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My 2 Key Takeaways from WORLDZ: Influencers are still influencing and Podcasts are a (really) big deal.

By Scott Zakheim

Thanks to the generous and warm hospitality of my friend Robin Zucker, CMO of WORLDZ, I was afforded the opportunity to head out to Long Beach, CA, last month to attend WORLDZ, one of the fastest-growing and popular global communities for marketing innovators. It was a both a fascinating and educational experience, in which I made valuable contacts and gleaned tremendous insight on the latest trends and movements in the digital marketing and media ecosystem.

At Landmark Ventures we are very selective about the conferences we attend (outside our own Dealmakers platform), and I found that adding WORLDZ to my annual conference slate was well worth it from both a thought leadership and networking perspective.

I wanted to share a couple of interesting takeaways I pulled from the classes I sat in on (WORLDZ doesn’t do break-out sessions, but instead creates more of an interactive teacher-class set up for the non-main stage content). There’s obviously a ton I missed out on because I didn’t have the bandwidth to catch all the classes, so I’ve shared two interesting thought that I’ve been mulling since I left Long Beach, which I’m happy to share and start a conversation with you about as well….

Influencer is Still a Thing

It seems that calls for the demise of influencer marketing in the wake of the FYRE festival and its ensuing documentaries were a bit premature. This space is active, growing and maturing, and as brands continue to find creative ways to engage their customers via smart, relevant, and personalized content, it sure isn’t going anywhere. We see this on a daily basis with our own portfolio company AspireIQ, who is helping major brands tell their stories to customers – not just catchy stories, but instead stories that are specifically relevant to their value proposition, a critical ingredient that many brands don’t emphasize enough when developing content.

Organic content development goes beyond influencer identification and beyond a pay structure. Brands need to leverage all types of advocates and engage those who are already passionate about that brand. Most importantly, brands need to enable seamless content-building, or story building, leveraging platforms, who allow for an easy framework to develop, create and share content via an ecosystem of rand advocates across a multitude of digital channels.

One piece of the puzzle in influencer marketing that clearly still challenges brands is how to create meaningful KPIs or success metrics. How do you know influencer is working? One interesting tidbit I heard from a brand at WORLDZ was that they correlate lower call center volume as an indicator that they’re telling their product story in a smarter way. Ultimately if a brand or product story is told well and the end user sees a relatable, applicable use of a product, the chances are they won’t need to call for additional information on how to use the product.

Brands need to enable seamless content-building, or story building, leveraging platforms, who allow for an easy framework to develop, create and share content via an ecosystem of rand advocates across a multitude of digital channels.

And that’s just one potential way brands are seeing concrete ROI from influencer marketing, there are certainly many others as well.

Podcasts are a Sneaky Monster

I listen to a podcast, heck, I even produce my own podcast, and I obviously realize that podcasting is hot. That said, I really had no idea just how large the market has become. Podcasting and the marketing and advertising ecosystem around podcasting is growing exponentially: the content, the listeners, the advertisers, the channels and the dollars – it’s all exploding.

The facts here speak for themselves:

– One in five (and iHeart believes one in three) Americans are now active podcast listeners

– Podcast listeners are better educated and more affluent (score for advertisers!)

– iHeart podcast listening is up 312% in the last year

Obviously the team at iHeart is bullish on podcasting because they’ve invested a lot in the space, but that said, the arguments they make for it are compelling. There’s a low barrier to entry and anyone can build an audience and do a podcast. The proliferation of podcasts and smart speakers are creating the first audio-first generation since the 1940s.

Advertisers love it because podcasts have the lowest ad skip rate of any media form and boast the lightest ad load. All ads are host read and are smartly embedded in the content so the listener really has no option but to hear the advertiser out. Moreover, Podcasters work hard for their brand partners because they want their own podcasts to grow (and make money), and podcasters know how to get the brand message out there because they understand the medium and grew up in it.

At a deeper level and even more important to advertisers is that podcast audiences are sticky. Folks who listen to podcasts are usually ‘superfans’ of the content and are deeply passionate about the subject matter. Amazingly, 90% of podcast listeners are subscribers, which means that you have a very marginal ‘drive-by’ audience who listens once and is done with the podcast. Essentially, 9 of 10 listeners are there for good. This is all gravy for advertisers, who love to have a great understanding of their audience make-up and of course want to know that they actually have an audience that exists. Niche (and mainstream) podcasts allow the brands to know at a very specific level who’s listening, and more importantly, that they’re actually there.

Finally, podcast advertising is a great way to test IP against those niche audiences – they can quickly gauge what’s working and move the content to different platforms or podcasts because host read scripts are so nimble and dynamic. Finally, podcast advertising is now geo-targeted, which adds an entire extra layer of personalization that didn’t exist in the past.

The one elephant in the room (or class, in this case) is measurement. This was one thing I couldn’t get a great answer from anyone on: How are brands measuring ROI and is there a good attribution story for podcasting? I’d love to know the answer and find a tech partner who has silver bullet!

At Landmark I spend all of my time working as a bridge between marketers and our fantastic ecosystem of cutting-edge digital technology partners (I’m a matchmaker), allowing for seamless engagement and technology integration between the two sides (I facilitate deals). That said, I know a ton of marketers scouring the landscape for technologies that will allow them to spend their advertising dollars smartly and efficiently, especially on new and emerging channels like podcasting. So if you’re out there sitting on some amazing tech to help brands better understand their podcasting ad performance (or you have other cool tech you’re hoping to sell into the marketing and advertising function), please ping me — I have some intros to set up for you!

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