This week, we launch a nationwide marketing campaign to help more people discover NPR's diverse set of podcasts, issues, ideas, flavors, and personalities.
If you are an avid podcast fan, your listening playlist is likely longer than ever. And, with over 2 million podcasts and 48 million podcast episodes to discover and enjoy, your lineup is probably only scratching the surface.
Even amid all of this noise, we think there is something uniquely special about NPR's shows.
Episode by episode, NPR shows you your world as it really is. From It's Been a Minute's rich exploration of the surprising motivations of the Latin music explosion, to Invisibilia's revealing glimpse into friendships in expected and unexpected places, to No Compromise's deep investigation of a radical, far-right pro-gun movement unfolding on Facebook, we lift up truths that are unexpected, stories that would otherwise go untold, and voices that must be heard.
We don't only help you understand — we also help you feel understood. Because NPR Podcasts are not just amplifiers – they are also reflections of you: your passions, your perspectives, your neighborhood, your world.
On a generational level, our shows mirror the new, fast-changing fabric of America. On a personal level, this means that, no matter who you are, or what you are looking for, there is something here for you — whether you want to think or laugh; reflect or act; catch the latest or grasp the greater context.
This week, we tell this story to America in four simple words: More Voices, All Ears. We love this line because it reflects the diversity of our content, the multitude of our voices, and also our commitment to listening — to you, the country, and the world.
We've built this campaign with the help of the creative geniuses at GrandArmy — an award-winning creative agency behind rebrands and advertising campaigns for clients ranging from Justin Timberlake, to Vans, to ESPN, to Comedy Central.
"More Voices, All Ears." became the guiding force of our marketing campaign. But there's a lot more to it. Here are a few unique elements that have guided our efforts.
Center diverse artists on the rise.
Every good marketing campaign needs a strong visual language. But how best to represent diversity? Instead of leaning on one singular aesthetic, we put our brand in the hands of a wide-ranging group of up-and-coming visual artists — illustrators, animators, photographers, coders, and creators of all kinds.
The result? A visual language that is as energetic and alive as the topics, ideas, and personalities we cover every day.
Lift up tangible things.
Coveted plumbers. Shy pornographers. Famous pomeranians. These are just a few of the characters that color our campaign. While we had something big and lofty to say, we also knew we had to get specific (and surprising!) to stick in people's minds. GrandArmy culled through our podcasts, episode by episode, and pulled out captivating artifacts — topics, ideas, people, and places — from specific stories or lines in our scripts. Because when you listen to NPR podcasts, you see the world as it really is — and all of the issues, flavors, people and things that make it up.
Serve up the unexpected.
As humans, we are hardwired to hone in on the unexpected. It's written into our biology from birth. By introducing the element of surprise, we hope to pique your curiosity and leave you with a lasting sense that NPR is everywhere — even where and when you least expect us. We also hope to bring a little joy, fun, and flavor to your everyday routines.
Enjoy our campaign video.
Why all of this right now? Chief Marketing Officer Michael Smith sits down with Sommer Hill to answer questions about the new NPR Podcasts marketing campaign and the future of NPR.
Why are you launching this campaign for NPR podcasts?
This campaign is a culmination of a strategy we've been executing for the last year and a half which has been our North Star—to diversify our audience, and to better reflect and serve America. We know that our podcasts are a great way to achieve that, since our podcast audiences are actually younger and much more diverse than our radio audiences. Still, over 75% of people of color are unaware of the NPR brand. This can be seen as both a problem and an opportunity. The challenge is, how do we raise awareness? Traditionally, it's been marketing through cross promotions inside of our own podcasts–listening to one show and driving to another. But that kind of keeps you inside of the NPR bubble.
Why is it important for NPR to reach this demographic?
The 2020 census has reconfirmed what we all know: America is becoming a much more diverse country. NPR started in 1971 and the country was about 82% white, 18% people of color. NPR's audience was similar to that. Fast forward 50 years later, the recent census showed that America is about 60% white and 40% people of color. It's projected that in the next 25-30 years, it's going to be a majority-minority country. In order for NPR to fulfill its mission of creating a more informed public, we need to reflect that public. It's not just a 'to do,' it's an existential necessity.
Why do you think there is an awareness problem among people of color?
We haven't aggressively gone to places outside of our bubble where people live and are. Traditionally, we've grown through word-of-mouth among people who love NPR. If you listen to our radio shows, you might hear about other radio shows, or you might hear about some other host talking about a podcast. Then you start listening and you hear about other podcasts. I think that's why our awareness has been lower with younger, more diverse audiences. It's one of the reasons we're going to be advertising on other podcasts outside of the NPR network – and also on Youtube, Instagram, Facebook, and connected TV apps. Finally, we're going to do some outdoor advertising as well in key cities with bigger, younger, more diverse populations, such as LA, Atlanta, and Houston.
Why should people listen to NPR (over other podcasts)?
Our content intersects with what younger generations are looking for. They're looking for content that reflects their voices, the issues and concerns they have. They want to hear themselves in the shows. Our content does that, and too few people realize that. It's a great opportunity to bundle a package together of a whole portfolio of shows that we have and show people that we're built for them.
Do you think NPR's content reflects America?
Yes. I think we have done a lot of work over the past few years at diversifying the people who tell stories, the hosts and sources that you hear in our content, the stories that we choose, and the areas we cover. It's a combination of diversifying within our traditional shows like Up First, Consider This, and How I Built This, but also introducing new shows that specifically center diverse audiences, as we do so often in shows like Code Switch or Louder Than a Riot.
Public radio is listener-funded. Do you think the next generation will continue to fund NPR?
I believe they will. There's a lot of data that shows younger people are much more concerned about social issues and issues outside of themselves, and are committed to supporting causes that matter. I think the key for us is to explain to them why we are important and allow them to see the impact of our work. I'm optimistic – I think their support will follow. Support for public radio has grown throughout the decades.. The key is that with every new generation, we've evolved to stay relevant and meet new needs.
The opportunity here is that we know the power that the NPR brand can have once someone is attuned to what we stand for. When people in-the-know see the NPR logo on a podcast, it means something special. With 47 shows represented in the NPR Podcast portfolio, we've become the #2 podcaster in the entire country in terms of listenership. If we compare that to the #1 podcaster, iHeartRadio - who has 620 shows - that's astounding. Even if people don't know what the podcast is about, just seeing that NPR logo, there's a real sense of trust built into that. People know that listening with us will be time well spent. Through this campaign, and other exciting initiatives coming up in the year ahead, we aim to spread that "can't go wrong" feeling to more folks than ever before.