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Listening to podcasts is one of my ‘things’. My life-long love of radio probably made me an easy podcast revolution recruit. Most of my work is carried out with one show or another playing in my earbuds. Especially motivating is when I find myself listening to a really good marketing podcast episode.

I’m not talking about episodes from straight-out marketing podcasts where all they ever talk about are marketing topics. Those certainly have a place in my rotation. I’ll probably do a list of my faves at some point. No, in this case, I am talking about the unexpected marketing podcast episode gem.

A bit of the beauty of branding and marketing is that what we do impacts so much and just about everything impacts what we do in return. Some of the best marketing and advertising tales have come from podcasts that otherwise have nothing to do with marketing.

Looking for a marketing podcast episode to listen to? Here they are!


Billboard Boys: The Greatest Radio Contest of All Time – Every now and then, a marketing idea really hits a societal nerve. Sometimes, completely by accident. This episode of the 99% Invisible podcast tells the tale of when just that happened to WSAN Radio out of Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Back in 1982, the station was looking for a marketing gimmick to promote a format change. They came up with an idea for a contest. People could enter for a chance to camp out on the station’s billboard. The person that stayed there the longest would win a house. The story of what happened once they launched the contest makes for a highly enjoyable marketing podcast episode.

Winning a home would always be a big deal. However, in 1982,  Pennsylvania, was suffering great economic hardship. Like so much of the industrial Northeast, jobs had been leaving in droves. So, possibility of winning a home became an epic draw. One that snowballed into something much bigger than the station’s marketing team could have every have imagined.


Crowing Glory:  A History of Hair In America – What does the history of hair have to do with marketing? Take a listen to this episode of the BackStory Podcast . Understanding the history and societal meaning of a product is invaluable insight. Spreading a successful marketing message has so much to with sociology and social history. If you don’t have that, you are just guessing.

Packed with a bunch of different segments on the history of hair, this really is a great episode. The story of Elvis’s army haircut is fun. However, what makes it an especially interesting marketing podcast episode is the story of Madam CJ Walker. Walker’s great-great granddaughter helps tell the story of how she built a thriving business around hair care for African-American women.


Why Are Used Car Ads So INSAAANNNE? – CARS! CARS! CARS!  Ever wondered why local market used car commercials are so …um..energetic? This episode of the Every Little Thing Podcast is the marketing podcast episode for you!  It turns out the standard for this sort of advertising was all set by one man.  Earl “Mad Man” Muntz was that man. A fascinating marketing tale shared by used car historian – yes, apparently such a thing exists – Steven M. Gelber.


How I Built This – Angie’s List: Angie Hicks – Truth be told, just about any of the episodes of NPR’s How I Built This Podcast would be a worthwhile marketing podcast episode. The host, Guy Raz collects a tremendous line up of business innovators. Often companies that are so ‘everywhere’ that you might not even stop to think that they didn’t always exist.

I pulled out the Angie’s List episode because their brand is a great example of one whose marketing is both ever-present and and consistently adaptive with local-marketing technology.  From buying ads in the back of Columbus, Ohio’s weekly newspapers to geo-targeted digital ads. Angie Hicks has spent decades making a national marketing plan feel local for each customer.

As a natural introvert myself, I love that Angie Hick’s tale of success starts with her discomfort of face to face sales. Even more remarkable since she’s now appears in all of their commercials.


Planet Money – When Subaru Came Out – Find your tribe. Anybody who has spent time working in digital marketing has heard that SO many times. This episode of NPR’s Planet Money Podcast follows how Subaru found success by doing just that.

Most cars are consciously marketed to ‘manly men men’ doing ‘men things’. Subaru, by contrast, has found their tribe by spending over a decade intentionally marketing to lesbian consumers. Why? As this marketing podcast episode explores, it was part making the best of what they had and part picking up the customers the other brands were leaving on the floor.

Subaru was finding themselves simply unable to compete with competitors. They couldn’t chase the the consumers looking for sexy sports cars. Taking some time to reflect, they examined their sales numbers and noticed that one of their cars – a sturdy reliable sort – was selling decently. Further examination revealed that it was selling particularly well to women that identified themselves as head of household.

In a brilliant example of using analytics to mold your marketing strategy, Subaru decided to pursue the lesbian market. The question was, how would they do that without tipping over from demographic chasing to stereotyping? Not to mention, this decision was being made at a time when being made during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis and all the unwarranted homophobia that surrounded it.


The Kit Kat Jingle That Almost Wasn’t – Never heard the Kit Kat advertising jingle? Gimme me a break! Everybody has heard it! Chances are, just reading the words ‘Kit Kat jingle’ has you humming it in your head right now. This episode of the Burnt Toast podcast explores how the jingle went from composer Michael Levine’s mind to the stuff of advertising legend. Try not to get too hard on yourself when you get to the part about the elevator ride. Ugh!


Planet Money – The Fake Review Hunter – Okay, so another shoutout for NPR’s Planet Money podcast. This prolific podcast has some real gems. As somebody who has made a career out of marketing within highly regulated industries, this particular marketing podcast episode really spoke to me.

I can’t tell you how many times somebody has asked me to write fake reviews for them. I completely understand the temptation. Review sites are such a big part of the current digital marketing footprint. Plus, brands have been buying up their own review domains since pretty much ever.

That goes just as much for negative sentiment domains as positive. If you see, chances are, that Brand Whatever owns and operates that domain. If they don’t, an affiliate marketer does. Which, in the end just helps the brand shift some products.  So, what difference does it make if you fake a review or two?

It’s not the wild west of digital marketing any more. There are consequences for dishonesty.  People forget that if the brand itself, or those acting on its behalf, are posting reviews, that qualifies as advertising. In which case, if your brand is a regulated product you better not be making false claims. For that matter, you better be able to back up the real claims.

Thinking you won’t be caught it foolish. What might feel like a great quick-start marketing strategy could actually ruin a brand.

In the case of the bodybuilding supplement world, which is explored in this episode, fake reviews can be flat out dangerous. Even if you don’t end up getting sued because something tragic happened to somebody as a result, there should be a moral component to that knowledge.

Tommy Noonan – bless him – took it upon himself to take on fake reviews on to help not just protect the consumer but also the good, honest marketing professionals.  He used his experience to build, an invaluable tool for anybody wondering if the reviews they are reading on Amazon can be trusted.