The prime time TV shows that top the ratings in today’s pop culture all have one thing in common: They are all ensembles. We fall in love with hilarious depictions of a “modern family.” We wait to see the next twist and left-hand turn that happens among a group of inmates in a women’s prison. We want to see the political orchestrations that tie an ambitious politician to all that’s dirty and good.
But when prime time is over, a major shift happens on our airways: The ensemble casts make way for the single host.
Welcome to late night television.
So what is it about late night that keeps us tuning in and turned on to these slingers of topical humor and masters of the monologue? It's simple: They each have an individual style that keeps us craving more—and our DVRs set to “record.”
But what can your brand learn from these legends of late night TV? Love them or hate them, you never leave indifferent. Let’s take a look at four branding lessons ready and waiting in the not-so-prime hours of the night.
1. One Shines on Account of Many
When you tune into late night TV, you’re geared up for the opening monologue. The jokes. The quips that make the rounds at the next day’s power lunch.
But each figurehead in late night has a powerful team of people making their individual brand of funny happen. Just have a look at this list of writers for Jon Stewart's The Daily Show. If it's accurate, that’s 14 people plus Stewart himself. That doesn’t even include the staff of researchers tasked with finding media clips and fact checking. Other late night programs are no different.
What kind of “writer’s room” does your brand have? If you’re trying to power a brand with the help of one voice alone, consider the strength of building a team to back you up. We laugh at late night because ego takes a second seat to creating the best material possible—and just like you, these hosts do it five days a week. We all know that’s not an easy task.
2. Seriously? It’s Funny
Shows like The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and John Oliver’s new Last Week Tonight all tackle the day’s most pressing headlines. While it’s sad that anything related to Justin Bieber can be considered a headline, these hosts know one thing for certain: If you can use laughter to make people pay attention to a serious issue, more attention will be paid.
Regardless of your political and social leanings, take a moment to see if you’re missing the humor in your audience’s daily life. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in—your audience wants a little relief throughout the day. And if you can edutain—educate while entertaining—odds are your audience will not only perk up but they'll pay attention. In fact, you just might find them sharing what you create more than ever.
We all want to be the one who discovered the funny—that’s why we share. And that’s why these powerful late night voices find their video clips playing over the next day’s social airwaves year after year.
3. Never Discount Entertainment
Speaking of using humor, let’s talk about something I hate. I hate it when brands think they’re “above” using humor to convey a point. Granted, not every brand is as blue as late night mavens like Chelsea Handler, and we can’t all get the president of the United States or the first lady as podcast guests. Nor should we want to.
But for all of the seriousness that is business, using humor doesn’t make your brand a laughing stock. What it does make you is memorable, human and lovable.
The Jimmys—Kimmel and Fallon—bank on sheer entertainment, from Halloween candy pranks to lip sync-offs, to liven up the late night airwaves. The iconic David Letterman knows that his audience can’t wait for that evening’s top 10 list.
Ask yourself this: How can you—in a way that’s true to your brand—create elements that are repeatable and lovable? Entertainment has less to do with telling jokes and more to do with knowing your audience and understanding that they’re coming to you for a bit of relief each day. When you deliver that levity, they’ll love your no-bones-about-it business content even more.
4. Love Them or Hate Them
I’m waiting for the first comment on this article to be from someone who hates Jon Stewart. It would prove my point so well.
Masters of late night TV know their brand isn’t for everyone. This knowledge alone is possibly the most powerful brand asset they have, aside from accomplished careers in comedy. When you create for everyone, you create for no one. Letterman was never Carson. Stewart will never be Anderson Cooper. Colbert will never be Kimmel, and Fallon—well, we can’t imagine him as anyone else.
Who is your brand? Your brand isn’t a “what”—it’s always a who. If you’re not building a three-dimensional brand ripe with a clear personality, you’re missing the boat. People have opinions, and it’s your job as a brand to share your opinion in your voice.
Sure, the “I hate Jon Stewart”s will come along, but when they arrive, you’ll know that you have arrived, too, because you made people feel something by being you. Love me, hate me—just don’t be indifferent. Indifference is a slow and painful death. A differing opinion begins a conversation.
So what’s your brand of late night awesome? You don’t have to make everything a joke, but it certainly pays when you can take the lessons laid out by the greats of late night and make sure the joke isn’t on you.
We love these brave men and women. We laugh (some days, more than others), we share, but most of all, we keep coming back. Wouldn’t it be nifty if folks did the same with your brand?
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