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The Rising Tide of Branded Podcasts: Q&A with JAR Audio Founders

Jordan P. Kelley, Content Director, BrandStorytelling

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In the last decade, Podcasts have emerged not just as a popular medium for individual creators, but also as a powerful tool for brands seeking to engage with their audiences in a meaningful way. Branded podcasts, however, require a level of production expertise that demand experience with the medium and dedicated personnel, which is where firms like JAR Audio come into play. At JAR, Roger Nairn (co-founder and CEO) brings over two decades of experience in advertising to the table, helping brands create compelling, high-performing podcasts, while Jen Moss (co-founder and Chief Creative Officer) leverages her expertise in theater, journalism, and documentary work to ensure that narratives across various podcasts bring audiences closer to the brands they love. Roger and Jen caught up with BrandStorytelling to discuss the driving forces behind the podcast boom, the unique engagement potential of the medium, and the strategic importance for brands entering the podcast space:

What do you attribute to the surge in popularity of podcasts over the last decade?

Roger Nairn: A few things are driving it. First, we’ve all seen the general increase in media consumption. Podcasts are no different. They’re a blend of convenience, portability, and variety that few other mediums can match. If you imagine a Venn diagram with engagement, intimacy, and convenience, podcasts sit right in the middle. Try watching a video on your phone on the treadmill and not getting sick. The pandemic certainly accelerated podcast consumption as people sought new forms of content while at home, but the momentum has continued because listeners are finding deep connections with their favorite shows and enjoy exploring new ones​.

From a content perspective, what makes podcasts a unique medium for engagement?

Jen Moss: Podcasts are powerful in so many ways. They’re great tools for immersive storytelling, and for building intimate, personal connections. For example, podcast listeners tend to fall in love with their favorite host. They form a one-on-one parasocial connection with them. They feel like they “know” them! And I think that unlike other media, podcasts let listeners engage more deeply with the content. Podcasts are often longer, go deeper, and have fewer interruptions that, say, content you’d find on regular terrestrial radio or TV. When done right, podcasts literally string the listener along – addressing them directly to keep them tuned in. This level of engagement is reflected in the data, with podcast listeners averaging about eight episodes per week and spending more than seven hours on their favorite podcast apps​. The format really just encourages a level of listener engagement that's hard to achieve with other media, due to its portability and intimacy.

Can you give us a brief history of JAR Audio and its role in the branded podcast sector?

RN: Jen and I started JAR Audio because we kept running into frustrated marketers. Brands were entering the podcast space, but many shows weren't performing as they expected. With my 22+ years in advertising and Jen's 22+ years in journalism, we saw an opportunity to create podcasts that balanced great creative content with business objectives. Brand storytelling needs to see an ROI, and we wanted to deliver on that. At the same time, audiences expect the storytelling to be compelling. So when we started JAR the idea that podcasts should perform was baked into our DNA. At JAR, we work to create podcasts that not only engage listeners but also deliver measurable results for brands​. Our first client was Saje Natural Wellness, and their show "Well Now" topped the Health & Wellness category on Apple Podcasts. Our 2nd client was Expedia. Our third was lululemon. So we knew we were onto something. After that, we started to see a number of the world’s biggest brands (like Amazon, RBC, and Cirque du Soleil) wanting to collaborate with us to tell great stories, because they saw the ROI equation that didn’t exist before. And that continues today.  

Why should brands consider entering the podcast space?

RN: It really depends on what’s important to the brand and what their business objective is. Amazon wanted to engage with small business owners. Cirque du Soleil wanted to re-engage with their audience coming out of the pandemic. Staffbase wanted to communicate with communicators. Each of their award-winning podcasts offered them a unique opportunity to highlight thought leadership, break down silos, and foster dialogue. And it's the same with most brands. I say most because the show can’t be about the brand. It's a platform for great content that audiences love, which then creates a halo effect for the brand. If it's too much about the brand and its products or services, then nobody will listen. But if you target a niche market and provide them with consistent, valuable, authentic content, you will be rewarded with brand loyalty. And the numbers prove it. Advances in podcast analytics let us measure both B2C and B2B engagement, and podcast-specific brand lift studies prove that podcasts are worth adding to any content strategy. If done well they can deliver a significant ROI.

"I see so much being invested in brand films. Which are compelling and beautiful. But what do we know about their performance? Podcasts shed so much rich data, from engagement to conversions you can build a stack that reports on the ROI of your show." 
- Roger Nairn, CEO, JAR Audio

What are some of the current trends in branded podcasts?

JM: We're seeing a rise in narrative-driven, immersive audio content that deeply engages listeners and stands out from the hordes of interview shows. Video podcasting is also gaining traction, expanding the reach and format of traditional audio podcasts. AI is playing a growing role, from supporting our Producers in their research, to supporting our editors as they work with the sound, to analyzing audience data. This helps us make better content for audiences, making it easier to connect with them on a deeper level. However, it's crucial to match the podcast format and strategy with the specific goals of the audience to maximize impact​. And you have to remember to never lose sight of the audience’s need for authentic conversations and stories. Real human connection is what’s most needed – and that’s the thing that podcasts do so well.

Why is it important for brands to keep up with these podcasting trends?

JM: Staying relevant and competitive is obviously key, right? For example, if you want to reach Gen Z, you need to know that they often discover their podcasts via short content on platforms likeTikTok that can drive listeners to longer podcast episodes. Over time, podcasts can build a deep connection with audiences. They can definitely enhance your brand’s image. But they do this by remaining relevant and current, both in terms of the subjects they present, and the forms they take. As new trends and technologies emerge, like immersive audio storytelling, brands that can stay on top of this will find new and innovative ways to engage with their audiences.

Watch this space for more articles from JAR on the ins and outs of branded podcast distribution and marketing, and how to use podcasts to maximize the impact of a film property or other creative IP.


About Roger Nairn:

Roger transitioned from a career in advertising account management to co-founding JAR, a podcast agency that uses podcast storytelling to captivate brand audiences. As CEO of JAR, he propels the company's growth by prioritizing audience engagement and podcast marketing. Under his guidance, JAR flourishes with a global clientele, aiming to broaden its reach across North America and revolutionize brand connections through immersive storytelling.

About Jen Moss:

In her role as Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of JAR, Jen Moss brings stories to life. Jen draws on her strong background in theatre, arts journalism, and authentic, documentary storytelling. Her many years of working for CBC Radio and Canada’s National Film Board Digital Studio taught her to think of stories as living, breathing things, full of potential for impact. With JAR’s clients, Jen acts as a podcasting "doula," helping them bring captivating stories into the world. She also lectures on podcasting and New Media at the University of British Columbia.


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