Why Brands Like McDonald’s and Chanel Are Launching Podcasts


By Tricia McKinnon

Spotify is betting on podcasts. Are you?  Spotify’s purchase of podcasting company Gimlet Media in February of this year for $340 million highlights what many see as an important part of the future of media. After making the purchase, Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek said: “with the world focused on trying to reduce screen time, [this] opens up a massive audio opportunity.” Podcasts have been around since at least 2000 but they didn’t gain traction until 2014 when Apple launched its standalone podcast app.  Since 2014 the popularity of podcasts has steadily grown with the number of Americans that have watched a podcast at least once within a month increasing from 15% to 32% between 2014 and 2019.  

Podcast listeners are a lucrative audience.  39% of people that listened to a podcast in the past month are between the ages of 18 and 34 and 35% are between the ages of 35 and 54.  Podcast listeners are also well educated with 28% of listeners having some grad school or an advanced degree vs. 20% of the US population.  

Demographics like these along with the fact that podcast listeners are less likely to skip over ads give advertisers and brands a reason to consider the platform.  With favourable listener demographics as well as relatively production costs especially it is a format that might be worth at least a test for retailers.   According to Matt Lieber, Managing Director of Gimlet: “what makes for a successful branded podcast are a lot of the things that make for a successful podcast period.” “If a brand wants to make a commercial that’s 20 minutes long, it will fail.”  

A few retailers have already started to test the medium. Some of the retailers that have produced podcasts include McDonald’s, Chanel, Banana Republic in conjunction with Goop and Trader Joe’s.  Take a look at how these retailers are approaching the growing format.

1. The Sauce.  This is a three episode “investigative” journalism podcast that McDonald’s paid Gizmodo to develop. It provides an insider’s look into a shortage of Szechuan sauce at McDonald’s in October of 2017 that led to thousands of unhappy customers and a PR nightmare.  The first episode is called “good intentions” then it is followed by an episode called “the Szechuan riots” the series culminates with an episode called “making amends.”  Within 24 hours after the podcast dropped last February it reached as high as 94 on Apple’s iTunes.  

Speaking about why it launched the podcast, Jano Cabrera, SVP of Corporate Relations at McDonald’s said: “good is fulfilling the promise we made to our guests. Better is doing so by acknowledging and apologizing for our mistake in an open, honest and transparent way. Best? To do all of that in a creative way and hence, a podcast.”

2. Women on Top.  Would you have guessed that lifestyle brand Goop would team up with Banana Republic? Well they have… to launch a podcast.  The eight series podcast special called Women on Top focuses on female empowerment.  According to Elise Loehnen, Goop’sChief Content Officer: "this series will feature conversations with the women we look up to - those who lead with grace, power, and curiosity and are redefining what we think it means to break boundaries."  The episodes will drop on Goop’s existing podcast channel.  Gwyneth Paltrow or Loehnen will interview a range of guests from Teen Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief Elaine Welteroth to motivational speaker Marie Forleo as well as other "ceiling-shattering leaders."  Speaking about the collaboration, Loehnen said: “we’re both speaking to strong, professional women.” “This gives us a chance to tap into each others’ audiences.”  The first episode is already available and it will run every Tuesday until October 22, 2019.

3. “3.55”.  Chanel has had a podcast since 2017 called 3.55.  The podcast is: “an invitation to discover a personality from the worlds of fashion and art, to become immersed in their experiences and their observations and to go behind the scenes of creation.  One of the series on the podcast is called ‘Métier Class by CHANEL, a collaboration with Monocle magazine.  The series gives fans an opportunity to go behind the scenes.  Some of the guests featured in the series include Pharrell Williams, Amanda Harlech and Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel’s former Artistic Director.  Lagerfeld’s interview on the podcast was one of his final Interviews. The podcast gives Chanel an opportunity to speak to an audience that it might not normally speak to.  Speaking about the collaboration, Monocle Editor-in-Chief Tyler Brûlé said: “this type of program is going to speak to somebody who wants to dig deeper into the industry. We’re bringing [Chanel] a different audience.”  

4. Inside Trader Joe’s.  Who would have thought a podcast about a grocery store would be so popular? Clearly Trader Joe’s did.  After the podcast launched last May it landed on the number five spot on iTunes.  The first episode is called: It’s About the Products and it talks about what makes Trader Joe’s products different. There’s another episode about frozen foods and even one about why everyone at Trader Joe’s is so nice.  The series helps you to get to know Trader Joe’s better.  It features real life Captains (store managers), Crew Members (employees) and many C-suite executives. Some of the questions answered on the podcast are about how Trader Joe’s discovers great new products and why the company will never sell online. 











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Tricia McKinnonTrendsComment