Gympass Turned Its B2B Marketing Into a Murder Podcast

Gympass typically considers murder the antithesis of its B2B marketing strategy, but there were arguments for an exception.

The corporate wellness platform’s entire purpose is to help its 15,000 global clients—including Aflac, SoFi and ActivisionBlizzard—create a healthier, decidedly living workforce. It regularly boasts that the 2 million employees subscribed to its services—which feature offerings from Barry’s, Lifetime, Headspace and Thrive Global—cut their healthcare costs 35%. 

They also claim it trims workforce turnover by 40%, creating fewer disgruntled employees who would, say, electrocute their coworker and open a 12-episode clue-laden story arc leading the human resources department to the killer.

But Gympass CMO Ryan Bonnici saw an opportunity in the HR departments his B2B marketing regularly targeted. Not only was there overlap with listenership of true crime podcasts, but there was willingness to hear Gympass’ product pitch in a less-straightforward, more palatable form.

Bonnici passed on the logical action of creating an HR podcast that interviews experts and solves HR professionals’ challenges. Instead, he recognized no one is speaking to HR leaders in an entertaining way outside of the work day. “If I think of my behavior as a consumer when I am on the subway, getting from Brooklyn to Manhattan, I’m listening to podcasts,” Bonnici said.

Partnering with Caspian Studios, Gympass launched the first episode of its Murder in HR podcast in August. It cast Kate Mara (House of Cards, Black Mirror) as a new employee experience manager at AI-driven tech startup Peace of Ship whose colleague is killed on her first day on the job. She and the company’s chief people officer Nicholas, voiced by Brett Gelman (Stranger Things, Fleabag), spend the ensuing episodes interrogating variously toxic colleagues in search of the culprit.

In months since the podcast launched across Apple, Spotify, YouTube and other platforms, it’s been downloaded more than 1 million times and ranked as the No. 1 fiction podcast and 38th most-popular podcast overall in the U.S. Despite his executive team’s concerns about Gymcast being associated with a podcast with “murder” in the title (“which they got over very quickly”), Bonnici said the company was supportive of this brand-building creative turn because of his team’s success generating revenue with paid media and content marketing.

Bonnici’s team earns the right to experiment with creative things if they are hitting their numbers. “That’s why there is such tiptoeing around brand building for so many CMOS, especially on the B2B side—because they don’t have their house in order on the revenue side,” Bonnici said.

Listening for listeners

Before moving ahead with the podcast, however, Gympass’ marketing team sent an email to its customers, prospects and HR leaders looking for what Bonnici considered “an HR confessional.” It asked for the wildest stories from the companies they’d worked at, taking its cues from a private community of HR professionals on Slack.

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