Branded podcasts: “Be the content, not the interruption.” Q&A with the creators of “Inside Trader Joe’s”

When we learned a branded podcast from Trader Joe’s was rising on an Apple chart, we expected to hear a cooking show perhaps, or a documentary about unusual foods, with the usual modest sponsor mention typical of branded podcasts. Instead, Inside Trader Joe’s is a podcast that lives up to its title — it’s all about the grocery chain and its signature items, hosted by company execs who interview company specialists. (Listen here.)

The episode titles seem to herald content designed for a trade show: “It’s About the Products” and “The Store Is Our Brand,” for example. But the tone and material are more like a documentary targeted to foodies and food-oriented entrepreneurs. However, the real target is Trader Joe’s enthusiasts. The podcast smartly leverages brand attachment by betting that the universe of Trader Joe’s loyalists would want an inside look at how the operation works. That bet paid off with Inside Trader Joe’s reaching #3 on the iTunes Top Podcasts early this month.

“Branded podcasts that are directly about the brands themselves aren’t for everybody,” executive producer Dave Beasing told RAIN News. “But Inside Trader Joe’s proves that it can be fun to spend a little extra time with a well-liked brand, in the same way that we all like to hang out with a good friend.” Beasing is founder of Sound That Brands, a creative ad agency for podcasts.

Inside Trader Joe’s was produced through Amplifi Media, Steve Goldstein’s company. “It’s early days and new forms are being created in podcasting,” Goldstein told RAIN News, noting that the production team wanted to come out with something original. “We were also tasked with speaking directly to the Trader Joe’s fan, getting a little closer to them by telling them a bit more about what’s happening at Trader Joe’s – we think this format allowed us to make direct “eye contact” while being informative and entertaining.”

The show hosts are Tara Miller and Matt Sloan, two of Trader Joe’s top executives. When asked whether a branded podcast about the brand, featuring company leaders, would work for other clients, Goldstein said, “We do not think this is a blueprint for most brands.  Trader Joe’s fits uniquely in the brand to consumer spectrum.  They create 80% of their own products and have a Brand personality that is remarkable and distinctive.”

We could not draw an audience metric out of Goldstein or Beasing, who deployed Netflix-level defense of that key info. Also like a Netflix show, Inside Trader Joe’s was released all at once — five episodes on May 1. And while detailed audience statistics were not forthcoming, Steve Goldstein did comment on the gambit and its payoff. “We thought about this for a while and took a page from Netflix,” he said. “The content is non-dated, it is by design also short, running about 15 minutes per episode. We liked the idea of building something bite-sized, pun intended. We see incredibly strong retention between episodes. Even better than we anticipated.”

“Be the content instead of the interruption,” Dave Beasing says as a strategic call-to-arms. “On-demand providers like Netflix, Hulu and HBO have ushered in a new golden age of television. Now it’s audio’s turn. What Steve and I are trying to do by branding with on-demand audio is what Red Bull, Nike, and so many others have done with on-demand video.”


Steve Goldstein