written by
Luca Hirschfeld
Luca Hirschfeld
Food for Thoughts
2020-03-19

Advertising or not? The rise of the unbranded corporate fiction podcast

Advertising or not? The rise of the unbranded corporate fiction podcast

Brands are no strangers to podcasts. They have long recognised theappeal ofthe target group and the huge rise in listenership in recent years. Now companies like Lufthansa and General Electric have discovered a new way to usethe medium –by launching their own unbranded fiction podcast. Could this be the next brand content and storytelling tool?

High-quality corporate fiction podcasts have long been part of the audio landscape in the USA (successful examples include General Electric’s science fiction podcast The Message which has achieved millions of downloads and reached number one on the iTunes podcast charts). The trend has recently found its way to Germany with Backup, a new fiction podcast which tells a story dealing with topics like artificial intelligence and big data. The podcast is smart, entertaining and well produced and only at the end is it mentioned that the podcast is from Lufthansa. We at FYEO* (For Your Ears Only) are excited that fiction podcasts are becoming more popular in Germany and that brands are experimenting with audio.


If the brand association is so subtle, what exactly do brands actually gain from these podcasts? Firstly, brands are going further than you might expect them to. How might you expect a standard podcast from Lufthansa to look? Perhaps two experts discussing travel tips or the next best destination.  The fiction podcast is a step further. It shows the brand is willing to take chances on the next audio trend. The market for fiction podcasts is as yet,underdeveloped in Germany and Backup from Lufthansa is one of the first on the market. It grabs your attention.


Secondly, in releasing these podcasts, these brands are – albeit with subtlety- associating themselves with futuristic topics. And as future-oriented organisationsis exactly how these brands want to be seen. Andy Goldberg, chief creative officer at GE, said it best when he told Nieman Lab, “I don’t consider it advertising. It’s a podcast show that just happens to be produced by a brand instead of a network. I’m not saying, ‘Hey, go out and buy a jet engine.’ It’s a science fiction story to connect listeners with what the GE brand is about, without selling the GE brand.”


It can also be said that they are judging the Zeitgeist correctly and addressing perceived weaknesses in their organisations. Lufthansa holds a huge amount of data on its customers and, by releasing a podcast that tackles the big data society, they are almost coming out ahead on the issue. And in science fiction and artificial intelligence, General Electric and Lufthansa have also sensibly chosen topics which appeal to the average affluent, young podcast listener.


These podcasts bring no real measurable marketing KPIs. They are not advertised and their success is mainly due to word of mouth. The brand name is almost mentioned as an afterthought at the end. But this is part of their appeal. If I had known Backup was made by Lufthansa I probably wouldn’t have listened to it (and yet I did, and here I am writing about it). It is a nice-to-have in your audio armoury. It helps a company to demonstrate what they stand for and invest in topics and trends of the future.

*FYEO (For Your Ears Only) is the new app for your audio entertainment. FYEO focuses on high-quality, self-produced & exclusive formats and also offers a variety of freely available podcasts.

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