Major marketers are beginning to experiment with podcasts--free audio programs that can be downloaded onto portable music players or computers--as marketing tools. The list includes Johnson & Johnson,
General Motors Corp., and Whirlpool Corp.--all of which have seized on the popularity of the broadcasts as part of their marketing strategies to tech-savvy consumers. It's difficult to draw a direct
correlation between podcasts and product sales, but marketing experts said the broadcasts can be useful in building brand awareness. "If you have a small group that's listening every week, that's
great," said Steve Rubel, a senior vice president with public-relations giant Edelman. "You are building a relationship with people who are influential and who will tell other people what to buy." For
the company's Acuvue contact lenses, J&J sponsors a series of podcasts about teenage life called "Download with Heather & Jonelle," written and hosted by two teenage girls of the same names. The girls
and their podcast have a special page on the Acuvue Web site, and the show is also listed in a podcast directory on Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes. The program has boosted awareness of the Acuvue brand
among teens, said Naomi Kelman, president of Vistakon Americas, the J&J unit responsible for Acuvue.
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