People are tuning in to tune out and adapting to anything that promises to provide a digital escape. While digitizing content is the norm, there is one form of communication that has stuck: audio content. Popularity for the podcast surged in 2014, and is continuing to be a top-chosen source of branded entertainment. In 2016, audio network Wondery reported that almost 20 percent of US adults (ages 18-49) listen to a podcast once a month.

With such a large customer base, it’s no wonder brands are flocking to this digital space. Below are CBC’s guidelines for integrating brands into podcasts, without resorting to an awkward commercial break.


Don’t ignore the likely audience tension around sincerity

The danger of weaving ads in and out of a story that is meant to be organic is that the audience can get cynical and reject anything under the umbrella of “branded entertainment”. For podcasts, each production is niche and attracts a specific audience. The creators often filter advertisements that are personalized to their listenership and it is imperative to develop partnerships that make sense to the audience.

For example, The Moth, where true stories are told live, has a family-oriented audience and promotes brands such as Blue Apron, Squarespace, and Casper Mattresses.



Leverage the podcaster’s tone

Steer away from the obvious stale, scripted commercial approach. Opt instead to have the podcast’s narrator tell the brand story in his/her own voice.

We loved how 2016 true crime podcast Up and Vanished naturally integrated ads. Narrator Payne Lindsey approaches the “branded entertainment” aspect of his show through the use of his recognized and trusted voice. As such, his sponsorship segments were fitting, accessible and relevant.


What’s the Tee, a podcast by RuPaul Charles (RuPaul’s Drag Race) integrates ads well by using humor. The ad placements are casual and don’t seem to be read off of a script.


Get creative with tracking

Podcasts are favored because of their raw, real-time nature. But unlike other brand channels, it is incredibly difficult to track ROI for podcast ad consumption. Of course, you can track downloads and subscribes of the podcast, but this can be misleading. How can you tell the percent of people who completed the episode or even visited the website?

One popular way of quantifying your ROI is to use a coupon or promo code.

Podcasts have a way of connecting with their audience. This connection can be leveraged by brands by strategically integrating content and product into people’s lives in an organic way.

Over the past few years, “athleisure”—a clothing trend combining athletic wear and casual attire—has taken the fashion world by storm.

In an article from Business Insider, Dennis Green says that athleisure has changed the fashion industry to the extent of creating an entirely new category of clothing.

The popularity of athleisure reflects a lifestyle change towards health and fitness—a movement spearheaded by millennials.

And as many fashion brands are acknowledging, appealing to this new health-savvy population of fashionistas rather than dissuading them is the trick.

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Any marketing expert can tell you that understanding the audience and its desires is key. Per a Harris poll, 72% of millennials prefer to spend their money on experiences, rather than material things. As athleisure clothing is typically worn for an experience, such as working out or hiking, they are more likely to spend their money on it.

Out of the numerous brands that have caught on to the trend, Lululemon could be considered the pioneer.


From the start, Lululemon never had to truly change its marketing strategy. Millennials ignited the cultural emphasis on health and wellness, bolstering the marketing success of companies like Lululemon that already had products catering to exercise and outdoor activities.

A mixture of well-established fashion brands and niche brands have answered the athleisure trend. Old Navy and Target offer low-price athleisure gear, while more high-end fashion brands such as Tory Burch have created their own lines of athleisure clothing.

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Meanwhile, smaller brands like Outdoor Voices launched in response to the demand for athleisure products.

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Many speculate it was only during the height of the athleisure craze in 2015 that these other brands began to mimic Lululemon’s marketing practices.


The beauty is, this trend isn’t just for the millennial demographic. At CBC we’ve worked with female apparel brand Garnet Hill to spotlight their own athleisure line with content that is more than just about the physical piece – it’s about the lifestyle you live while wearing it.

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In our opinion, these companies have the right idea. They appeal to this athleisure-crazed audience by promoting healthy experiences in a comfortable, fashion-focused way.

Restaurants are constantly facing competition when marketing their brand, but what makes a customer choose them over their competitor?

Many are turning to the social platform Instagram to expand their reach and, likewise, consumers are using the channel to document their own meals (admit it, we’ve all been guilty of whipping out our phones to snap our Instagram-worthy latte and croissant). But not only are people using the photo-sharing network to capture their meals – they’re also using to it to choose where they eat.

Whether you like it or not, this photo sharing app has changed the marketing game for restaurants. Here are some of our tips on how to leverage it.

Everybody loves free stuff

For one popular restaurant located in South Boston, Lincoln, giveaways and campaigns encouraging people to tag their friends for a chance to win gift cards and free meals works like a charm.


With consistent, engaging promotions, Lincoln has secured a substantial following and will continue to expand their reach.

Network and build your voice

By enlisting the help of social influencers, a restaurant can develop a reputation as a “foodstagram” and engage with a wider audience. A restaurant in NYC, Springbone Kitchen, experienced a surge of customers after a prominent food influencer in the area featured it.


For one of our brands, Garnet Hill, we helped them to develop a team of established influencers who regularly engage with and show off the brand.



Influencers speak to an audience of generally thousands and while many are niche (i.e. specific to food, fashion, home, etc.), you can find some who are a jack-of-all-trades lifestyle influencer.

Have a little fun with it

People respond to brands that use humor and relatable content. Create a loud restaurant identity and use social media to play with it.

Outside of the South Boston Loco Taqueria, is a sign that they frequently change with witty sayings and play on words.


It gives the restaurant a fun, hip persona that can be seen through its 16.1k followers.

Emphasize your heritage

One of the benefits of being a food brand or restaurant is that your heritage matters. Your followers will be interested to know about your history, how you came to be, and your ethics. For Stonewall Kitchen, CBC helped them to celebrate their 25th birthday with a microsite entirely dedicated to their story.BLOOOG


At the end of the day, our advice to you is to run your brand’s marketing the same way you cook your meals: be creative, have fun, and don’t be afraid to improvise the recipe.

As a public relations agency with many experiential marketing campaigns under our belt, we’d like to think we’re in a good position to point out some great work by brands and our colleagues at other PR agencies.

For experiential marketing to work, it has to grab your attention. Think about it: Have you ever done something crazy to get someone’s attention in real life? Sometimes it’s the same in marketing – drastic measures in order to differentiate yourself from the sea of similar brands. It can be risky, scary, and very thrilling to pioneer experiential campaigns.

We get it. Our idea to create a mobile boutique from a shipping container for Garnet Hill raised a few eyebrows when it was first floated. But in the end, the campaign was a huge success.

That’s why the campaigns below – all daring and different – hit close to home for us.

 Apple Orchard in the Big Apple

In June 2016, Strongbow apple cider decided they would bring a taste of nature to NYC with a floating garden. In a barge filled with fruits, vegetables and herbs, people reconnected with nature, foraged for their food, and learned about all of the ingredients found in Strongbow’s Cider.

Why we love it: This took Farmer’s Markets to a new level and imprints visitors with a memory for life.



Big city, tiny house

In May, NESTEA introduced their own tiny house in Herald Square that emulated relaxation, minimalism, and the perfect place to enjoy a glass of iced tea. Their message to consumers: life today is not easy, but NESTEA’s new line of classic teas can help simplify things.

Why we love it: Minimalism is a coveted lifestyle in busy cities like NYC. Kudos to NESTEA for capitalizing on it!



NEW YORK, NY - MAY 17: Actress Anna Camp launches the new NESTEA in Herald Square at the NESTEA Tiny House on May 17, 2017 in New York City. Designed in part by bloggers Southern Bite, Inspired by Charm, and Hapa Time, the NESTEA Tiny House is unveiled in Herald Square. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images) (PRNewsfoto/NESTEA)

Refueling with a brew

In a refurbished 1952 GMC Coach bus, now known as the High Brew Liner, High Brew Coffee is embarking on a cross country tour. The goal is to pop up in 31 cities for people to try a cup of High Brew’s cold brewed coffee and refuel.

Why we love it: High Brew transformed the vintage bus to speak to an audience of millennials who, according to their research, go nuts for authentic experiences.

BigFoot on the loose

The Bootmobile is a rolling shoe created by L.L. Bean to commemorate it’s 100th anniversary, created for new store openings and promotional events. The bootmobile has been so successful that a new one was made and sent to Japan for their stores.

Why we love it: L.L.Bean took it global and didn’t just section it off for convenience.




Sweat, hydrate, repeat

In the summer 2016, Propel hosted fitness events to roll out their updated electrolyte rich flavored water. The campaign went viral with the hashtag #LetsGetUgly, in the attempt to negate the glamorous and often unrealistic social media portrayal of people working out. From yoga to boxing, Propel got consumers active and hydrated them with their water.

Why we love it: Propel provided an environment where it’s okay to get sweaty and work hard.



Touch and Feel

The Garnet Hill Mobile Boutique supported by our PR and creative services team here at Cercone Brown Company, transformed a shipping container into a moveable, shop-able, pop up shop. The revamped shipping container was a unique place for consumers to touch and feel all of the products before buying them.

Why we love it: Garnet Hill allowed their consumers to get to know the Garnet Hill products in a more natural, homelike setting.



Gone are the days of blanket advertising via commercials and print ads. People want to touch, taste, feel and smell the brand. In other words, an experience.


Fragrances are a main revenue source for big name fashion brands, and for good reason – smell is one of the strongest triggers of emotion and memory. But in a digitally-driven world, how do you advertise something intended to be tangible? Unfortunately, you can’t send people scents via iMessage or tag them on Instagram. This is why some brands, like Dior, have resorted to capturing their scent’s essence with the help of big-name celebrities.


Others, like Armani, emulate their fragrance by setting a mood.

But some brands are taking up organic techniques to compel people to seek out the fragrance. In addition to its primary Instagram, New York-based perfumer Le Labo lets their customers do the talking via an Instagram page specially dedicated to sharing (alleged) real-life customer feedback.

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Along with sharp packaging and cleverly-named products, Le Labo uses Instagram to organically differentiate itself in a market otherwise saturated with inaccessible corporate brands.


Since many of their secondary Instagram’s posts organically incorporate a narrative about their fragrance and introduce the exorbitant price, they create a powerful reputation without coming off as snobby.

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With over 132k Instagram followers combined between their two Instagram pages, the brand has successfully ensured steady engagement from a global fan base.

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What other brands do you know that employ an organic marketing strategy while still maintaining authenticity?

We live in the age of digital storytelling. While social media influences how consumers communicate their personal stories, an advertiser’s job is to harness technology and use it to shape an authentic brand narrative that resonates with the audience.

Digital storytelling is fluid and requires constant self-education. As it evolves quickly (and sometimes unpredictably), brands must engage strategically.

To understand where we are now, we have to look at how digital storytelling has evolved overtime.

The birth of Facebook

When Facebook hit the scene in 2004, users were thrilled to be able to share pieces of their lives in a virtual, easy way.

In 2009, Facebook introduced brand pages for companies to connect with their audience and then enhanced its storytelling offerings in 2011 with the implementation of a timeline, cementing itself as the go-to connection channel.

An example of massive brand success via Facebook is Tasty, the food brand owned by BuzzFeed known for its interactive recipe videos. Their content ensures that users stay on Facebook longer, links to e-comm, and generates ad revenue.


The Twitter egg hatches

The Twitter bird flew onto the scene in 2006 and started as an outlet for quotes, quick statuses, and celebrity updates. Today, Twitter has transformed into a driver for media, news, and entertainment. It is also used as way to directly connect consumers to brands.

JetBlue effectively uses Twitter for customer service and real-time updates. They make sure that their brand story is all about how well they care for their customers.


Twitter has remained consistent in its delivery of stories, while its digital counterparts advance according to the demands of a hungry digital audience. But beware, headlines and hashtags are only one piece of the brand story.

Instagram enters the playing field

Instagram capitalized on the visual trend, impacting what people expect to see. Despite its roots, it is no longer just a photo-sharing company.

Its methods of visual communication have evolved tremendously from static images, to short videos, to live and real-time stories.

We at CerconeBrownCompany have embraced this new feature to connect with our own consumer base – brands and potential clients! Our Instagram and Stories are a hub of all the happenings at our House Programs.



As digital storytelling evolves in accordance with the way consumers communicate, brands will need to exhibit a willingness to experiment and adapt right alongside existing and emerging platforms.