As 2019 comes to a close, I wanted to share some of my predictions about the future of brand marketing to usher us into the new decade. Now, this isn’t a totally exhaustive list, but it does include the top trends and expectations that have been swirling around my mind for the last part of this year. Let’s jump right in, shall we?
A large number of businesses are already investing in podcasts and seeing fantastic returns, and I expect this trend to grow in a pretty massive way in the year ahead. I even expect that many companies will treat podcasts as their primary investment in content marketing, rather than an asset to support their blog strategy.
With this strategy shift, I wanted to share some of the advantages of creating podcasts rather than blog posts:
Podcast episodes are faster to produce than blog posts
To build a foundation for a podcast episode, all you need is a decent microphone, a laptop, and 30 minutes to spare. Add in a little bit of processing and editing time, and you’re ready to go! This is considerably faster than writing a blog post, which often takes several hours, if not days, to transform an idea into a solid, engaging post. The irony of using a blog post to tell you how long it takes to write a blog post is not lost on me, but I digress.
Podcasts are easy to process into different media formats
Now, if you want to make that podcast go even further, all you need is a transcription service and a few minutes of editing time to turn a podcast into a blog post. And if you’ve set up a video camera while you were recording the podcast, boom, you’ve got a video ready to publish, too. Doing the opposite, turning a blog post into a video or podcast, however, is much more difficult. After all the hours you’ve already put into writing the post, you then have to turn that into a workable script, find audio or on-camera talent, and go through all the production steps to get it out the door.
Podcasts are very scalable
In the world of podcasts, you’ll always have opportunities to interview more guests, cover more topics, and bring on more hosts. In the blog world, it’s not always this straightforward as relevant topics for your audience can be quickly exhausted.
The podcast market isn’t oversaturated (yet)
The blog market is totally oversaturated with articles aiming to capture the low-hanging demand of Google search, and most blogs just aren’t getting the traffic they once were. With all of the new podcast platforms popping up, it’s much easier to acquire fans and have your podcasts discovered organically.
It’s worth noting, though, that I don’t think it’s beneficial to drop your blogging altogether. It’s highly likely that, just as there’s a rise in poor-quality business blogs, there will also be a huge number of poor-quality business podcasts being released into the world. I truly think there’s still a ton of value in quality writing, and just as radio hasn’t made books totally obsolete, the value of having a good blog post on your site won’t disappear.
At Wistia, we believe that, despite hundreds of billions of dollars being spent on digital advertising for brand building, it’s not very effective. Some of the most innovative companies businesses, like MailChimp, have already figured this out. And over the next year, I think the penny is going to drop for some other big names, too. Where will this budget go instead? Probably on influencers, more below-the-line advertising, and of course, creative content.
“Despite hundreds of billions of dollars being spent on digital advertising for brand building, it’s not very effective”
Google and Facebook have completely overtaken the advertising world, controlling almost all of the go-to channels for media consumption and content discovery. Plus, they’ve also taken over the marketing funnel and worked diligently to ensure the only way you can reach consumers on their platforms is through advertising. That’s less-than-ideal for us marketers.
And when you think about their business model through a basic economic lens, when supply goes down and demand goes up, prices will increase. That means businesses who’ve built their entire marketing strategies around optimizing ad spend on Google and Facebook are about to be in for an unpleasant shock.
Today, the majority of CMOs at some of the biggest companies got their start with traditional, offline advertising and marketing. But, in a digital-first world, these strategies aren’t cutting it. CMOs have to understand that creative storytelling and search engine optimization have a much bigger impact on success than the allocation of media spend. I think we’ll see a few major companies replace their existing hires with CMOs who started out in the digital world, those folks who understand how to make a business truly stand out online.
Partially as a consequence of prediction number three (rising costs of ads), I think many marketers are going to take a stand against Google and Facebook, deeply bothered by the idea of giving these tech giants more power and control. In response, they’ll look for new acquisition channels, which may be hard to come by, but could take the form of new social channels, or a return towards owned media.
There’s only so many members of the Kardashian family, and the cost to secure their endorsement or the endorsement of other influencers, is astronomically expensive. Jokes aside, when you look beyond certain industries — like make-up and clothing — there’s not a whole lot of evidence to suggest that consumers buy products specifically because popular people share photos of them on Instagram. Prices can’t keep rising, and eventually, budgets are going to go elsewhere.
“When you look beyond certain industries there’s not a whole lot of evidence to suggest that consumers buy products specifically because popular people share photos of them on Instagram.”
I see influencer marketing as a bubble — one largely caused by the ineffectiveness of brand advertising. In my view, engagements between brands and influencers will undoubtedly continue, but it’ll be much more in the vein of content collaborations as opposed to just paid endorsements.
Unlike Instagram Stories, which I think has been a great success, I don’t foresee many people continue to actively engage with InstagramTV. The format isn’t snackable enough to serve the needs of users browsing social media (a quick dopamine hit), and hasn’t found a place alongside YouTube for longer-form content consumption.
Rather than persevere to no avail, I think Facebook will choose to close IGTV and reconsider their long-form video offering.
Messenger ads have been around for a little while, but haven’t hugely taken off yet. With more and more conversations about brands and products happening in private groups that Facebook control, like Messenger and WhatsApp, I don’t think it’ll be long before a more sophisticated advertising offering is added to these platforms. I foresee this offering providing businesses a better way of being in the right place at the right time, and that we’ll start to see this new offering emerge in 2020.
2019 was actually a great year for niche media. With Patreon and other services offering a way for consumers to donate small amounts to get content from journalists, content creators, and commentators, money is flooding back into the media industry in a very fragmented way.
I see this trend continuing, with publishers narrowing that focus to very specific subcultures and communities, providing regularly creative and commentary to appeal to small audiences.
There’s something incredibly simple and effective about email. If you have someone’s email address, you can send things to them directly, at no cost and with no intermediary. This fact is a safeguard against all fluctuations in search and social media, which I think will start to hold even more value in an increasingly turbulent marketing environment.
The challenge for businesses will be to diligently treat email marketing as a brand channel as much as an acquisition channel. Thinking of email as a way only to nurture and convert customers will mean you lose out on its full potential as a means of communicating with non-customer advocates who are an essential part of word-of-mouth distribution.
What do you think? Anything you disagree with? Any likely big shifts I’m missing? Let us know in the comments below.
How HubSpot Launched “Weird Work”—Their Strangest Podcast to Date
HubSpot — ever heard of ‘em? This tech-giant has built their brand over the years by dishing out practical, tactical advice on tons of marketing topics across their blog. And if you’re in the B2B space, chances are you’ve read at least a blog post or two of theirs, if not three or four, over the past ten years. Given their knack for creating engaging content, it may not come as a surprise that HubSpot has started to wade into the podcast waters as of late — in fact, they already have several.
These shows cover everything from stories about brands growing their businesses and fostering a great office culture, to what it’s like working at an agency and how to hone-in on your marketing, sales, and customer services skills. But, what if I told you they have yet another podcast that dives into the careers of, say, a professional dream analyst or a former contestant on The Bachelor? Yep, they do! It’s called Weird Work and it’s arguably one of the most interesting podcasts in the B2B space.
HubSpot has built its brand on a bedrock of pragmatic content. But, over the years, they’ve also realized that people crave creative, narrative-driven content and that crafting a truly original, fun show can benefit their brand and bottom line just as much as actionable guides can.
We sat down with Matthew Brown, HubSpot’s Senior Audio Producer, to learn about the story behind Weird Work and its impact on the business. Read on to learn how they launched B2B’s weirdest podcast and how you can launch an unconventional podcast of your own!
“Weird Work’s” inception
Before launching Weird Work, Brown and his team had been producing HubSpot’s flagship podcast, The Growth Show, for two years. Each week, they released a new episode and eventually built The Growth Show into a top business podcast.
Despite The Growth Show’s success, Brown felt the itch to try something new — something that focused less on traditional business stories and more on the unique ways people make a living. That’s when the idea for Weird Work hit him.
“As lead producer, I wanted the show to be entertaining, human, and irreverent. I wanted to normalize the cultural taboo about what’s considered ‘weird’ and celebrate the fascinating folks who have these incredibly interesting jobs,” Brown says. “Jobs like an international pizza consultant, an LSD microdosing coach, a professional hand model, etc.”
“I took the direction of the show somewhere that even today debatably straddles the proverbial business podcast line, which made ’Weird Work’ as much about culture as it is about business.”
Armed with a compelling concept and a track record for podcasting success, getting internal buy-in for Weird Work was relatively easy. But that doesn’t mean Brown didn’t come prepared with a business case for the show.
“I took the direction of the show somewhere that even today debatably straddles the proverbial business podcast line, which made Weird Work as much about culture as it is about business,” Brown says. “This opened up the sheer size of the potential audience while avoiding any cannibalization of The Growth Show’s audience.”
After HubSpot gave Brown the green-light to launch Weird Work, he felt confident his team could hit the ground running. They had already catapulted The Growth Show to the top of the business podcast charts — what were they going to run into that they haven’t already overcome?
Well, as soon as Brown placed his feet onto the starting blocks, hurdles that he had never encountered before started cropping up right in front of him.
The initial growing pains of launching the podcast
One of these hurdles was navigating the complexity of booking guests with unconventional jobs. “After coming from booking CEOs and company founders for The Growth Show, we figured booking more everyday folks would be easier,” Brown says. “Of course, that was foolish. A professional mermaid’s time is just as important as the CEO of a popular startup and equally as hard to lock down.”
Weird Work also pressure-tested Brown’s writing and storytelling skills. The podcast started out as an over-the-phone interview show, but it quickly evolved into a narrative-style podcast. So Brown adapted accordingly, shifting his focus toward storytelling and meticulously planning out each episode.
“If there’s one thing Karen Given, the executive producer of WBUR’s Only a Game and a two-time winner of the national Edward R. Murrow Award for sports reporting, has taught me, it’s that narrative doesn’t happen by accident,” Brown says. “So, whether that’s our English- and Japanese-language episode about a bowl of ramen that can help you find your dreams, or the story of the art world’s last television repairman for pieces from Nam June Paik or Andy Warhol, Weird Work has put my writing skills to the blade, and I think I’m all the better for it.”
Brown was now nearing the final stretch of Weird Work’s launch. But there was one last hurdle he needed to jump over before he could cross the finish line — promoting the podcast.
Promoting the launch of “Weird Work”
Drawing from his experience with The Growth Show, Brown knew that marketing Weird Work would be much more complex than marketing your typical ebook. So he and his team developed their own promotional strategy — one that wasn’t going to be found in any standard content-launch playbook.
To start things off with a bang, Brown and his team launched Weird Work at a co-sponsored event with The Moth Radio Hour at HubSpot’s annual INBOUND conference in 2017. This allowed them to associate Weird Work with the best of the best in storytelling and attract a like-minded audience.
Next, one of Weird Work’s first guests was Heather Feather, a popular ASMR-tist on YouTube, so Brown and his team sponsored one of her ASMR videos. She then mentioned Weird Work during the episode and linked out to the show in the description.
These co-marketing ideas paired with more traditional tactics — such as Overcast ads, ad swaps with other podcasts like Twenty Thousand Hertz, and sponsorships through NPR and Spotify — spread Weird Work to the masses. The show ended up securing a spot in iTunes New & Noteworthy category, got featured in The New York Times, and was named a top podcast by Inc. Magazine.
As a result, all of this press made it easier for Brown and his team to monetize Weird Work. But just like Weird Work’s marketing strategy, they took a much different approach to monetization than a typical podcasting team would.
The podcast’s impact on HubSpot’s bottom line
Instead of selling Weird Work’s ad placements, Brown and his team used them to promote other marketing initiatives that HubSpot had just launched, like one of HubSpot Academy’s new courses.
This innovative promotional strategy yielded tremendous results for HubSpot during Weird Work’s first season, generating tens of thousands of dollars in ad placement opportunities and producing conversion rates that were equal to or above those that HubSpot’s social team saw on Facebook.
“This innovative promotional strategy yielded tremendous results for HubSpot, generating tens of thousands of dollars in ad placement opportunities and producing conversion rates that were equal to or above those they saw on Facebook.”
After the first season of Weird Work concluded, plenty of folks reached out to see if they could sponsor the podcast. But Brown and his team decided to use this opportunity to give back to their customers instead of taking away their hard-earned dollars. So, before the second season of the podcast aired, they ran a contest for customers and gave the winners free sponsorship throughout the show’s upcoming second season — with host-read spots co-created with HubSpot’s podcast team.
“We really do try to put our customers first,” Brown says. “I’m constantly looking at how we can add value for our listeners instead of how we can extract value from them. If you’re only thinking about monetization, then your podcast is probably not worth listening to.”
Now, if there’s a way to help your customers grow better, which is HubSpot’s brand slogan, that’s how you do it!
The story behind Weird Work can inspire any creatively focused marketer to pitch, create, and launch a podcast at their company. But how, exactly, do you do that? To help you get approval and start crafting some truly creative work, we’ve extracted four key takeaways from Brown’s process.
1. Create a unique concept that can attract a niche audience
Rehashing your flagship podcast’s concept is one of the best ways to disappoint your audience — there’s a reason why most sequels are critically panned. Check out our guide on how to nail your binge-worthy content’s concept with a show positioning statement to avoid creating the podcast version of Basic Instinct 2.
2. Leverage your flagship podcast’s success
If you’ve already successfully created a podcast at your company, your higher-ups should have enough faith in you to launch a new one. However, if they think your new podcast idea is too “out there,” come up with a compelling business case for your podcast, just like Brown did. Jay Acunzo, founder of Marketing Showrunners, wrote an insightful guide on getting internal buy-in for your show — check it out if you need help making a business case for your podcast.
If you don’t already have a podcast or video series in your back pocket that you can point to, another way you can boost the odds of getting the green light is recording a test episode of your podcast. You’ll be able to give others a taste of the emotional experience your show provides by actually showing — not just telling — them what it will be about.
3. Hone your storytelling chops
Creating a podcast worth its salt requires strong storytelling. Check out our guides on story structure and podcasting (parts one and two) to start perfecting your storytelling chops today.
4. Leverage co-marketing opportunities to promote your podcast
Take a page from Brown’s podcasting promotion playbook and co-sponsor events with similar types of podcasts, sponsor your guest’s content, and do ad-swaps with other podcasts that you admire. If you want to explore more promotional strategies for your podcast, here are 11 other ways to grow your audience.
Weird jobs shouldn’t be limited to the likes of professional cuddlers or the Saturday Night Live bandleader. People with traditional 9-to-5 roles can and should carve out time in their schedules to do some weird work of their own. Because if HubSpot, the “how-to” brand of B2B, can pull off an unconventional podcast, you can too! Now, get recording.
4 Fashion-Forward Video Series to Keep Your Eye On
Who said videos about fashion were only made for the big screen? The Devil Wears Prada might be a pretty high standard to live up to, but in reality, tons of brands are already making innovative shows and video series to help move their businesses forward.
In fact, we recently stumbled upon four fashion-focused brands that are all creating entertaining, binge-worthy video series, that even Meryl Streep herself might be interested in watching. Businesses like Vans, Refinery29, Marc Jacobs, and Foot Locker stood out to us as top-dogs in the branded content space because their shows are so clearly focused on attracting a niche audience, which is a key part of executing an effective brand affinity marketing strategy. Plus, they’re just plain fun to watch!
Who doesn’t love a good surf video? Have you ever wondered what it really means to be a “sneakerhead”? Take a look at what these creative brands put out into the world and get some insights into what you can do at your business to make an awesome series yourself!
We bet you know someone in your life who owns a fresh pair of Vans. But if you’re not familiar with the brand, Vans is the original action sports footwear, apparel, and accessories brand promoting creative self-expression in youth culture across action sports, art, music and street culture.
Vans decided to showcase those company values with a video series called Weird Waves, which follows the gnarly journey of Dylan Graves as he introduces viewers to “the weirder side of surf culture and the characters who chomp weird waves.” In two seasons, he links up with people from the underground side of the surf scene to ride everything from waves in wintery Great Lakes to waves formed by falling ice in Alaska. This show is no joke — things get weird!
To successfully showcase what their brand stands for, Vans identified the perfect brand ambassador to be the host for an engaging binge-worthy series. While not everyone can relate to riding waves in unthinkable places like Dylan Graves and his friends, viewers can be entertained and identify with how Vans is a champion of creative self-expression.
In a more fashion-focused realm, Refinery29 is an online media and entertainment hub that appeals to young women who may be interested in style, health, careers, technology, and a whole lot more. To pique the interests of their target audience, they’ve created an award-winning video series called Style Out There exploring “the connections between clothing, community, and culture across the world.”
Style Out There features hosts Asha Leo and Connie Wang as they travel the world to learn more about “the ways clothing has given women a way to speak out, look within, and identify the forces that limit their potential.” In season one, watch Leo dig into Decora style in Tokyo and how it goes against the mainstream, or jump ahead to season three and learn about Afrofuturist fashion with Wang and why it’s more than just a costume for black women.
For someone interested in style, this series goes deeper than the outward appearance of an outfit or accessory. It shows the significance of fashion for people to express themselves around the world.
Now, if you’ve ever wondered what the inner workings of a high fashion label look like days before a runway show, check out Marc Jacobs’ The Making of RUNWAY.
This six-part series follows Marc himself, Joseph Carter, Creative Director of Runway, as well as many of the faces working to run the ship five days before Marc Jacobs’ February 13, 2019 show. From fittings and design meetings to set and music planning, they show you what it takes to make a fashion show a success.
Marc Jacobs is a world-renown brand, but the way they shot their behind-the-scenes footage could be pulled off by any company big or small. Whether you’re aspiring to work for Marc Jacobs or a fan of the brand, this simple series gives you an authentic look at the people, the work, and the creativity that makes Marc Jacobs what it is.
After seeing the ideas these brands have come up with, we hope you’re feeling inspired to start creating a video series of your own! Start by figuring out what makes your brand unique and what your current audiences like about you. The next concept for the perfect video series could be right under your nose!
Get Inspired by These 4 Outdoor Brands Making Video Series
When we say all industries are capable of getting into the game of producing engaging binge-worthy content, we’re not joking around! Take these four outdoor brands for example and see for yourself — Nordica, Salomon, Burton, and Eddie Baur have all started making entertaining video series that align with their values and attract niche audiences in the outdoor space. In this post, we’ll highlight the incredible work they’re doing and give you some insight into what you can learn about making a video series for your business after watching their show. Let’s go!
For skiers at every level looking for performance and comfort, look no further than Nordica for skis and boots. The Italian winter sports manufacturing company specializes in skiing and has a heritage dating back 75 years!
Recently, they created a series called It’s Family Time, which captures skiing as the common thread that brings families together. As described on their website, “It’s a lens into the ups, downs, and inspiring moments families create in the mountains. From first days on skis to unforgettable powder turns, skiing transcends generations and ties families together in an extraordinary way.”
After watching Nordica’s series, we thought their use of voiceovers was powerful for storytelling. If you’re working with non-actors, being on camera can be intimidating. That’s why we recommend voiceovers because you can capture someone’s story in a more authentic way. Paired with footage of action shots and people spending time with one another, we think Nordica successfully conveys how skiing is much more than just a winter pastime.
With a passion for outdoor sports, new technologies, and craftsmanship, Salomon creates progressive gear that enables folks to freely enjoy and challenge themselves in the great outdoors.
The brand creates gear for a breadth of sports, and they’ve created a library of video content for each activity. On their website, they have their own Salomon TV network with six different channels: Freeski & Touring, Running, Snowboard, Hiking & Mountaineering, Racing, and Nordic. And, each channel features short-form and long-form video series and movies.
If you explore the Running channel, you’ll find a movie about the Manitou Incline in Colorado, one of the state’s most famous hiking trails. Interested in the Hiking & Mountaineering channel? There, you can get wrapped up in the story of Megan Kimmel who traveled to Afghanistan to work with a group of Afghan women training to climb the tallest mountain in the country. Pretty neat stuff if we say so ourselves! And these are only two pieces of content among a sea of interesting stories you can watch on Salomon TV.
What we love about their video strategy is how they’ve segmented their content for several niche audiences. With multiple channels, they’re able to cast a wider net around people who are interested in a variety of outdoor activities. By highlighting all of their areas of expertise, they’ve opened the doors for more possibilities when it comes to show creation and building their brand.
For lovers of snowboarding, Burton is a brand you ought to know. Jake Burton Carpenter founded Burton Snowboards in 1977 and served a pivotal role in growing snowboarding into the world-class sport it is today. With the help of ambassadors who are world champions, innovators, and leaders in the sport, the brand has built a community and culture of its own.
To showcase some of the ambassadors who are part of the Burton Team, the company created a video series called Built On Boards. From a 13-year-old like Neko Reimer who’s one of Burton’s youngest team riders to the Olympic Snowboarder, Ben Ferguson, each episode highlights the journey of a different rider and how they’re shaping the future of snowboarding.
If you’re a viewer who’s passionate about snowboarding, this series could influence you to research Burton’s brand further based on the endorsements of these inspiring riders. In a way, these videos are unconventional case studies that don’t necessarily talk about how Burton’s products are being used, but show how they enable snowboarders to reach new heights.
Last but not least, Eddie Bauer is an active outdoor brand whose founder was an outdoor guide himself. For almost 100 years, they’ve continued to work with outdoor guides like Eddie as well as athletes to make gear that meets their rigorous needs. Their world-class team is in the field 365 days a year helping build and test the latest innovations in gear.
Mustang Mystery: Remote Climbing in Nepal is one of their series that follows Eddie Bauer mountain guide Melissa Arnot as she travels to the Upper Mustang region of Nepal to climb three newly permitted 20,000-foot peaks. Joined by fellow guide Ben Jones and filmer Jon Mancuso, they pioneer a new route in previously unexplored Himalayan terrain.
By showing guides like Melissa living out their adventures, people see how Eddie Bauer gear is really being tested out in the field to the extreme, which proves their dedication to innovation. For more content from the Eddie Bauer team, you can hear them discuss motivation, inspiration, partnerships, mentoring, and guiding in more series on their website.
Now that you know about four outdoor brands with binge-worthy content, we hope you’ll start imagining what a video series could look like for your business. Whether you’re another outdoor brand or in a completely different industry, video series can help you target a niche audience, show off your brand values, and make you stand out amongst the competition.
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