided Brand Recall Marinade.png
Podcast listeners also pay attention to a campaign’s messaging. When researchers asked whether respondents were aware of a particular product benefit mentioned during the ad campaigns, 85% of respondents said they were aware of the feature after having heard the campaign, compared to just 53% who had been aware before. This tells us that podcast listeners, who often listen to every episode of a podcast show in their entirety, understand and process a sponsor’s specific messaging. 
— Nov. 2017, "How Podcasts Improve Brand Lift"
Messaging Awareness Auto Product.png


Why are podcasts so powerful when it comes to improving brand lift?

There are a number of factors at play here, but the two most important concepts to understand about the power of podcasts are the "intimacy effect" of audio and the host-listener relationship. These two concepts drive many of the trends we see in podcasting, both in advertising and content.

What is the "intimacy effect"? It's the idea that podcasts sound different to listeners compared to other digital channels like YouTube, streaming TV, social media, and even radio! That's because podcast listeners often feel like they are being spoken to directly by the podcast host as an audience of one. Listeners often consume podcasts alone, as they commute or are at home, and often through headphones.

The intimacy effect is part of the reason listeners feel they have a relationship with the podcast host they're listening to. We call this the "host-listener relationship". When a listener consumes a podcast on a regular basis, spending hours every month hearing a host's voice in their ear, they value the host's words and ideas. Otherwise, why would they be listening?

This sentiment shows up in a number of surveys of podcast listeners. They report feeling they have a personal relationship to the podcast host, similar to one with a close friend or colleague. This rapport and sense of trust between listeners and hosts is crucial when it comes to podcast advertising.

For sponsors, the intimacy effect and the host-listener relationship mean that advertisements on podcasts sound very different to audiences. Hosts deliver ads by reading a script and customizing the ad with personal anecdotes about their use of the product. Ads are also spoken word, without the sound gimmicks we hear on commercial radio. For these reasons, listeners often interpret podcast ads to be part of the show's content, not separate from it. That means they don't skip ads and, as we saw in the previous section, they internalize the ad's message.


What sponsors should know about podcasts and brand lift

In short, podcasts are a powerful digital medium for finding customers, impacting brand lift and awareness, and ensuring your campaign's message is heard. When compared to other media, podcasts rank at the top in terms of effectiveness across many of the metrics associated with brand lift.

What's more, podcast audiences are both receptive to podcast advertising and highly valuable. These audiences have a higher median income, are better educated, and more white-collar than the average adult American. They are exactly the audiences that companies want to reach to buy their products.

If you're a marketer for a company that's starting with podcast advertising, know that the research backs the effectiveness of the medium when it comes to brand lift and related metrics. You can check out the first study from Nielsen we discussed here, as well as the Edison Research study we referenced here. For the IAB study that looked at the brand lift of non-podcast media, click here.


This guide is part of Backyard Media's Podcasting 101, a series of guides meant to explain podcasting and podcast advertising to companies new to podcast sponsorship. Want to read more guides written specifically for new podcast sponsors? Click here to see our other guides.