CASE STUDY: Hackable? An Original Podcast From McAfee

PROJECT:  Hackable? An Original Podcast from McAfee


We have been working with McAfee for nearly a decade. In all these years, the one constant has been the challenge of engaging consumers in a conversation about digital security. They just don’t want to think about it. And, for most, it doesn’t enter their mind until there’s a problem (e.g. they get a virus, their identity is stolen, etc.). Yet we know that the best line of defense in preventing security issues is education.

While noodling over this persistent challenge, and listening to highly rated podcasts like “Serial,” we thought doing a consumer podcast was our chance to intimately connect McAfee to their audience by entertaining and educating them using a relatively new and uncluttered medium. They did not ask us to develop a podcast for them, we proactively went to them with this idea.

Our goals from the start were:
1. Heighten McAfee’s leadership position in cyber-security
2. Enhance positive feelings about the McAfee brand to influence customer loyalty and NPS
3. Make complex cyber-security issues accessible and entertaining, while providing clear information and education
4. Leave the audience smarter than when they arrived


The Creative Concept:

We set out to create audio storytelling that would be entertaining, educational and brand building. We partnered with Pacific Content for production, given their experience and expertise in painting the most vivid stories in audio. Together, we developed the show format: Pop culture (take a scene from tv, movies or the news about a security hack or breach and recreate it in a dramatic audio format) + MythBusters (put that same hack in pop culture and test it with real hackers to separate fact from fiction and ultimately figure out how nervous we should really be) + consumer security advocacy (supply tips to keep people educated and safe). We named the show, “Hackable?“. The “?” at the end is intentional, as we are posing the question as to whether something is hackable or not.

Here’s the trailer video that explains “Hackable?”

Distribution Plan:

We used SimpleCast to host and distribute Hackable? to all of the available podcasting platforms.  Given Apple’s dominant share of podcast listenership, we paid special attention to their platform, which resulted in promotional placement in their “New and Noteworthy” section.  Our content was so well received by Pocket Casts we also received prominent promotional placement on their app as well.  We also created a microsite for the podcast, where those that don’t listen to podcasts through an app could go to listen and for those listening on the regular platforms could go to get more information about each episode.

Hackable Podcast Website

We were certain the tech audience would challenge our site, so we had fun with it and made the site “Hackable”.  If you find the “easter eggs” that are hidden in blog posts, in episodes and on the site, you can “hack” the website.  Here’s the video that plants the seed with our audience:

Launch Marketing:

We knew that it would be a massive uphill battle to try and get non-podcast listeners to become podcast listeners with Hackable? So, we focused our efforts on “fishing where the fish are.” We built a 360 marketing plan with a heavy emphasis on in-podcast “advertising” and social media. In-podcast advertising was critical to our success. It’s less like advertising and more like authentic endorsements from the host. Take a listen to this “ad” for “Hackable?” that ran on Reply All.

We partnered with Reply All, Sincerely X, Science Magazine, Found, StoryWorthy, Something You Should Know and SpyCast. On social, we specifically targeted people who identified an interest in podcasting in general or in specific podcasts. We also leveraged McAfee’s owned and internal channels, including their website, social media pages, social champions, and blog posts.

To see more of our Hackable? creative, check out this work page.

Subsequent Season Marketing

With pressure to do more with less budget, we turned to in-product communication and in-kind promotions with other podcasts.  On the in-product side, we were able to push messaging about Hackable? to current McAfee android customers using their Mobile Security app, which resulted in big increases on Google Podcasts.  We reached out to other podcasts that have content and audiences that align with Hackable?  We successfully partnered with Zig Zag and Darknet Diaries.  Both cross promotions helped boost downloads and subscribers.


Hackable? is the biggest content marketing success in McAfee’s history.  Here’s why:

  • McAfee NPS has been trending upwards since the launch of Hackable?
  • The majority of Hackable? listeners (65%), even those who never used a McAfee product, were left with a higher opinion of the McAfee brand after listening
  • 77% of respondents said they “liked” or “loved” the podcast after listening to it
  • 88% of respondents said they learned something new from the podcast after listening to it
  • Hackable? is in the top 1% of all podcasts ever produced with 3 million+ downloads and 100k+ subscribers
  • Hackable? is 5-star rated on Apple Podcasts (over 315 ratings and 60 reviews)
  • Hackable? topped Apple Podcast U.S. charts: #1 Tech News Podcast, #3 Technology Podcast, #42 Podcast (Overall)
  • The show was picked up by SiriusXM Insights (twice)
  • The show was awarded “Best Branded Podcast” by The Shorty’s and Digiday, and was nominated by iHeartRadio Podcast Awards
  • Response won a silver for “Digital Campaign of the Year” by AdAge Small Agency Awards
  • Hackable? is currently trending on Google Podcasts
  • Completed 5 seasons of content (nearly 40 episodes)