What Serial Actually Proves

If nothing else, Serial exposed these three truths:

1. Radio is not dead.

Sure, a podcast isn’t exactly radio but it’s comparable. There are ads. There’s a theme. There’s a following. The main difference is that a podcast generally isn’t live, it’s pre-recorded. And, that is true for Serial. Serial wasn’t the program that made podcasts popular, but it is the fastest podcast ever to reach five million downloads. So while Serial may not have proven Adnan Syed’s guilt or innocence—it did prove that you can teach old technology new tricks.

2. Support can be a powerful ad.

If you listen to Serial, you have heard the little girl say “Mail Kimp” at least a dozen times. The podcast, as it states in the introduction to nearly every episode, is “supported” by the email platform. In some sense of the word, that intro is an ad, and it has a call to action — “send better email” — but they don’t recite their website nor does their logo have any play on the Serial homepage. #MailKimp has been trending on Twitter in past weeks and there is even a @MailKimp handle. With that, you can safely draw the conclusion that MailChimp has gotten people talking about them; so while the question of increased sales is only for them to determine, as far as the public can tell—their support succeeded without some of the traditional elements of an ad.

3. MailChimp has one hell of a social media manager.

On that note, round of applause to the marketing and social media team at MailChimp. Not all businesses would be willing to take the risk of advertising on a podcast discussing a murder. Sure, if the podcast catches on like it did you are golden, but if it fails? What if the response to Serial had been overwhelmingly negative? MailChimp took the risk of supporting, and thereby advertising, a program that very well could have done nothing but make people think “murder” when they hear “MailChimp.”

Luckily, that is not what happened. And in all likelihood, the social media team has seen increased activity on their platforms as the podcast caught fire. Scrolling through MailChimp’s twitter feed though, you can see that they don’t discuss Serial constantly—and what a brilliant move that is. Instead, they discuss their industry and their product. They successfully managed to associate themselves with a trending topic while staying true to their brand identity, maximizing the impact of the content they post as it is constantly exposed to more eyes.

Maybe it wasn’t the goal of the podcast, but Serial certainly gave marketers something to think about. Can’t wait to see what season 2 holds.

By Leah Lazarz, Associate Content Manager, PR