Prudential Financial has waded into the podcast space with an original series called Everyday Bravery. The goal: to encourage listeners about the many ways in which human beings can overcome obstacles— and that they don’t all have to be superhuman feats of courage, endurance or fortitude to be significant or meaningful.
Interestingly, there’s very little branding for Prudential beyond the podcast’s title sponsorship. The insurer has already dipped its toe into what it calls “subtly branded content with true entertainment value” with a series of long-form videos in February titled Masterpiece of Love, which paired real-life survivors of setbacks with artists who depicted their stories in a series of four 20-minute videos.
The first season of Everyday Bravery from Prudential consists of eight episodes, each about a half-hour long, featuring real-life stories from people such as a young man who battled anxiety to break into the field of standup comedy and a woman who ended up giving birth—not according to plan—in her bathroom.
“We thought when we were pursuing this idea of everyday bravery as a frame of reference and thinking about life and some of the decisions we have to make, they were small acts of courage,” Niharika Shah, vice president of brand marketing and advertising for Prudential Financial, told brandchannel.
Shah says a second season of the podcast series is now under consideration. “We wouldn’t enter into anything without longevity and scale but I’m a prudent marketer and I’m held to results,” she explained. “We’re in production on the eight (episodes of season one) and we have a concept for a second series. From the promising reactions we’ve seen—internally, too, with the potential to engage our employees in a way we haven’t been able to do before—I’m encouraged by the results.”
brandchannel talked with Shah about Everyday Bravery and Prudential’s content strategy:
bc: With all of the choices at your disposal, why a podcast series?
Niharika Shah (right): We’ve been watching the podcast channel for a bit. It’s exploded over the last couple of years. The success of Serial [mattered], and we’ve watched other brands that we’re inspired by, like GE, who have jumped on the channel. We were sort of waiting for the right opportunity to present itself.
The state of mind of the podcast is particularly interesting because it’s completely by choice and uninterrupted for the most part. It opens up brilliant opportunities but you have to handle it responsibly as well. Especially when it comes to some of our protection products, confronting life insurance is in fact confronting mortality, which is an act of bravery. And we wanted to recognize that and inspire more people to take action.
— Prudential (@Prudential) April 7, 2017
bc: What’s needed in order to make a podcast work?
Shah: What we’ve endeavored to do is make sure the stories we’re telling and the content is authentic and inspiring in a way that we feel as a brand we have the right to tell. It’s careful selection, articulation, production—really treating it as a labor of love in terms of bringing these stories to life. These are integral with the people we talked to, and we want to make sure we do right by them as well.
— Prudential (@Prudential) April 13, 2017
bc: Are you concerned that in highlighting acts of “mere” everyday bravery that you might struggle to reach an interest threshold, as opposed to discussing acts of extraordinary bravery?
Shah: No. As a society we tend to recognize those acts of extraordinary bravery. They get talked about a lot in media and social networks. But the everyday humility of small acts of bravery gets passed by the wind. And those are the ones that define the lives we live and are extraordinary in that they can inspire people in ways that I think the person who actually went through the experience hasn’t even contemplated.
— Prudential (@Prudential) April 20, 2017
bc: Talk about this idea of ‘subtly branded content’—how subtle can you go, and how much is too much?
Shah: We are in the content. We use tags appropriately where we thought there was a logical break in the storytelling or introducing the next story. We are there. This is about us creating relevance in the everyday lives of people. So if people walk away with even a mention of Prudential and wondering why this is being brought to you by Prudential, I would consider this a success. And we have to make sure the content and experience is compelling enough that they want to continue.
bc: How did you work with Pacific Content, the Vancouver-based branded podcasting agency that produced the series for you, and host Meg Wilcox, a Canadian journalist?
Shah: Any [branded-content] partner we work with, we give them a very tight brief. They have the opportunity to explore infinite opportuntiies and how you want to bring that brief to life. We have to take a Goldilocks approach. Calibrating to that tonality and the essence of the brand with external partners takes time and patience and it definitely requires a lot of stewardship for the brand marketers here.
We selected Meg for a couple of reasons. We did audition for the role, and when we heard her we thought she had the right spirit and tone to be authentic in the variety of stories we were looking to tell. We weren’t specifically looking for a female. She had this innate quality, coupled with the fact that we were leaning toward a female host.
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