I love listening to podcasts. To me, they’re one of the purest forms of content. They’re unscripted, uncensored and many times unedited. Podcasts are cheap to make, free to download and gain followers organically. Some of my favorite and most successful podcasts include those created by comedian Marc Maron (“WTF”), Scott Aukerman (“Comedy Bang! Bang!”) and Pete Holmes (“You Made it Weird”). But what can content marketers learn from the success of these offbeat, yet hilarious, broadcasters? As it turns out, quite a bit.
Commit to Authenticity
No one is more tired of the word “authentic” than I am. It’s one of those words marketing professionals use so much that it’s become inauthentic. But I’m using it here, well, authentically (I can’t seem to stop). The fact of the matter is that it gets used to death because authenticity is essential to earning trust.
Comedian Maron built “WTF” on his commitment to authenticity. I’ve been a listener since its beginnings in 2009 and can tell you firsthand that he has shared the good, bad and ugly about himself, and it’s paid off. He truly connects with his audience, which has earned him a huge fan base. Marc is an unscripted, soul-searching, neurotic recovering addict, and calling it a comedy podcast doesn’t do the show justice. But as he puts it, “Sometimes it’s not about the funny.” His show is as much about insights and catharsis as it is about entertainment. He airs grievances, gives real-time updates on his life and his cats, talks about his demons and famously quashes beefs with other comedians—many of whom weren’t aware there was a beef to quash in the first place. That’s just Marc.
As a result, his frankness has earned the trust of his listeners and guests, not to mention created some big career opportunities for him. His TV series on IFC, a barely fictional account of his life, is now filming its fourth season, and his podcast garners around 3 million downloads per month. His podcast guest list couldn’t get much bigger. Count the late Robin Williams, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards and President Barack Obama as visitors to the garage he records out of. You read that correctly. The president of the United States of America sat down in Marc’s garage and had a famously unedited conversation about issues ranging from gun control and race relations to what it’s like to be an aging president on the basketball court.
You might be thinking, “A comedian with an interesting story, zero filter and limitless comedy skills can grow great things from seeds of authenticity, but can a Fortune 500 company like mine do this?” Of course you can. I’m not suggesting you share all of your stumbles and shortcomings the way Marc does, but an honest conversation with your consumer base goes a long way toward building trust.
The Lesson for Brands
Remember a few years ago when Domino’s Pizza aired a TV spot that basically said, “Ummm, yeah, our pizza is not very … good. We should definitely make it taste better.” Who does that? I’ll tell you who does that: a company that wants to fix a problem and earn trust at the same time. And in the case of Domino’s, it paid off. CNN Money reported in October 2014 that the pizza chain experienced a 16% profit increase and added 160 more stores, boosting their stock to an all-time high.