What Marketers Can Learn From James Corden’s Approach to Comedy and Content

Late Late Show host spoke at Marketo's annual conference

When developing new work, James Corden says he tries to brand stuff as early possible. Getty Images
Headshot of Marty Swant

It might sound a little hokey, but brands might want to try and watch a little Carpool Karaoke.

The comedian and television host James Corden—who’s known for singing in cars with celebrities ranging from Adele to Stevie Wonder—joined Marketo CEO Steve Lucas on stage for the first day of the marketing company’s annual conference to talk about building an engaged audience. He said that brands need to create content that is both authentic and honest.

“I feel like now people just want truth,” he said. “I don’t think people want to be lied to, which is why you see the success of YouTubers online, which is ultimately the oddest phenomenon. If you think about it, it’s people talking into a camera—some of them are awful and some of them are wonderful—and I’ve realized after watching hours and hours of it, the ones that are wonderful are the ones where it’s people who are just like ‘this is who I am.'”

When Lucas asked about Corden’s channel on YouTube, the comedian said the page now has 10 million subscribers, adding no channel in YouTube’s history grew from zero subscribers to 10 million faster than Corden’s channel. (He said there are now only three TV shows with that many subscribers, with Jimmy Fallon and Ellen Degeneres taking the other top spots.)

“The world is evolving at a pace I think it feels impossible for all of us to keep up with,” Corden said. “But the thing I do know and understand really is the power of having this in someone’s pocket.”

“Without your signature stuff, you’re only reliant on news,” he said. “Your show will live or die on where news is that day.”

At its core, Corden said The Late Late show has grown bigger than the time of day that it airs, so that while it’s on late at night, it can be viewed, shared and appreciated around the clock.

“It can be viewed at your desk at lunch time, on a train on the way to work, and with your children at night or first thing in the morning, and a show that can be consumed in seconds,” he said. “So we have some segments that people just immediately go to and love, and they act as sort of a gateway drug to the rest of the stuff we have on our channel.”

He joked: “I will say that Marketo does sound like a strain of marijuana.”

He said the internet has “cut out the kind of middle man,” allowing the best and most authentic content to rise to the top. He gave the example of Chewbacca Mom, explaining that marketing had nothing to do with her ability to go viral after she posted a simple video of herself laughing in a car with a mask.

“I think all that people really respond to is whether they feel like what you’re presenting them with is the truest version of yourself,” he said.

He said people want to discover new things, and when they do, they feel a sense of ownership if they were there from the beginning.

He gave the example of the commercials he’s done for the Chase Sapphire credit card, which allows him to inform people in more subtle ways while entertaining them.

“People know when they’re being sold to,” he said.

@martyswant martin.swant@adweek.com Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.