We recently reported on the launch of Harrods’ True Tales of Luxury podcast – a move by the department store aiming to connect with audiences beyond the check out.
Harrods is not alone in this endeavour. Fashion and luxury brands from Barneys, to Gucci and Rebecca Minkoff have all launched their own branded podcasts, each with the aim of getting people to immerse themselves in the brand’s universe.
It makes sense. A 2018 survey by Edison Research found that 44% of US consumers aged 12 and older have listened to a podcast (a 4% increase from 2017) and 26% listened to one in the past month (a 2% increase from 2017). The firm also reported that a typical podcast fan spends five hours of their week listening to shows.
To understand the value of this new medium for fashion and luxury brands, we caught up with Casey Sheehan, Design Partner at brand agency Work & Co, whose work in the retail space includes Aesop, LVMH, Rapha, Coach, David Yurman, Bottega Veneta and Apple.
Image: Top Fashion Podcasts, as ranked by Elle Singapore
Why do you think brand podcasts have become so popular, especially — and perhaps unexpectedly — with luxury fashion brands like Gucci and Chanel? What’s the value?
In the digital age, many luxury brands have struggled with preserving exclusivity while also opening up to global audiences via web and mobile channels. Podcasts strike a nice balance, offering luxury brands the ability to reach beyond their loyal fans while still maintaining a high level of curation. The medium also offers a simple way for these brands to convey their unique histories, values and approach to design. Consumers want deeper insights into their favorite brands, and podcasts can provide an intimate, really human way in.
I also believe brands are responding to the reality that their core customers are spending so much time on their phones. As mobile commerce spikes, podcasts become a natural way to integrate into brand experiences. It's so easy to download, listen and engage on the go.
What kind of investments is required for these programs?
Podcasts have a low barrier to entry. The investment is minimal: a good microphone, software, a small studio space, a host and small production team. Like blogs, a podcast is easy to launch. The challenge, though, is maintaining and scaling it over time, and ensuring the content is consistently compelling and really stands out with a strong point of view, great hosts and guests. The bar for long-term engagement is very high.
Does the overall investment of time and money pay off? Or are there better content formats to target consumers with?
It depends, but compared to video - where there’s far more resources needed to pull off quality production - the footprint and overhead cost is tiny, so ROI is likely higher.
If you were advising a fashion or beauty brand on a podcast, what is some advice or criteria you would tell them to abide by in order to be successful?
Find ways that online content bridges to physical stores. Our expertise at Work & Co is in creating connected ecosystems of products for brands, things like mobile apps and e-commerce platforms and in-store retail experiences. We have routinely helped integrate content into these experiences - ranging from a literary magazine called The Fabulist for Aesop, to social influencer content for ALDO, to community pages for Rapha that encourage passionate cyclists to meet in person.
Stand for something bigger. One reason why Rapha is so interesting as a retail brand is that its e-commerce platform does more than selling. It stands for something bigger. It's about melding commerce and content to encourage people to get out on their bikes and ride every day. I predict that we'll see a lot more of this from fashion and beauty brands that are seeking a higher-order purpose with fans. Great podcast content could help brands work towards this goal.
Finally, be realistic. Agree from the start about how much your internal teams can take on, and the degree to which you need to bring in outside partners. For example, a lot rides on the host to be charismatic and lead engaging conversations. So, do you have that in-house person already or do you need to find her or him? Will you need help booking outside talent? You also must commit to a regular cadence – listeners will come to expect regular programing, deliver on that and they will stay tuned.
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