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7 non-marketing podcasts to get you thinking differently

By Alicia Johnston / May 21, 2019

Get a dozen marketers in a room, and you’ll immediately start to notice something. We’re preoccupied with a lot of the same goals, exploring similar challenges and chasing the same metrics. We share a lot of the same favorite publications, inspirational brands and marketing podcasts. And though we’ve all recognized that “synergy” is a four-letter word (thank goodness), we’re often using the same jargon.

We spend 40 hours or more a week immersed in our craft, discussing strategy, tactics and results. Daily priorities often push time for exploration to the bottom of the list, and this results in a kind of tunnel vision. In the pursuit of growth, we’re hyper-focused on reading, watching and listening to more content about how to become better marketers—an admirable approach, but one that keeps education siloed within our professional discipline.

As marketers, our charge is increasingly to understand, and speak for, our customers. It’s to deepen our organizations’ knowledge of who we serve, why they choose us and how to reach others like them. To do that, we need to do more than simply hone our craft—becoming a better analyst, brand strategist or communicator. We need to be students of people and of experience. We need to sharpen our understanding of what makes people tick, what shapes their behaviors and what factors influence their beliefs.

To develop a more nuanced understanding of those factors, turn to podcasts. With more than 630,000 podcasts to choose from, we have the opportunity to dig into every facet of the human experience, from cultural commentary to the latest scientific research. And while there are hundreds, if not thousands, of marketing podcasts out there, we recommend looking instead to those that teach you more about the world and give you a new point of view on the people your brand is trying to reach.

These seven podcasts for marketers will challenge you to think differently, put your work in a human context and hone the emotional intelligence that will take your consumer experience to the next level.

1. Invisibilia

The storytelling on this NPR podcast will get you hooked, and the research-based approach will get you thinking. Invisibilia, Latin for “invisible things,” asks the listener to challenge their perspective by shining a light on the invisible assumptions, systems and frameworks that shape our everyday experiences. The people-centric storylines frequently showcase how two different people can go through the same thing and emerge with completely different beliefs about what they have experienced.

As a marketer, this show will encourage you to question your default responses, and it will help you develop a stronger capacity to put yourself in another person’s shoes—an invaluable skill for customer experience leaders.

Start here: “Reality”

2. Hurry Slowly

Host Jocelyn K. Glei strikes me as the tech industry’s Krista Tippett, a warmly curious interrogator who doesn’t shy away from hard questions about how our interactions with tech and media shape our identities. The show’s stated purpose is to explore “how you can be more productive, creative, and resilient through the simple act of slowing down,” and guests like Jason Fried, Anne Helen Peterson and Paula Scher share unique perspectives from years in the creative and communications industries. The show mixes interviews with brief mini-episodes where Glei discusses a question or prompt she’s personally considering.

Given the increasing number of technologies marketers are expected to be experts on today, and the high level of burnout among professionals today, the rallying cry to “Hurry Slowly” is a great reminder for the marketer’s day-to-day.

Start here: “Cal Newport: Using Technology With Intention”

3. Work Life with Adam Grant

Marketing isn’t the only aspect of your job. Building relationships with colleagues, developing cross-functional collaboration and pursuing personal growth are all part of our professional lives, as well. On Work Life, organizational psychologist Adam Grant interviews experts at the top of their game—from Olympic athletes to academic researchers to award-winning directors—to delve into how we can make our work lives more meaningful. If you want to improve your customer experience, listen to Work Life to learn more about how the best teams facilitate understanding and connection.

And while the content is always top notch, as a marketer you might also enjoy hearing the show’s approach to showcasing its sponsors. Spoiler: Everything is content.

Start here: “Become Friends With Your Rivals”

4. Brown Riot

As our customer bases grow increasingly global and diverse, marketers are in a position to be organizational leaders in inclusion. But we can’t do that if we don’t create teams that represent and empower the voices of our diverse consumer audience.

In the new podcast Brown Riot, host Ant Melder interviews creative industry leaders from a wide range of ethnic, cultural, geographic and socio-economic backgrounds, exploring what it takes to be successful in advertising when you come from a non-majority background. Any brand looking to create greater connection with consumers needs a marketing and creative team that brings a diverse range of experiences to the table. Listening to personal stories from career creatives featured on Brown Riot will give you a new perspective on how our profession needs to evolve, why allyship in the workplace is crucial to inclusion and how we can all create better creative work.

Start here: “Pia Chaudhuri, Creative Consultant”

5. What It Means

While we can all benefit from expanding our horizons, that doesn’t mean we should ignore customer experience podcasts that speak directly to the topic at hand. Forrester’s What It Means digs into the current “age of the customer” and how it’s reshaping the way businesses and business leaders operate. Get a bird’s eye view of trends and research that will make you rethink CX, and hear from analysts and executives about how some of the world’s leading brands are responding to this shift.

Start here: “Marketers, Challenge False Assumptions To Truly Win Fans”

6. Hidden Brain

If you’ve read this far, you’ve picked up that all of these shows are meant to help you challenge how you think and question your own assumptions. Hidden Brain, hosted by Shankar Vedantam on NPR, is no different. The podcast blends science and storytelling to expose the unconscious patterns that shape our behavior, choices and relationships. Timely episodes explore current events and trends in the context of scientific research, whether that means investigating how humans interpret authority in the pitch of someone’s voice—particularly relevant given the growth in voice technology—or how cultural forces helped propel the #MeToo movement to the mainstream at this specific moment in time.

Start here: “Sounds Like A Winner: What Voices Have To Do With Politics”

7. HBR IdeaCast

Regardless of your industry, you’ll find thoughtful, data-backed insight on this show from Harvard Business Review. Featuring a mix of academics, editors and executives, Ideacast surfaces new ideas and research that are shaping the way companies and consumers interact. Go beyond business headlines with episodes covering everything from why blockchain matters to your business, to how work shapes our identities, to wrestling with difficult management challenges. Each episode will leave you with multi-disciplinary insight that prompts you to rethink your own approach in the greater context of business and society today.

Start here: “Stop Initiative Overload”

Listen up

At its core, marketing is about figuring out how to connect people with a solution for their needs. So to create a more powerful customer experience, we need to start by understanding people. Exposure to perspectives from other disciplines and walks of life will make you a better marketer, encourage you to think outside the box and help you introduce new ideas to your team.

While there are dozens more podcasts we could recommend, start by giving the shows above a listen. Who knows—your customers might be listening, too.

Alicia Johnston

Alicia Johnston

Alicia Johnston is the Senior Manager of Content & Communications at Sprout Social, leading a team responsible for thought-provoking content and engaging internal communications. Away from the keyboard, she can usually be found at the farmer’s market, traveling or on the hunt for Chicago’s best almond croissant.
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