4 content lessons from Jimmy Fallon

The popular host of ‘The Tonight Show’ seems always to be trending. How does he do it–and what can brand managers emulate? 

“Jimmy Fallon is killing the game,” according to CNN, and many on the Internet would agree.

“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” has been the subject of news reports, Twitter trends, Facebook posts and more since its host announced Monday that the show would be shot in Los Angeles for the week.

In true Fallon style, the announcement was made through a parody of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” a video that got more than 7.3 million views on YouTube.

Fallon’s show has been popular for far longer than just this week; its YouTube channel alone has more than 5.9 million subscribers. By comparison, “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” has a little more than 5.2 million YouTube subscribers, and “Team Coco” (Conan O’Brien and friends) has around 2.4 million subscribers.

What’s startling about Fallon’s subscriber numbers is how quickly they’ve grown. “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” premiered Feb. 17, 2014. (Fallon previously hosted “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” from March 2009 to February 2014.)

By comparison, “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” aired for the first time on Feb. 7, 2011, and “Conan” premiered Nov. 8, 2010 (after O’Brien was ousted as host of “The Tonight Show”). O’Brien also brought with him a fan base from his 16 years of hosting “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.”

Here are a few things Fallon and his “Tonight Show” team do that have helped the program gain nearly 6 million YouTube subscribers—not to mention even more viewers and a whole lot of online buzz—in less than a year:

1. He gives viewers something more.

At the end of each YouTube video, Fallon does something funny. He’ll juggle, deliver a few more jokes or have a hilariously awkward encounter with his announcer, Steve Higgins.

By adding these extras at the end of each video, Fallon adds extra value to watching branded videos, instead of copies that users post to YouTube.

There’s a plethora of content out there for Internet devotees with short attention spans. Successful brand managers will always provide as much value as they can to their fans, in the form of entertainment, deals or information.

Relating that value up front—and delivering on it each and every time—creates loyalty with throngs who otherwise tend to move from one trend to the next.

2. He gives fans something to look forward to with content series.

If you haven’t seen Fallon’s lip-sync battles with various celebrities, it’s time to join the masses. His most recent battle, featuring Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, was part of Fallon’s post-Super-Bowl show and has garnered more than 24 million views on YouTube alone:

It’s lip-syncing at its finest, and not only do fans look forward to seeing the next battle—each is heavily shared across social media channels. His battle with Emma Stone garnered more than 42.7 million views, and the lip-syncing geniuses of Fallon, Stephen Merchant and Joseph Gordon Levitt received more than 38.3 million views.

Popular content series rely on the theory that there can never be too much of a good thing. Marketers that produce something popular—whether it’s a YouTube video, infographic, great blog post or meme—can become a mainstay in their consumers’ minds by making a series out of it.

3. He tells (and retells) the stories his viewers care about.

Not only does Fallon keep up with current trends (requisite for a late-night host), he also does a mean throwback.

Not only was his “Fresh Prince” parody well received, the Internet is still talking about this nostalgic “Saved by the Bell” reunion:

The video has more than 19 million views on YouTube, and Fallon’s tweet the next day was retweeted more than 4,400 times.

Using nostalgia isn’t a new brand strategy, but listening to conversations online can tell you exactly what things your audience misses. The lesson here is simple: Find the stories your audience loves, and master the art of telling (or retelling) them.

4. He makes things interactive.

Consumers will engage with you if you make it fun and rewarding.

Not only does Fallon make videos people want to share across social media channels, he often asks his viewers to tweet stories using a hashtag, with the chance to have tweets read on the show or featured on the show’s blog.

The subjects garner a lot of response; after all, there’s a lot people can tap into with hashtags such as #MyTouchdownDance, #AwkwardDate and #WorstCarIEverHad.

Crowdsourcing brings in fresh content, and it makes consumers feel that they’re a part of the show. PR pros taking this route would do best to follow Fallon’s lead: He uses his fans’ content, and he never asks for ego strokes.

Brand managers who ask fans what they like best about their company’s products might get a response, but people are much more willing to jump in when questions prompt opinions and stories that go beyond how great a given brand may be. (Image via)


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