In this series, we’re putting the spotlight on our clients. Why did they decide to explore an original podcast for their brand? What surprises did they encounter? What lessons did they learn along the way? Find out from the people at the helm.
Clayton Closson always knew what made a good story. He still remembers watching Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the 1958 classic starring Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman and Burt Ives, when he was 14, and being drawn into the characters’ lives on screen.
“There was something about that story — the characters, their problems … they had everything they seemed to need, you know, in terms of money. But yet, they couldn’t really get their lives together. And nothing seemed to work no matter what they did,” he says. “It was just the betrayal of the people, and the reality — the realness of it. How Williams captured this time and place of the South, and put it so perfectly in that story.”
So when it comes to overseeing the Home. Made. podcast by Rocket Mortgage, where he works as a strategist, Closson knows exactly the kind of story the show is looking for. Hosted by acclaimed journalist Stephanie Foo, the podcast series explores the meaning of “homes” and what we can learn about ourselves and others in them, understanding the fundamental need for shelter and belonging.
“First of all, it’s going to be interesting. [The audience is] going to enjoy themselves listening. But they’re usually going to find some of them[selves] in the story,” he says. “It’s almost like being able to make a movie. You’re achieving something spectacular. And that is exactly what Rocket Mortgage is doing with this podcast.
“We’re able to create content at a quality that is unexpected of a mortgage company … [P]eople don’t expect this to come from us.”
The podcast is a way for the mortgage brokerage company to connect with an audience that most marketing strategies don’t allow for, he adds. A long time enthusiast of theater, movies and radio dramas, Closson chose to go into marketing as a career in order to have a corporate job that also offered a creative outlet. He wrote for websites for most of his career before joining Rocket Mortgage, and eventually leading the Home. Made. podcast production team.
“When this project came up, it was just assigned to me, and I just ran with it,” he says.
He’d been aware of other similar podcasts such as General Electric’s collaboration with Panopoly to present The Message, an award-winning sci-fi podcast reminiscent of the glory days of radio drama, which was followed by a second podcast called LifeAfter.
“I loved that podcast … but I didn’t expect Rocket Mortgage to do that,” he says. “We sell loans for homes. It’s not nearly as exciting.”
However, with some guidance from Pacific Content, Closson and his team at Rocket Mortgage were able to narrow down a thematic concept.
“We help people get that home, and that feeling of home. And that’s part of what our business is; and that is a topic that there’s a lot of story value and potentially incredible stories. And we have found them,” he says.
The first three months of creating Home. Made. proved to be the most difficult. Although the idea for creating a podcast was floated by management at Rocket Mortgage, it wasn’t easy to get a documentary-style podcast greenlit.
Rocket Mortgage is well-represented in the sports world, given that they advertise at major sporting events such as the Super Bowl, and sponsor NFL, NBA and MLB teams, as well as PGA tour. However, they didn’t have a presence in the podcasting world.
“We still had to make the business case … and that was a little difficult. But once we got past that, and could focus on the stories, that’s when this thing really started taking off,” he says.
Over three seasons, the podcast has seen an exponential growth in its audience — and that audience happens to be the specific target demographic Rocket Mortgage is looking to reach. Bringing evergreen stories to life, which also reflect the diversity of its listening audience, has enabled the mortgage brokerage to market to a multicultural audience. Given the high retention rates for each episode, Closson knows that people enjoy listening to the stories being told on Home. Made.
Along the way, the show has also bagged a bunch of awards, such as The Shorty Awards, The Signal Awards, and The D Show. The recognition by industry peers is a validation of the podcast’s merits, especially when it comes to talking about the project’s relevance to upper management.
“It makes people realize — wait, we have something here. They can see: Ok. This does influence people positively. How they interact with our brand. How they feel about our brand. What they think our brand is about,” he says.