Abstract image illustrating reciprocity in marketing with hands exchanging gifts, hearts, and arrows indicating mutual benefit.

The Power of Reciprocity in Marketing: Enhancing Branded Podcasts


Discover How Reciprocity in Marketing Can Transform Your Branded Podcasts

What is reciprocity in marketing? It states that people are inclined to return the favours of others. And it is one of the most powerful tools in content marketing.

Branded podcasts are grounded in this idea. Branded podcasts are podcasts created by brands, for either a business or consumer audience. They are free to listen to, free of ads, and aim to provide real value; they’re little gifts for audiences. 

I ask all my clients how they want their listeners to feel after hearing their podcast, and they consistently name emotions like delighted, empowered, less alone, and clarity. If you can inspire others to feel this way, you are indeed giving them a gift. 

Diverse listeners engaging with branded podcasts, illustrating reciprocity in marketing.

What’s the Return on a Branded Podcast?

So, what is the favour brands are seeking in return? Attention — and podcasts are among the best tools marketers have for earning attention. About 80% of podcast listeners listen to all or most of an episode and most podcast episodes exceed 20 minutes. But, attention alone isn’t the goal. It’s an avenue for building relationships with consumers so that, one day, they may turn into customers. And not just any customers, loyal, lifelong customers and brand evangelists. 

Marketers call this journey “the funnel”. When people are at the top of the funnel, they are not yet customers. They are just becoming aware of your brand or they’re getting to know your brand’s story in a new way. At the bottom of the funnel is the point of sale, when potential customers decide to buy from you. Every interaction with your brand should move potential customers further and further down the funnel. So you better make those interactions count!

This is where podcasts come in. If potential customers are having delightful touchpoints every week or so with your brand each time you release a new episode, they are more inclined to move further down the funnel and more likely to decide to purchase when they reach the bottom. Not only that, but every other touchpoint your listeners have with your brand outside of your podcast will be even more meaningful because you’ve spent the time to build a relationship with them through your podcast.

I’ve seen evidence of this time and again. I’ve worked with Signal Hill Insights for years to survey my clients’ audiences. These surveys consistently show that podcasts create loyal listeners who listen to multiple episodes of branded podcasts. Those loyal listeners are more likely to consider that brand the next time they’re in the market for the brand’s product or service. Even new listeners to a branded podcast who have only listened to one episode consistently demonstrate higher brand recall and higher brand favourability than control groups who haven’t listened to the podcast.

Marketing funnel showing listeners progressing from awareness to loyalty, influenced by reciprocity in marketing.

The Challenge for Branded Podcasts

Here’s the roadblock. For branded podcasts to be effective, they must be exceptional. Brands face an additional audience growth challenge compared to indie podcasts: Consumers are suspicious of brands. They don’t want to click on a podcast only to be served one long ad for that brand. Audiences will give you their attention — but you have to earn it. 

For audiences to want to return the favour, your podcast must truly be a gift. This means:

  1. A light brand touch: Don’t spam audiences with too many mentions of your brand.
  2. It must provide real value: Study your audience to know what their pain points are and how a show from your brand can help to relieve those pain points.
  3. Help them feel something: People listen to podcasts because they want to feel something. They want to be entertained. Leverage the emotive power of storytelling to create an engaging experience that leaves them with a feeling they won’t forget — and a feeling they’ll associate with your brand from thereon out. 

The Takeaway

Create a true gift for your audiences and do the hard work of nurturing a relationship with them through your podcast. Tell a great story and really make your target audience feel something. According to the principle of reciprocity, they will return the favour in the form of their attention, loyalty, and buying power. If you aren’t sure where to start when it comes to defining the type of branded podcast your brand could build, don’t forget that it’s what we specialize in here at JAR Audio. 

For more on reciprocity, see Robert Cialdini’s book Influence. This post was inspired by this episode of Nudge, a podcast in which Phil Agnew examines marketing through the lens of behavioural science.

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