A great branded podcast should be designed like a casino. Here’s why.
By: Laurissa Cebryk
No matter how you feel about casinos — be it good, bad, or downright ugly — there is a begrudging amount of genius that goes into their design. It’s a wicked combination of psychology, architecture, and marketing that keeps people inside, spending money and time.
Your branded podcast should do the same.
We’re not talking about trapping your target audience in a chamber of only your show to get them to spend money on your brand. What we’re saying is that there are a lot of great podcast design tips you can take from casino design that will let you create a show your audience can’t put down.
Remember, branded podcasts aren’t necessarily about the conversions. They’re about engagement. And if there’s one thing casinos do really, really well, it’s keeping their customers engaged.
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This is a given for podcasts, but it’s a great place to start. Casinos control their sound environment with upbeat music and that classic *ding ding ding!!!* to let visitors know people are winning. Different types of music have been found to have different effects on how gamblers react.
In podcasting, you want a rich tapestry of sound and sound design to keep your listeners engaged. Instead of dinging to signify a win (unless you’re doing a podcast about casinos), you might use something like an ominous backtrack to let your listeners know there’s pressure building, and they should stick around to see what happens next.
Without a rich sound environment, a casino would just be the depressing sound of money entering a machine and the whirring of wheels reminding you how long you’ve been sitting there kissing your money goodbye.
Casinos often offer things like free drinks and snacks. Yes, that’s partially because of the alcohol/inhibition factor that lets Casino-goers make somewhat more uninhibited choices with their money, but also so they have added value that makes them want to come back. While you can’t really offer a free drink with every listen (or can you?!), you can ensure your podcast is filled with added value, such as life tips, tricks, lessons, etc., to keep your audience coming back for more.
Whether or not a casino makes someone’s life better is up for debate, but when it comes to a branded podcast, the answer should always be, ‘Yes, I got something valuable out of my time listening to your show.’
Casinos and casino games are built on a series of reinforcers, things that increase the probability that a desired behaviour (gambling) will occur again.
Think about a casino layout. The slot machines are usually first, with bright colours and sounds, and the rest of the casino acts like a confusing maze that is hard to navigate and tempts you to keep playing as you make your way over to the exit, bathroom, or restaurant. THEN you have intermittent monetary awards. For slots, there is a “win schedule” that lets you hit some kind of compensation for your time, giving you the impression of getting ahead (or being able to get ahead).
In branded podcasts, our reinforcers are things like cliffhangers and valuable content. Is your listener excited about a certain topic? Bring in a VIP guest for an exceptional conversation. Keep them on the edge with cliffhangers and powerful openers. Use great sound engineering. Each of those items will help ensure your desired behaviour (listening through the episode) will occur.
Aesthetic and Comfort
Casinos have the goal of making their guests feel comfortable enough to stay for the long haul: Comfy seats, cozy rooms, and the creation of intimate, windowless spaces to make them feel at home.
For podcasts, you simply can’t underestimate the importance of graphic design and aesthetics. It might sound ridiculous, especially considering people, for the most part, will be listening to and not watching your podcast (although YouTube is a large space for podcast listeners). Your cover art tells potential listeners a lot about what your show will give them — and there are a lot of shows out there. It needs to bring people in. Then, with your show, you create the rest of that comfortable space where your listener can sit back, relax, and bask in your thought leadership.
Like how the highly stimulating casino environment draws players in and effectively gets them to ignore the outside world, your podcast needs to be stimulating. From the first second, your audience should want to listen more. Our CEO, Roger Nairn, also suggests that the first five minutes are make or break. Keep your listeners engaged and stimulated so you don’t lose them.
You know those slot machines that look like our favourite 90s games or sitcoms? They’re relying on familiarity to entice people to the machine to start playing. Even if it’s a complicated game or machine, the familiarity trope keeps them engaged and playing.
Podcasts can use the same premise. People love listening to shows to learn new things, but at the same time, they want some aspect of familiarity with it. It could be a niche podcast about their favourite TV show, it could be their favourite celebrity coming on as a guest, or a concept they know about but want to dive into deeper.
When you figure out who your podcast is for, figure out what they already know and would want to hear about. That way, you’ll draw them in for a round or two.
The Why Factor
People gamble and come to casinos for all sorts of reasons. Some want to win money, some want to have fun, and some just want to shake off routine. The way casinos are psychologically designed, they keep people playing, no matter why they ended up there.
Your podcast should do the same.
Folks will come to listen because they’re curious, like your cover art, want to relax, want to keep their brains busy during mundane tasks, or because they want to learn something new — Maybe even a few of the above. Regardless of why they find your podcast, if it’s designed like a casino with their needs in mind and high-quality, valuable content, you’ll find yourself a devoted listenership in no time.