Imagine a small desert town where every conceivable conspiracy theory is true. Black helicopters fly overhead, a mysterious glow cloud runs the school board, and one of the candidates in the mayoral election is a seven-headed dragon named Hiram McDaniels. Now imagine what the local radio news in such a town might sound like. Welcome to “Welcome to Night Vale,” currently one of the most popular podcasts in the United States. Most popular podcasts are produced by large entities like NPR. “Night Vale” was created by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, voiced by Cecil Baldwin, and published by Commonplace Books. How did this tiny production end up competing with powerhouses like “This American Life” and “Radiolab?” Here are five marketing lessons that managers can learn from the success of “Welcome to Night Vale.”
First and foremost, make good content.
Go to the show’s archive and listen to a few episodes of “Welcome to Night Vale.” What do you notice? The show is really, really good. The writing is very funny and well crafted. The show features high production values — it’s edited well, and has excellent music, and sound effects. The best way to get people engaged with your brand’s content is to make really good content. “Night Vale” is successful in large part because it is really, really good.
Identify a void in the marketplace, then fill it.
The vast majority of comedic podcasts are talk shows wherein comedians interview other comedians, or talk about topics that they are interested in. “Night Vale” is one of the few scripted comedic podcasts. Plus, it appeals to genre lovers who may have enjoyed conspiracy-oriented programming like “The X-Files” or “Twin Peaks.” By creating something legitimately unique, the creators of “Welcome to Night Vale” have managed to fulfill the needs of a niche market that were not being met.
Find allies to help spread your message.
Every single episode of “Welcome to Night Vale” features a “weather” segment, but in lieu of five day forecasts, “Night Vale” plays songs by independent bands. This helps the bands by getting their music played to a wider audience than they would otherwise have access to, and it helps “Night Vale” by getting the bands to share the podcast with their own followings, thus creating a symbiotic relationship. When you make content, seek out entities that have interests in common with your own, and find ways to create mutually beneficial relationships with them.
Night Vale releases content twice a month on the 15th, and 30th. Fans of the show know exactly when new content will be available, and they know that, until notified otherwise, that there will continue to be new episodes of their favorite podcast. When you create content, keep to a calendar, and make sure your fans and followers know when your content will be available.
Your fans own your brand.
What is the biggest secret to “Night Vale’s” success? Their fans own the show even more than the shows creator. Do a search for “Night Vale” on tumblr and you will find fan art, fan videos, fan stories, and even more fan generated content than you can even imagine. By engaging with the fans, asking them directly on the podcast to create content, “Night Vale” gives its listeners a feeling of ownership of their property that makes their fans feel far more invested then they ever would had they chosen not to engage them.
On a podcast kick? We’ve got four great podcasts for brand marketers to check out.