The Healing Power of Podcasts
How do you develop an audio brand for a brand in audio? It sounds like a riddle, but it’s actually one of the most interesting challenges we’ve had as a brand team at Acast.
[Disclaimer: I make no apologies that this piece goes deep. I’ll take accusations of navel-gazing but I find this stuff interesting and maybe you will too.]
In 2020 we started work on refreshing our entire Acast brand. Since being founded in 2014, we’ve quickly matured from start-up to serious scale-up and beyond. Last year felt like the time to take a step back, take a good look (and listen) at our brand and bring it into 2021 with us.
We wanted to reflect the mature, professional business that we are, but still with that open, warm character and creativity that our podcasters and advertisers know us for.
I’m glossing over a whole heap of work here, but we started rolling out a slick (and, in my humble opinion, beautiful) updated visual identity at the start of this year. We revamped our logo, colours, design language, and more — across our products, our marketing materials and, coming later this summer, our website. But that’s a story for another day.
Back to the initial conundrum. Many companies tend to get into the sonic branding game seriously when they start having hefty media buys and a pressing reason to create a link between audio and their brand. But, for Acast, audio is our brand.
You hear us before you see us: we have over 28,000 podcasts in our network. We’re advising advertisers around the world on how to sound best in a headphone-first (or speaker-first) world, daily. We use sound and music across our own audio ads constantly.
And that’s not to mention our ubiquitous “ad sting”. Yes, the two-ish seconds of audio heard at the start and end of an Acast ad break across every podcast in our advertising marketplace, every time one of our shows is listened to. Our engineers and their calculators tell me it’s heard hundreds of millions of times a week, all around the world. Now that’s frequency and reach.
Our original ad sting was an off-the-shelf job, put in place seven years ago when a brand team was just a twinkle in our founder Johan Billgren’s eye. It was time.
Again, brevity for the sake of time here, but our refreshed visual brand represents everything we are in the podcasting space: A creator-first curated platform (try saying that three times over), an independent leader free to move the industry forward with integrity, plus slick, aspirational, and open — in all the ways that word has meaning.
And our new audio brand (and, by extension, our new ad sting) needed to echo (sorry) that.
We worked with our composer to try to capture these aspects of our brand personality — and these feelings — in audio. A fun task, right? We experimented, we tested, we learned, we debated, we revised, honed, tweaked, and then we had it. We found our sound.
The new Acast sonic brand revolves around four principles:
Reflecting the aspirational nature of our podcasts, our work with advertisers, and the experience everyone has with Acast.
We’ve always moved the industry forward, with integrity. We don’t stand still.
We are natural collaborators, working alongside and enhancing podcasts, advertising and the listening experience. Our own audio identity therefore sits alongside other content, rather than interrupting it.
As our tagline says, we’re For The Stories. Storytelling is at our heart and we give voices of all types a platform.
If you happen to catch an Acast ad, or some of our marketing activity, you’ll hear how we are capturing these thoughts in our new music and soundbeds.
And finally, to that ad sting. Introducing the Acast North Star — which has movement, energy and a sense of momentum. It’s a comma, not an interruption. It has a sparkling gleam and rises to meet the ambitions of the brilliant stories it frames.
A lot of detail for a two-second flourish, but one of the most fun mini-projects we’ve worked on.
And there we have it. Thank you for indulging me in explaining why and how we got here. If you’ve made it this far, you’re a (North) star.