Podcast Ads Are Profitable for Bombas

Bombas makes high performance athletic leisure socks, with a mission. The company’s direct-to-consumer product stands apart with seven substantial improvements, like stay-up technology, a honeycomb support system, and the “Invisitoe” that eliminates the annoying bump at the toe of most other socks.

Serving the social mission, for every pair of Bombas sold the company donates a pair to charities — like Hannah’s Socks, which helps people affected by homelessness, poverty, and domestic abuse.

Bombas started using podcast ads in the fourth quarter of 2014. I talked with VP of Marketing Kate Huyett about why Bombas sponsors podcasts, and how the company’s ads are performing.

Using Podcasts To Tell Your Story

“We have a story to tell,” Kate explained.

“It’s little bit hard to believe that a sock could be that much better. So a podcast ad really gives you the implication of the host’s buy-in, where the host says, ‘I’m wearing these socks. They’re the best ever, and I never want to wear anything else.’ And it becomes a little bit more like a friend recommendation than a Facebook ad.”

The looser, more personal format of podcast ads also provides an opportunity for hosts to explain better Bombas’ social mission. “There’s a little more air space to talk about how the company started, because the founders learned that socks are the number one most requested clothing item from homeless shelters. Bombas set out to solve that problem.”

Compared to more traditional ad formats, “podcast ads gave us more room to tell our story in a more compelling way.”

ROI and Profit, Too

Telling the company’s story is one thing. Results are another.

On the whole Kate said that podcast ads pay for themselves. “It varies a little bit from show to show. We have some that achieve deeply positive ROI on first purchase.” She says that the Midroll team was “super-responsive” in helping her test shows and then “double-down on what works.”

More importantly, “all the data we have suggests that they are profitable.”

Bombas measures campaign performance using vanity URLs that lead to a form where customers sign up to receive a coupon code in email. Kate said the company is going to start expiring those codes, since they tend to end up on sites that aggregate coupon codes, complicating their tracking.

In Q2 of this year Bombas also plans to do a customer survey–including questions about where customers learned about the company–to see how this compares with their data from the vanity URLs and coupon redemption. She adds that, “What I’ve heard from other advertisers is that podcasts generate 2 to 3 times more return than you think they do.”

With regard to customer acquisition overall, “in a given week about 50-60% of our new customers are coming from paid,” Kate reported. “And I would say podcasting has ranged from 15% to 40% of that. It’s a pretty meaningful percentage of our paid portfolio.

“The overall podcast budget is no longer in testing phase. We have a baseline where I feel like I can spend profitably. I have some shows that I feel really confident in, and then I’m testing around that core.”

Bombas’ podcast ads also perform well compared to other advertising channels. “In Q4 (of 2014) they beat everything other than remarketing and branded search,” for CPA, and they are tied for third with sponsored content in ROI. Other channels include Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and non-branded search.

Lessons Learned

Kate said one key factor in podcast advertising is, “the extent to which the host gets into it. Colt Cabana is the most active. He’s tweeting about us, and his fan base is in love with him. So there’s tons of stuff in our Twitter feed from his fans.

“If you find people whose audience is deeply engaged, that helps success.” Also important is, “how excited they (hosts) are about our product.”

She also found that “early results are pretty indicative of how (the campaign) will perform.” She suspects that’s because a show’s most engaged audience is to an episode on or close to the day it releases. “If it starts strong, it usually gets stronger.”

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