Brand Lift Studies for Podcasts: The Controlled Exposure Approach

Conducting Brand Lift Studies for podcasts can be a challenge. It can be difficult to catch listeners ‘in the wild’ to see if your campaign is moving the needle on awareness, consideration or brand perceptions. But it also provides an opportunity.

At the heart of the challenge is the magic power that makes podcasts so powerful—their niche audience.

As an on-demand medium, listeners have chosen their favourite podcasts from hundreds of thousands of options. Unlike radio, where its wide reach makes its easier to find listeners who’ve been exposed to your campaign, even the most popular podcasts deliver a small (albeit deeply engaged) audience. That can make it challenging or expensive to find listeners who have heard the podcast or podcasts you included in your audio campaign. 

If the campaign is big enough, delivering millions of impressions across a large network of podcasts for example, it is possible to conduct a pixel-based brand lift survey tracking listeners who have downloaded a podcast with your ad. Otherwise, you can still get valuable insights on how your campaign is performing using a controlled exposure Brand Lift Study. 

How Controlled Exposure Brand Lift Studies for Podcasts are Typically Conducted

Here’s the most common approach to see if your podcast ad is helping to build your brand:

  • Respondents are invited to an online survey where they hear a podcast or podcast segment.
  • Half the sample (the exposed or test cell) hears the podcast with an ad; the other half (the control sample) hears the podcast without the ad.
  • Both groups are then asked follow-up brand questions specific to campaign objectives. The difference in results gives you a measure of brand lift.

A variation of this approach can be applied to branded podcasts. In this case, the exposed cell hears a whole episode, or episodes, of a branded podcast and is then given a set of brand questions. Meanwhile, a matching control sample is not played the podcast, but asked the same brand questions. Again, responses between the two cells are compared to check for how much lift the branded podcast is delivering and where it’s happening.

Is this Forced Exposure?

This methodology is often called ‘forced exposure’ and has been widely used for online video, banner ads, pop up ads, or sometimes print or TV.  The exposure is called ‘forced’ because it’s not presented to respondents in a natural environment.

This can be a particular problem for media where, in a real-world setting, the audience often actively avoids ads. If the forced exposure study doesn’t capture that ad avoidance, it’s missing a key insight. Fortunately, this is less of an issue for podcasts than it is for other digital media. As we’ve seen in The Canadian Podcast Listener study,  fewer podcast listeners skip or otherwise avoid podcast ads than they do banner ads, pop up ads or online video.

That said, the closer a Brand Lift Study for podcasts comes to replicating the typical listener experience, the more it can deliver meaningful learning.  

Creating a More Natural Environment for Testing

It’s important that respondents be exposed to a podcast they would listen to in real life. After all, the whole notion of ‘forced’ exposure is incompatible with the on-demand appeal of podcasts. For this reason, we prefer to look at these studies as ‘controlled’ vs. ‘forced’ exposure. Respondents should be podcast listeners, and they should be listening to a podcast that reflects their preferences. It’s only then that you capture the kind of engagement that makes podcast advertising so effective.

In fact, we’ve seen the most dramatic brand lift results when we’ve been able to conduct the study among actual listeners to the podcast we’re testing. Unfortunately, that is a rare opportunity but it sets a clear goal for the study design.

A Focused Look at What’s Working, and What’s Not

The upside of conducting a controlled exposure Brand Lift study is that as well as determining whether your marketing is helping to build your brand, you can also get up close, detailed diagnostics on your marketing immediately after exposure. Are you growing awareness, building brand love, or moving the audience closer to purchase? What brand perceptions are you changing? The answers give you insights you can use to fine-tune your marketing and/or frame future campaigns.

There are other approaches you can take with Brand Lift Studies for podcasts. Depending on the size and nature of the campaign, you may even be able to capture survey responses ‘in the wild’ using a pixel-based survey or a pre-/post- survey among listeners to the podcast or podcasts in your campaign.

That said, controlled exposure Brand Lift Studies are a practical and effective way to ensure your podcast campaign is working its magic on your brand.

If you’d like more information on Brand Lift Studies for audio, watch the brief video below, or go directly to our Brand Lift Help page where you can access our video series on Brand Lift Studies for podcasts, radio and audio streaming. You’ll also get a Brand Lift Brief template, a checklist to help you get set up for a successful Brand Lift Study.

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