Colbert Re-Channeling Late Night Persona

As audiences tuned into the first episode of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” CBS this week, they may have expected to see a new side, apart from the character he had played for 10 years on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report”. But, because Colbert’s brand was unaltered before the start of the new show, the old character seemed to be working alongside the late night host.

In an interview with “CBS Sunday Morning”, Colbert said that he understood why people have a hard time deciphering his personality from that of his Comedy Central persona.

“I mean, I worked really hard to be that other guy for 10 years. …” Colbert said. “I hope they’ll find out pretty quickly that the guy they saw for 10 years was my sense of humor the whole time.”

The first episode of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” was reminiscent of “The Colbert Report” as he interviewed Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush. The interview included a jab at candidate Donald Trump and could have easily been a segment on his Comedy Central show.

Tom Dougherty is President and CEO of Stealing Share, Inc., a company that provides corporate branding, marketing strategy and brand positioning.

“To make a rebrand work, whether we’re talking about a TV personality or a company, you must align yourself with the most emotionally intensive trigger that captivates your audience,” wrote Dougherty.

He added that in order for “Colbert to keep his current fan base while in a state of change and attract new fans, he must represent something that is more important than what he presented before.”

Even though many audiences appreciate Colbert’s talent and humor, his future career could still be harmed if he fails to rebrand himself quickly.

Should Stephen Colbert have undergone a more drastic rebranding before becoming the host of The Late Show? What could be the strategy behind carrying his alter-ego into the future?

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3 Responses to Colbert Re-Channeling Late Night Persona

  1. Johana Soto says:

    I feel like it shouldn’t be such an important thing for Colbert to rebrand himself because it is his humor and it works fairly well with The Late Show. There isn’t much of a difference between the content of The Colbert Show and the content in The Late Show. I do believe that Colbert will have to change a bit, due to the fact that there is more of a variety of things that are shown and promoted and if he wants to succeed he will need the adjust to it but it will happen progressively. If he were to just do a complete 180 change, he might lose some of his audience and some people might not even like the new Colbert. He is possibly just slowly easing people in to the transition because having the show alone not have David Letterman is a big change so having someone who is so loved such as Stephen Colbert be a completely different person might be too major of a change.

  2. Ashley Incardone says:

    Loved reading this post – very thoughtful and expressed so well. I feel that his loyalty to his original brand is important. While he is hosting a different show, it is his persona and built character, or alter ego, that won over the love of the public and put him in his current role. People want to see the Colbert they know and love, and he doesn’t want to become a different person, as this would cause confusion for the audience. Colbert knows his audience and has a very clear following; he stands for a message that people felt aligned with the message of The Late Show.

    The only adaptation I feel may be appropriate for Colbert would be to learn to moderate political issues unbiasedly – or start making fun of every side of the issue. On his previous show, he was identified on one-side of the political spectrum. In this new show, he needs to find a more independent way of addressing issues – while still projecting his sense of humor and reliability to the audience.

  3. Margaret Staniforth says:

    Thanks for your perspective Ashley and Johana. It sounds like you both see opportunity for Colbert to continue to grow his original brand on the tonight show. I’ll be interested to see how his character and The Late Show evolve over time.

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