Don’ts (and Do’s) of Making A Branded Podcast Hit

After over a year of strategic, conceptual, planning, production and execution work, we finally launched the branded podcast, “Hackable?” by McAfee.  It has been a huge hit by branded and non-branded podcast standards.  Downloads and subscriptions are off the hook.  The podcast launched in the #1 spot in Apple Podcast TechNews and has maintained that position since. 

Hackable? is our first foray into the podcasting space.  As you can imagine, working on this project we learned a great deal.  This shares just a little of what we know with you.


  • Don’t just jump on the bandwagon.  Podcasting isn’t for everyone.  In our case, Hackable? fit beautifully into McAfee’s strategic imperatives to build thought leadership, positive consumer sentiment, and provide cyber security education in an entertaining way.
  • Don’t think like a brand marketer, think like an entertainment company. A well-done, highly produced branded podcast needs to be first and foremost entertaining. If it isn’t then you are just throwing your money out the window. Do you have an idea that is strong enough for audio storytelling?  If not, go back to the drawing board. Once you have a strong idea and the pilot episode is produced, do some research by letting a small sample of your audience listen and get their reactions.  Based on the feedback you can make adjustments to your show and/or plan.
  • Don’t stifle the creative process. This isn’t advertising, it’s a show. One of the reasons the TV Series, Seinfeld was so successful is because Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld had creative freedom.  They broke rules, took chances, and scored a huge win.  It’s the same with podcasting. Brand marketers need to guide the process from a strategic perspective, but try hard not to muck up the creative process.
  • Don’t over brand. Branded podcasts aren’t advertisements, but rather audio drama that sucks the listener in with highly entertaining storytelling that happens to be brought to you by a brand or company.


  • Do bring in the experts.  Many brands have tried doing podcasts and have failed because they didn’t understand the space, the craft of superior audio production or the intricacies of audience development and distribution.  We partnered with branded podcast experts, Pacific Content, to produce our show, Hackable? By McAfee. We would have never been able to navigate the podcast waters without them.  Plus, their production, editing and sound engineering capabilities are second to none.
  • Do fish where the fish are.  It is highly unlikely that you will convert non-podcast listeners to podcast listeners with your branded show.  Leave it to This American Life, Serial, and S-Towns of the world to bring new podcasters into the fold.  When doing your marketing plans to support the launch of your show, put the majority of your budget into in-podcast advertising. Supplement in-podcast efforts with highly targeted social advertising.  Broader efforts using PR, owned media, and partnerships should be part of the mix as well.
  • Do zero in on Apple Podcasts. Getting featured in any of Apple Podcasts categories/lists is huge for visibility, and consequently, downloads.  Nobody knows for sure how the Apple Podcasts algorithms work, but here’s what we think is important:
    • Send quality inbound traffic to Apple Podcasts.  Direct all of your advertising efforts to your show on Apple Podcasts.  
    • Do as much as you can to get downloads and subscriptions quickly.  Heavy up your marketing in the launch week.
    • Ask for ratings and reviews.  Obviously, the more ratings and reviews the better, but you won’t get them if you don’t ask for them.

Listen to Hackable? on Apple Podcasts.  Hackable? by McAfee

If you’re exploring a branded podcast, we can help you avoid the pitfalls, develop an entertaining concept, oversee production and develop and execute a winning marketing plan. Drop us a line.  We’d be happy to help.  

In the meantime, this AdWeek article, “Major Brands Are Betting Big On Podcasts, And It Seems To Be Paying Off,” is also an excellent read.