Editor in Chief & Chief Content Officer of iMedia Communications, Brad Berens writes about PodShow:
How did 30 million downloads result in a 1 percent U.S. household penetration for a new coffee sweetener? Podcasts.
Although a vast quantity of digital ink has recently been spilled on all-things video, in Tuesday afternoon’s Breakout session, “PodShow and Splenda: Marketing with a Different Flavor,” downloadable audio podcasts took center stage.
PodShow Senior Director of Business Development Greg Mand and Splenda Product Director Shideh Hashemi described how PodShow contributed to Splenda’s successful all-digital launch of a new product, Flavor Blends for Coffee, starting in July 2006.
Pointing out that Hashemi “works for Splenda directly, not an agency,” Mand described how PodShow, which he described as “the No. 1 new media network,” goes out of its way to work directly with brands but also with agencies as well.
Advertising as content
Mand described the three components of PodShow’s approach: a combination of reach, frequency and relevance that result in engagement. Such words are much in the mouths of marketers across the industry, “a fine buzzword” as Mand put it, but he went on to argue that PodShow can demonstrate engagement by virtue of the actions that PodShow listeners take across shows.
Arguing that brands must move “beyond the banner,” PodShow promoted Splenda through deep integration with shows that include host endorsements that harken back to the early days of television, cross promotion among different shows, as well as user-generated textual, audio and video content about sponsors and graphical ads.
Sweet word of mouth
Hashemi then stepped forward to describe the significance of word-of-mouth advertising to Splenda’s success: over a mere seven years the brand has taken 60 percent of the low-calorie sweetener market as well as 16 percent of the overall sweetener market. Sixty million U.S. households currently use Splenda.
Early on, when the brand was first becoming public and supplies were limited, consumers spread the word about the brand and where to buy it. “Part of Splenda’s core DNA has a lot to do with word of mouth and influence; endorsement is a big part of our footprint,” Hashemi said.
Then, “in ’06 we started to push the envelope by bringing more consumer experience into the brand,” Hashemi said. Splenda’s Flavor Blends brand extension went after “the most popular sweetener use, coffee… We wanted to tap into that brand footprint, and into the advocates who had a lot of heart for the brand,” Hashemi said.
Campaign execution and customer feedback
PodShow encouraged both its show hosts and audience to share their stories about Splenda’s Flavor Blends and “how it transformed their cup of coffee into something magical,” Mand said.
With a strategy of engaging key show hosts with one to five episodes per week and large audiences to become involved in the product exploration, PodShow’s goal was to transfer the host’s Splenda experience to the audience.
A key difference between PodShow’s approach and that of other media companies, Mand argued, was that PodShow did not work from a script. Instead, it requested key message points to “allow the host to use the natural flow of the conversation to deliver the marketing message” in a natural way, Mand said.
Positive audience feedback followed, including one listener who wrote, “Thanks for introducing me to Splenda Flavor Blends. After hearing about them on your show, I picked up the vanilla and the mocha. I have since introduced them to my wife and several other friends and family members.”
About this email, PodShow CEO Ron Bloom quipped, “When was the last time a customer sent an email saying, ‘thanks for that banner ad’?”
Reach and results
Working across multiple shows with multiple interlinked episodes, PodShow delivered more than 30 million downloads that contained Splenda messaging. Over the course of the overall Flavor Blends campaign, Splenda’s penetration into the category grew by 20 percent, and the product has now been purchased by 1 percent of U.S. households.
As the session turned to Q&A, one audience member asked how much of Splenda’s all-digital launch of Flavor Blends took place on PodShow. “About 20 percent or less,” Hashemi replied.
Another attendee then asked Mand if he had metrics for how much of each of those 30 million downloads were listened to by audience members, or how many audio impressions those downloads ultimately equaled.
“Nobody right now can tell you” who is listening to what, Mand replied, but he also asserted that the metrics are getting better every day and shared that PodShow has worked with the IAB to help establish standards for audio measurement. “But it’s still hard,” Mand said.
Mand closed the session by reminding the people in the room that every PodShow audience member, “proactively raises their hands to opt into the content” as well as the integrated marketing message for Splenda as well as PodShow’s other sponsors.