Skip to main content

6 Things Brand Marketers Can Learn From Jimmy Fallon


'Have fun' is my message. Be silly. You're allowed to be silly. There's nothing wrong with it. – Jimmy Fallon

Marketing is like television: it can be either incredibly boring or incredibly exciting, depending on the content, idea, and execution of its creators. If you're a brand marketer (or a brand who hires them) and your ratings are suffering, all is not lost.

Here are some tips inspired by TV wunderkind, Jimmy Fallon, on how to make your marketing ready for primetime:

1. Build community, then content. Agencies and brand marketers can be tempted to pump out branded content to beat the other guys to the punch. But frequency doesn't mean relevancy. It's important to get an edge on competitors, yes, but not at the cost of quality. Jimmy Fallon spent years building and servicing a loyal following and core audience as a Saturday Night Live star and bankable movie actor. He understood what his fans liked and responded to, before making content for them. The Fallon model is designed for maximum impact. Publishing without community only makes for more content that nobody is reading, or watching, or sharing.

Recommended for you

2. Know pop culture. Brands want shareable, high-engagement content. But most brand marketers fail because they speak the language of the brand rather than the language of the culture. Jimmy Fallon has seen such viral success on the Internet because he shares a love for the stuff the Internet shares, and is acutely attuned to pop culture, Web memes, and the Buzzfeed-y '90s nostalgia that resonates with millennials. The Tonight Show 's social media channels are full of content tailor-made for an audience that doesn't watch late night network television, but that will laugh at a clip on YouTube or re-blog a goofy GIF on Tumblr. Brands need to hire marketers who are digital natives, who intrinsically know what content is funny, interesting, weird, authentic, and shareable to a generation who was raised on Nickelodeon instead of Cronkite.

3. Learn to remix. The Internet loves remixes and mashups. A pop culture event or trend begets a meme, which is mashed-up into another meme, which becomes its own separate meme. Fallon has scored a string of headline-grabbing viral hits by making deft use of pop culture and the remix: Brian Williams 'rapping' Sugar Hill Gang's hip-hop classic "Rapper's Delight" (which has clocked nearly 9 million YouTube hits), a barbershop quartet-style remix of R. Kelly's "Ignition," and the History of Rap series of mashups with Justin Timberlake. There are so many opportunities to fuse brand messaging into Web culture trends, yet most brands marketers aren't recommending strategies or creating content that leverages and sparks conversation around them. (Wieden + Kennedy's real-time Photoshopping frenzy for Old Spice or Arby's live-tweet coup of Pharrell's Grammy hat are notable exceptions.)

4. Forget the brand. Think of it like this: NBC is the client, The Tonight Show is the brand, Jimmy Fallon is the agency or marketer. When Jimmy Fallon took over the hallowed chair at The Tonight Show, he inherited a heritage brand. When marketers and agencies work with prestigious heritage brands, they often produce the safest work because they don't want to risk going off-brand. Forget the brand doesn't mean you jettison all client considerations or business strategies or KPIs and do stuff for the sake of it. It means you aren't scared to push the envelope and explore the outer limits of what your brand can do creatively.

5. Take risks. Brand marketers often play it very conservatively and simply assume the client won't like the idea. But the client will always play it safe if their agency doesn't advocate otherwise. NBC trusted Jimmy Fallon's creativity, confident in his talents to deliver a quality, engaging product and brand experience to late night television. Make your client confident in your creativity. When both the client and the audience trust the strength of your ideas, magic happens. Be bold. Be brave. Fight for your ideas. If your concepts are strong enough and the executions are done right, the results will far outweigh the perceived risks.

6. Have fun with it. You have a product or service to sell, yes. Your product or service might even be pretty dull. But your marketing doesn't have to be. Learn from Jimmy Fallon: he's having fun up there every night, enjoying his brand experience, and he's killing it. Even if you don't have Fallon's creative control, or scale of operations, or depth of resources, or size of audience with your brand or client, you can still kill. Loosen up. Lighten up. Be silly. Go off-brand. Have fun with it. You might actually create or say something interesting. 

Matthew Bryan Beck is a creative strategist at Ogilvy & Mather New York and a contributor to ReadWrite. Follow him on Twitter @ibeck

Recommended Articles