10 Branded Podcasts Fails & Success Stories to Learn From

You know that branded podcasts have hit the big time when even the CIA is getting in on the act.

Yes, you read that right. The CIA recently launched The Langley Files to give Americans a glimpse into the international intelligence world. (AKA 'what the black suits really do at the CIA.')

With only five episodes out (at the time of writing) and mixed audience reviews, it's too early to tell if this will be one of the best branded podcasts or an epic fail.

But what should The Langley Files do to become one of podcasting's success stories? Let's unpack ten branded podcast examples to investigate how you (and the CIA) could succeed in this increasingly popular marketing trend.

What is a branded podcast?

Branded podcasts are a form of audio content marketing. They appeal to a brand's ideal customer persona or stakeholders and offer valuable content connected in some way with your brand messages.

Nicole D’Angelo, Associate Editor with Skyword, puts it like this:

“Every company can find authentic stories related to their brands, whether those stories are revealed through interviews, investigations, or real-life demonstrations. With some serious thought about what kind of stories your brand can tell and a commitment to honesty, you have what you need to begin making an engaging podcast, no matter what industry you’re in.”

So, instead of merely adding a sponsored message to someone else's podcast, a brand can go all in with its own content and create a branded podcast series.

Why are podcasts good for brands?

Having your own podcast lets your business explore trends and issues within your industry or discuss relationships and stories in the wider world through your brand lens. A popular podcast creates a positive association between your brand and your target audience.

Podcast listeners changing their opinion about a brand

A branded podcast also has the potential to help engaged listeners form or change opinions about your business and what it stands for. In fact, a 2019 Audio: Activated study found that successful podcast series could "generate real cut through with audiences." That same study revealed that even listeners who usually avoid ads like the plague don't mind branded messaging so much when it's packaged with quality content in a podcast.

Part of the reason is that they're likely to multitask while listening to your show. According to the neuroscientists who ran the study, "Keeping the brain occupied with an activity enhances the ability for brands' messages to achieve cut-through."

How do you define success?

If your sales team is making noises about starting a branded podcast, it makes sense to start by asking why. Producing successful branded podcasts takes a ton of work, so defining your goals and understanding how to measure their success or failure is essential before you invest time and money.

Possible goals and metrics could include:

  1. Build awareness of our brand among our target demographic - measured with download and subscriber numbers or positive reviews and ratings.
  2. Encourage podcast listeners to our website - measure through website traffic and survey feedback.
  3. Grow a strong community around our brand - measured by growth in other channels, e.g., social media.
  4. Revenue building - measured by the number of leads and purchases generated through podcast listeners.
  5. Engage and update stakeholders, including employees and shareholders - measured through internal engagement surveys etc.

Remember, podcasting is long-form content marketing. You'll be several steps further down the road towards success when you understand your goals and allow sufficient time to achieve them.

Five branded podcasts that stopped podcasting

Podcast listener giving a show the thumbs down

Many branded podcasts start with a bang and release a few episodes, then gradually succumb to the dreaded podfade. Some even manage a few seasons before calling it quits. Why? Possibly because it's hard to keep the momentum going on a podcast.

Most popular branded podcasts develop a publishing rhythm, and listeners know when to tune in for each podcast episode which helps to build engagement and increase subscriber numbers. But keeping up with a regular podcast schedule means that you're constantly sourcing guests or other surrounding content that makes sense with your brand.

Sometimes a branded podcast will stutter along publishing episodes at random intervals. Unfortunately, that's not how podcast businesses work, and you're less likely to keep your listeners engaged if they don't know when the next episode is coming.

Your new podcast may simply run out of content. It's not uncommon for people to run out of things to say about their topic after a while.

So, whatever the reasons, here are five podcasts that don't seem to have lasted the distance.

The T-Zone by MAC Cosmetics

The T-Zone podcast on Rephonic

Makeup company MAC Cosmetics launched the T-Zone in January 2022, announcing seven episodes in series one. Two episodes (and two positive reviews) later, the show ceased without warning.

What the reviews say:

I'm so excited for this

I’m so excited for this podcast. M.A.C is an iconic brand and I’m excited to learn from the legends!

The Secret to Victory by Gatorade

The Secret to Victory podcast on Rephonic

Gatorade launched The Secret to Victory podcast five years ago and managed the six scheduled episodes of season one before calling it quits. The 85 reviews on Apple podcasts suggest that while many fans liked the show, others felt it focused too much on defeat and not enough on the athletes' strategies to bounce back.

What the reviews say:

Vacuous

The angle and concept are intriguing, but there is no real sense of conversation or meaningful insight in the production. The athletes throw out a few blurbs about being down on themselves and working past it without really delving into what their experience was like.

Toyota Untold by Toyota Motor North America

Toyota Untold podcast on Rephonic

Toyota experimented with a branded podcast in 2018, saying, "we were trying something new, and if it didn't work out, then there is always a lesson to be learned." Over the past four years, they've published 47 episodes and received seven positive reviews and 98 ratings. The final episode aired mid-2022 capping off a 4-part intensive Toyota Tundra series.

What the reviews say:

Great pod

Kelsey and Tyler do such a great job here. What a smart idea and a great listen. As a business partner of Toyota, this is a convenient way for me to keep up with the brand in a different way than before!

2 Minutes of Zen by Zendium

2 Minutes of Zen podcast on Rephonic

Podcasts can take many different formats, and deciding on the right one for your branded podcast can be tricky. A daily two-minute wellness podcast seems like a perfect fit for Zendium toothpaste customers, and this podcast garnered six excellent reviews when it launched four years ago. 2 Minutes of Zen published 26 short, punchy episodes in English and even a few in French. However, it's been two years and counting since they released a new wellness practice to try while brushing your teeth.

What the reviews say:

So Zen!

Never thought brushing could be so zen! Great 2min podcast pills 👏🏼 , loving it!

DTR: The Official Tinder Podcast

The Official Tinder Podcast on Rephonic

DTR (Define The Relationship) ran for two successful seasons and left its fans begging for more. Yet, after just 12 episodes, the podcast signed off in December 2017, never to return.

This podcast clearly hit the engagement with listeners metric, with some saying that they needed "closure" because the podcast finished so abruptly.

What the reviews say:

Come back!

I love this podcast! So much fun yet really dig into different types of personalities. But seems like it stopped without any closure....? Please bring it back!

Top reasons why branded podcasts fail

The bosses want quick results

Podcasting is a long game, and it's rare for any branded podcast to take off overnight. It takes time to build audience engagement and trust. Your host needs to settle into their job too, especially if your ads people have thrown the idea at them but lack an accurate understanding of how to develop a successful podcast.

Targeting the wrong listener

It may be hard to know whether your customer demographic cares enough about the topic or if they like podcasts. Some brands will thoroughly research their customer avatar before launching a podcast. But others take the "let's try something new and see what happens" approach, which isn't the best recipe for gathering avid fans.

Lacking structure and style

Podcast listeners may turn your show on in the car while they commute or take you with them while they walk, jog or slog it out in the gym. However, just because they're multitasking doesn't mean they'll forgive you for wasting their time with rambling, poorly structured content. There are too many other podcast series around for people to spend time with a branded podcast that doesn't hold their attention.

Too many brand mentions

Yes, the podcast is for brand elevation, but people won't listen to a show that seems like a series of radio ads. Indeed, some popular branded podcasts hardly mention their products at all. They concentrate on producing valuable content for their audience and leave the ads people to sort out the more overt advertising on other channels.

Five top branded podcasts

Successful branded podcasts

Now, let's turn our attention to branded podcasting on the other side of the coin. These podcast series have thoroughly understood how podcast content marketing works. Some put out episodes as regularly as clockwork. Others run in seasons but tell their listeners when they're finishing and when they'll be back.

Audience engagement is high for these podcasts, and the reviews give an excellent overview of why they've succeeded when so many other podcasts have fallen away.

The Official Xbox Podcast by Xbox

The Xbox podcast on Rephonic

The Official Xbox Podcast began a whopping 17 years ago as Major Nelson Radio. Twenty-three seasons and hundreds of episodes later, they're still going strong.

These podcasters are also up with the trends and added video in 2020, which brought more Xbox fans into their audience. Xbox has a vast social media following of around 46 million, and the podcast has gathered 1.6k ratings and 540 reviews on Apple.

What the reviews say:

Great Info and Crew

The Xbox Podcast crew are amazing. They have fun, have serious discussions and have great interviews. A triple threat of a podcast that is a great listen for Xbox fans.

F1: Beyond the Grid by Formula 1

F1 Beyond the Grid podcast on Rephonic

Founded four years ago, Beyond the Grid has produced 205 weekly episodes and is still going strong. They've gathered a thousand reviews on Apple alone and many thousands of 4 and 5-star ratings. Beyond the Grid's content is spot on for its audience demographic, with a mix of history and behind-the-scenes stories from F1 legends and team members.

What the reviews say:

Favorite F1 Podcast

I literally wait for this podcast each week to be available. TC is the best in the paddock and has been around long enough to know the character in depth and have insight to the history of F1. He has the best guests on the show.

Duolingo French Podcast by Duolingo

Duolingo French Podcast on Rephonic

Duolingo is another brand that delivers content that fits their target demographic of language learners perfectly. This brand publishes seasonal French and Spanish podcasts giving learners much-needed listening practice while introducing fascinating aspects of French and Spanish culture. So far, Duolingo French has put out 96 episodes over four years, gathering 8.4k ratings and 776 reviews.

What the reviews say:

Perfect for language learners

Even though I’ve studied French for about 9 months, I can easily understand the French used in these podcasts. The stories shared are high interest and you see the beauty of each person’s humanity and in the story. Ngofeen Mputubwele is the perfect narrator for this podcast; Duolingo did an amazing job finding him to host!

Design Better Podcast by InVision

Design Better Podcast on Rephonic

InVision, which designs innovative collaborative online whiteboards, and five years ago they seized the chance to engage potential customers by launching a podcast exploring many aspects of creativity and how it relates to design. Even though the 88 episodes have dropped sporadically over the years, this branded podcast has still managed to gather a whopping 4.7 stars over 597 ratings.

What the reviews say:

The smoothie for your soul

I appreciate the variety of episodes, the super practical takeaways, and Aarron and Eli's sincere humility - it's obvious they only bring on authentic guests who truly care about being a positive force in this world.

The Stack Overflow Podcast by Stack Overflow

The Stack Overflow Podcast on Rephonic

Stack Overflow has been podcasting about developing and coding for 526 episodes over many years and is in the top 100 on the Apple and Spotify Technology Podcast charts in many countries. Indeed, it ranks number five in Tech-loving South Korea (at the time of writing.)

What the reviews say:

10/10, hip development show that inspires

Fun, light hearted show with lots of guests from the tech sphere . Very inspiring to hear a group of happy people talk about doing what they love for their careers.

Ingredients for a successful branded podcast

Has a powerful, overarching story or theme

If you want to keep your listeners coming back week after week, your branded podcast needs a compelling theme to unify all the episodes.

Imagine it as a tree trunk, supporting every episode that branches from that core idea. It should be the premise that resonates with your potential audience. Remember that listeners may come because they're curious but stay for the value they get from each new episode.

Example: Duolingo French - providing informative, cultural, entertaining listening practice for French language learners.

Podcast hosts resonate with the community

On-brand podcast hosts relate to your branded podcast community in many ways. They're knowledgeable, easy to listen to, ask penetrating questions, and know how to converse. Over time they become the voice of your podcast, and listeners cannot imagine anyone else doing the job.

Example: As a long-time Formula One journalist, Tom Clarkson has the knowledge, contacts and skills that make him the perfect choice for Beyond the Grid.

Pays attention to marketing details

Even worldwide brands would fall flat if they launched a podcast without promoting it. These include:

  • Distinctive cover art that ties in with your brand through colors or images.
  • Signature music to start - and possibly end - each episode
  • Promote on social media with memorable teasers to pique the audience's curiosity
  • Encouraging guest thought leaders to share their interviews with their audiences
  • Including a podcast section in your newsletters
  • Giving it a dedicated home as an independent website, a subdomain or a landing page within your business website.  (Read this article to learn more about the options.)

  Top tip

Check our How to Promote Your Podcast article for 50+ marketing ideas.

Stays on brand

Well known marketing expert and author Seth Godin says,

“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”

Your branded podcast should echo and build on your brand's values, culture, experiences and customer expectations.

Example: InVision is all about collaboration and design, which is reflected in the cohesive look of the Design Better podcast's cover art and website and the InVision home page.

Final Thoughts

You have so many decisions to make before launching a branded podcast, and it's wise to research what other brands are doing first.

Use Rephonic to find all the data on brand podcasts within your niche. Or take podcasts that you admire and see how they're doing behind the scenes and get links to the website, episodes and contact details.

Take advantage of your research by pitching the top branded podcasts in your niche as a guest or sponsor. That is less time-consuming than producing your own content at first and is an excellent way to promote your show when it launches.

Sign up for a free trial with Rephonic to start your research and start your podcast idea on the road to success.

Lyn McNamee

Lyn McNamee

Writer at Rephonic

Find, pitch and get featured on podcasts

Rephonic gives you listener numbers, contacts, demographics and more across 2.5m+ podcasts.


Lyn McNamee

Lyn McNamee

Writer at Rephonic

Find, pitch and get
featured on podcasts

Rephonic gives you listener numbers, contacts, demographics and more across 2.5m+ podcasts.