Is Jimmy Fallon the King of Content Marketing?


Jimmy Fallon, the king of content marketing? I think he is, yes, and that's without even having seen his Tonight Show on television.

Let me be clear: I've seen plenty of Fallon's hilarious work of late, I've just never seen it on television, and that's partly the point. Over the last decade my television watching habits have dwindled to something negligible. At most, my wife and I may watch one show a season together, which is really all we have the time for these days. I get enough screen time in other ways; I watch shows and movies when I want them (via Netflix, iTunes), where I want them (using an iPad or laptop). And so yes, I am saying that Jimmy Fallon is the king of content marketing, even though I can't tell you what television channel to find him on.

Until recently, I was so utterly checked out about late night television that I wouldn't have been able to tell you the difference between Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon - but I don't actually live under a rock, so I was cetainly aware of the news when Fallon was tapped to replace Leno. That was a story you could follow just by reading entertainment news headlines as they floated past in the stream. Around the time of the Tonight Show switch-over, my vague awareness of the comedian obviously grew, but it really was on the periphery at best. Nothing compelled me to seek him out, to go in search of his "content" as it were. And then my wife told me about a profile of the man she'd read in Vanity Fair, a piece that seemed overwhelmingly to say: Jimmy Fallon is not just hard working and funny (and musical), he is also a really nice guy. The profile includes this Lorne Michaels quote about Fallon during the SNL days:

“There were other anchors of ‘Update’ where, if someone came on to do a feature, and that person just destroyed, you’d see the blood drain from the anchor’s face. Jimmy never had that. He never felt diminished by other people being funny. The opposite. He enjoyed when other people were funny. That’s a Carson trait—that sense of not being in competition with your guests.”

In other words, at the heart of the Jimmy Fallon story: he's happy when the people around him succeed. That's a human detail that makes me want to give someone my attention. I made a note to go check out the new Tonight Show when I had a chance.

But I never had a chance, because first the new Tonight Show came to me. Specifically, someone emailed me this skit, hosted on YouTube:

Hashtag brilliant. That was one of many skits that were placed in front of me, either by the media outlets (read: websites) I did make a habit of checking daily, or by friends sharing the funny stuff in email, Twitter, Facebook, etc. I still don't know where to find the Tonight Show on television (yeah, yeah, wouldn't be hard to find out), but I have seen plenty of the show at this point. Fallon makes it appear effortless; in most skits, especially those with Justin Timberlake, you're left with the impression that it's just two pals cracking up each other. Here's another I like and watched online (along with 1.7 million other viewers):

My 14-year-old son is a pretty good guinea pig in my ongoing laboratory study of changing media consumption habits. Until now, he has been taught in an educational setting that does not focus on technology and media at an early age, and only recently did he get access to a laptop and mobile device. These days, when I ask him about his media habits, he doesn't talk much about television shows or channels (HBO or other); he spends most of his energy following and watching people on YouTube. Yes, he watches a handful of shows on Netflix (Dr. Who), but his primary form of media entertainment is to watch on his iPod amateur videos created on all manner of topics by random people who then post them to YouTube channels (channels that are, sometimes, followed by hundreds of thousands of people). No big screen fixed opposite a sofa. A mobile screen that fits in the palm of the hand, streaming content created by ... other people. That amazes me and I think it is a window into what the future holds for media production, hosting, and distribution. What he watches thoroughly entertains him.

Following my son's example, I subscribed to The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on YouTube (I'm one of over 3 million subscribers), but most of the time the videos still come to me via the communications channels that actually keep me busy every day (Twitter, email, etc). I might stop by once in a while, but it's not a requirement. (As they say: take your work to where people gather.)

Obviously, the question posed in my title is a hook, but if you do care about Content Marketing and the various strategies and tactics required to succeed at it, there's much to learn from the Fallon example:

Tell a good story - or, more specifically, have a good story that others like to tell about you. This is as true of an affable, generous comedian on late night television as it is of a buttoned-up professional with a particular expertise to offer clients. At the heart of it: be yourself, be as good as you possibly can at what you do. What do you want to be known for? Go all-in on that. (HashtagWhat'sYourBrand?)

Create content that, among other things, supports the story - those who know Fallon have said on the record that he is a genuine, generous person. All of the "content" shipped into social media from the Tonight Show supports this. It's not just funny; it's true to what we know about Fallon. Your content should be infused with those qualities people associate most with you.

Don't wait for people to come to you, take your work to them - the most important lesson, in my view. Fallon's Tonight Show team so completely gets the distribution power of social media. When I watch the short, self-contained video skits they release, it's almost as though they've written an hour of television that is ripe for slicing, dicing and social sharing. That's probably exactly what they do. (After checking out Fallon, I returned to an old favorite habit from my college years, Dave Letterman. The one show I watched tried to incorporate Twitter into a typical, old-school skit that was, at best, awkward. The early-80s Letterman edge appeared to be smoothed by time. Fallon's approach is the opposite: don't try to fold social media into your content; create content that folds naturally into social media. The former comes off as unnatural; the latter guarantees you visibility.)

Create content that people need (and want to share) - Fallon is blessed with being a really funny guy. But humor is not the only thing we need. And if you read the Vanity Fair piece, you'll see that, really, he worked extraordinarily hard to get where he is today. What do you have to offer that addresses what people really need? Build a content plan around the answer to that question. Again, this is as true for a celebrity comedian as it is for a technology lawyer who solves the problems of, say, startup entrepreneurs, or an accountant who makes sense of financial matters for people who are busy raising families, planning vacations, saving for retirement.

Make it appear effortless - mostly it won't be effortless, it will take hard work to produce the good stuff. But you want it to appear effortless whenever you can because, as is true in most of the Fallon skits I've watched, that will leave your audience feeling: this person loves what they do. I'm witnessing their passion. There's nowhere else they'd rather be than here.

Tall orders, all of the above - but I suspect good things will happen when you attempt to incorporate any or all of them into your content strategy, no matter your specialty or endeavour. Be yourself, work hard, help others succeed.



[image credit: Instagram via USMagazine]

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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