Brand Strategy

Inside a podcast rebrand

When Majority 54 came back in 2020 after a two-year hiatus, its listenership, understandably, seemed to have dwindled. A rebrand is partly how it’s trying to get some of those listeners back.
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Wonder Media Network, Majority 54

5 min read

With podcasts, listeners grow accustomed to the theme music, hosts, segments, and even the artwork that shows up in their podcast feeds, so changing things can be risky.

But rebranding is not off the table entirely. In fact, at the start of this year, Wonder Media Network, a podcast company specializing in content surrounding social justice, decided to rebrand a couple of its shows, including Majority 54.

The political podcast—which WMN acquired from Crooked Media—underwent a rebrand for a couple of reasons, according to WMN CMO Shira Atkins: Not only did it switch networks after a two-year hiatus, but it also returned at a time when the country's political tone had shifted.

Rehoming (and rebranding) a political podcast post-Trump

Back in 2017, Crooked Media, the network behind Pod Save America and other popular political and pop-culture podcasts, debuted Majority 54.

The show featured host Jason Kander—the former Missouri secretary of state best known for nearly defeating an incumbent senator, Republican Roy Blunt, in 2016—guiding the 54% of the American voters in the 2016 election who did not vote for Donald Trump through conversations with friends and family on the other side of the aisle.

But in August 2018, the show went silent. Months before, Kander announced that he would be running for mayor of Kansas City, but three months into his campaign, he stepped away to seek treatment for PTSD from his deployment to Afghanistan as an Army intelligence officer.

Two years later, in June 2020, the show reappeared, this time as a WMN property.

When it ended its original run, Majority 54 had hundreds of thousands of listeners per episode, according to Atkins. Now, a year and a half after its return, it’s getting about 50,000 “dedicated listeners.”

After its comeback, Majority 54 faced an issue: With Trump no longer in office, a show centered around conversations with his supporters seemed less urgent.

“We—like many other political shows—experienced when Trump left office, a huge decline in listenership, and had been trying all sorts of things to re-engage listeners from a content perspective, from a marketing perspective,” Atkins told Marketing Brew. “We’re slowly sort of climbing back up.”

This year presents a new opportunity for the show to rebuild its audience, Atkins said, since it’s a midterm election year. So WMN rolled out the rebrand on January 13. The show kept its name, but gained a cohost—Ravi Gupta, a former Obama campaign staffer and co-founder and managing partner of The Arena—as well as refreshed cover art and new segments.

The new segments were largely driven by what listeners told the hosts they wanted to hear, but also by Kander and Gupta’s own desires to re-engage with electoral politics, Kander, who is now president of the nonprofit Veterans Community Project, told Marketing Brew.

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“We realized we personally had an itch to use the podcast as a platform to be more deeply involved in the midterms, and in particular, to point people to races that we think are on the real frontlines of protecting democracy, but aren’t talked about on MSNBC and CNN and Fox [News],” Kander told us. That led to the creation of a “Road to the Midterms” segment on the show.

So far, the rebranded show has shown signs of success: Listenership has increased by 15%, according to Atkins.

Designing the tiniest of tiles

Most people don’t think of visual art when they think of a podcast. That’s fair, acknowledged Aria Goodman, WMN’s graphic designer.

“Most of the time, it’s a tiny little tile among a bunch of other things,” she said. “So it’s a really unique space.”

Nevertheless, Majority 54 used to have bright yellow cover art, matching Crooked Media’s coloring. Candidly, Atkins said the WMN team largely thought the color was “horrible,” but they were willing to overlook that when they took on the show. No longer.

before and after cover art for Majority 54's rebrand

Wonder Media Network, Majority 54

When Goodman started working on the rebrand, she said she “explored a more aggressively political approach.” She spoke with Kander and Gupta to get the backstory on how the original art came to be, which featured a highway sign, since the podcast’s original premise was to travel around the country, particularly through red states. That ended up being a “useful icon to maintain,” Goodman said, so she kept the sign but changed the color palette.

The resulting cover art is mostly navy blue, with an off-white highway sign, off-white text, and red accents. The whole thing is also fairly textured, another design choice on Goodman’s part.

“We really started to talk about the idea of focusing on Americana, vintage, more of the grittiness of being on the road and these old highway signs, or the ‘welcome to this state’ signs that you see on the highway as well,” Goodman explained.

the mood board for Majority 54's rebrand

Wonder Media Network, Majority 54

One thing that hasn’t changed: The pod’s opening theme music—a lineup of deep notes that sound like they’re being plucked from a string instrument—which has come to be associated with the show and with Kander’s deep voice, Atkins said.

“If Chanel ever did a rebrand, they couldn’t change their core logo,” she said. “They would maybe move some things around, or add some flourish, or change the color, but they could never get rid of the clear iconography. We felt like we couldn’t do that with the audio, either.”

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