Umpqua Bank, which has sponsored a traveling interactive art exhibit and hosted yoga classes in its branches, is introducing a new podcast Monday that aims to engage people on a subject many prefer to ignore despite its significance: money.
To inspire conversations on the subject, Suchin Pak, of MTV and DailyCandy fame, will host Umpqua's podcast and interview guests like "Saturday Night Live" writer Paula Pell and NBA center Myers Leonard about their personal journeys with money.
Umpqua's effort represents a growing trend of bank brands thinking unconventionally to try to get consumers' attention through storytelling on ever-more digital mediums at a time when branch traffic continues to decline.Bank of America, for example, has been finding success on Pinterest, while TD Bank has charmed viewers with YouTube videos.
The bank-run podcast idea is not brand new: UMB launched one back in 2005, then later dropped it due to lack of interest. In August of this year, Wells Fargo started a podcast with its economists discussing what undercurrents could potentially affect businesses.
This time may well be different, as a younger generation of consumers gets their news on digital media channels.
John Siracusa, host of the Bank On It podcast, says building a digital media brand is table stakes for remaining relevant to consumers.
"It's the future. Period. End of story," said Siracusa. "Everybody has a mobile device. Even kids. …They get a Social Security number and they get a phone."
The most recent Pew Research Center data shows podcasts have been steadily growing an audience over the past two years. In April, Pew reported thepercentage of Americans who have listened to a podcast in the past month has almost doubled since 2008, from 9% to 17% by January of 2015.
That comes on top of an Edison Research report finding, among other things, people who listen to podcasts are more active on social media sites.
Because of the audience opportunities, Siracusa recommends banks to take a cue from Umpqua and launch their own shows.
"It's easy for consumers to listen to podcasts," said Siracusa. Unlike a blog or a video, a consumer can listen while he's driving to or from work, for example.
For Umpqua, the podcast represents its ongoing experiments in digital marketing.
"The need to continue to create new ways to connect with people is really important," said Eve Callahan, an executive vice president of corporate communications at Umpqua Bank.
The podcast, which Callahan said was dependent on finding the right host, is designed to help spur conversations with consumers and introduce more branding opportunities for the bank in addition to providing content the bank can publish on its other social media channels.
To be sure, building an audience is no easy feat.
To draw attention to the show, Umpqua is releasing a short artistic film, The Seed + The Moon, that explores human potential and growth as it relates to money in addition to unveiling a website — Madetogrow.com — that will host the flick, the podcast and personal stories from associates.
As Umpqua learns what resonates with consumers through this new medium, Siracusa, who has hosted 17 podcasts, offers these tips to other banks interested in launching a podcast: Consumers listen because of the topic and because of the host. Stick to a schedule, and don't expect a large audience all at once. Do, however, invest in podcasting equipment and editors and book guests with large social media followers.
"In my experience, when an influencer shares a podcast, you will see a huge influx of downloads," said Siracusa.
And like with any investment, he urges producers to crunch metrics like how many people listen to the show and in what geographies.
"It's important to understand to measure effectiveness but to give it enough time," said Siracusa.