Comedy Central Knows Reaching Millennials is A Laughing Matter

Who is Trevor Noah? Of course, we all know the answer today. But when the wildly popular Jon Stewart retired from Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, his replacement, Trevor Noah, was relatively unknown.

As chief marketing officer at Comedy Central, Walter Levitt had the responsibility to fix that. Walter talks about his role in The Daily Show transition as one of the coolest — and scariest — opportunities of his career. How did he do it? By delivering an experience that delighted his audience where they were.

To solve the problem of introducing Trevor Noah to The Daily Show audience, Walter commissioned a YouTube campaign with entertaining videos. The videos were a hit and generated lots of positive feedback, mainly because Walter was able to tap into the specific — and sometimes humorous — information people were seeking.

Big data brings big connections.

As part of Viacom’s family of companies, Comedy Central has access to mountains of data. In preparation for his video series about Trevor Noah, Walter hit that database first, looking for the media consumption patterns of The Daily Show viewers.

“Whenever we’re launching anything, we always start with a massive dive into the data,” explains Walter. “Data really is at the center of the marketing mix, and as we become increasingly digital in our own marketing, data has been a key piece of that.”

In addition to consulting first-party data, Walter went to online sources to find out specifically what people wanted to know about the new host. By tracking popular search queries, he was able to identify both the expected and the random things people wanted to know about Trevor — his age, his net worth, his girlfriend, his tweeting habits, and even whether there were any examples of him using autotune.

Designed for the millennial audience.

In addition to tracking specific data, understanding your audience is key to delivering engaging content that will reach them. Walter understands two important things about the millennials he targets. First, they don’t just love comedy, it defines them. And second, they consume TV and video differently than other age groups before them.

Walter says, “At Comedy Central, we’re very focused on serving millennials and there’s a good reason for it. Millennials have a relationship with comedy like no other group of 18-34 year olds before them.” He explains that millennials define themselves by their choices in comedy the same way previous generations might have picked music, sports teams, or even religion. By using the data to learn how his audience defines itself, Walter is able to match and meet their expectations.

Walter also knew that the best place to reach his millennial audience was by posting videos online because millennials don’t consume TV the same way previous generations did. Then, by launching the videos in sequence, rather than all at once, he was able to drive growing buzz about the new host as the brand’s followers raced to be among the first to find the videos hidden in specific Google searches and then share the answers across their social networks.

“Millennials are looking to laugh and the truth is they’re looking to laugh in many places these days well beyond just linear TV,” says Walter. “There is a lot of fragmentation obviously in the way people are consuming video. Our strategy is to be anywhere — and we absolutely are.”

Customer Experience FTW.

The whole campaign to introduce Trevor Noah was a huge success. Fans of the show “met” their new host and made an emotional connection with a fellow millennial. Comedy Central made a deeper connection with its viewers and reinforced its position as a trustworthy provider of hilarious material on any platform. And Walter proved that mixing data with some creative ideas delivers results.

The key was expanding focus beyond the product to include all aspects of the customer experience. “Consumers don’t just interact with a brand, they connect with a brand, and ultimately you want them to love your brand,” says Walter. “And that’s really how we try to think about our brand. We try to create experiences for consumers that they love, experiences they want to share — particularly in the comedy space, sharing is such an important part of the experience for millennials.”

Like Comedy Central, the winning companies of the future will use data to solve their biggest problems. Analytics will refine and focus efforts, tailoring customer experiences to build deep connections. In return, the customers of the future will reward such companies with deep, sometimes-fanatical loyalty. And that kind of success is no laughing matter!

Check out our Rockstar profile on Walter and visit our Customer Showcase here.