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All ears - how big brands are harnessing podcasts

Have you tuned into BMW recently? I don’t mean listening to the sound of a purring car engine. The luxury car brand is using podcasts to get into the ears and hearts of its drivers and potential customers wherever they are.

The company’s latest move is a fictional series about an investigative journalist who’s put into a hypersleep as punishment (for crimes she didn’t commit). She awakes in 2063 and … Well, I won’t spoil it for you. The series, called Hypnopolis is a whole new approach to the medium by BMW.

Previous BMW podcasts (Changing Lanes) have focused more directly on topics around cars, technology and driving. It has over 100,000 followers, so has proved very popular. This latest pivot into fiction demonstrates that the brand is not afraid to stay ahead of the game in the fast-changing world of digital media.

Jens Thiemer, senior vice president of customer and brand for BMW, said: “With our Hypnopolis podcast, we are now opening up the next chapter: Cinema for the ears.” The six-part series is written by Robert Valentine, a well-known science fiction author who has worked on the audio version of Dr Who, among other projects.

BMW is not the only brand tapping into the power of podcasts, though most have taken the interview or expert view style.

Consumer brands have the benefit of big budgets for their marketing. Still, they also face intense competition for audience ear-time. Few B2B marketers can afford to hire famous authors to write serial fiction. But they do have the benefit of a more focused and specialist audience looking for technical information in bite-size audio format.

One of the main drivers (if you’ll forgive the pun) for BMW’s move into fiction was to entertain the owners of their vehicles while they’re on long journeys. For building services manufacturers who want to reach busy contractors, a podcast aimed at catching them while they’re in the van on the way to a job might be just the ticket.

The key (as always) is having the right content in a format that’s not a hard sell. Useful and usable stuff that genuinely helps people in their day to day jobs will keep them tuning in regularly.

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