Features: What’s Your Carpool Karaoke?

Features: What’s Your Carpool Karaoke?

by Tracy Johnson

James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke is a feature on his television talk show. You may not know the name of his show (The Late Late Show). In fact, you probably don’t because most people don’t. Most don’t even know Carpool Karaoke is part of a show. They think it is a show.

The point is that you may have never heard of Corden if it weren’t for this signature feature. It’s a mini-brand that’s taken on a life of its own. It’s become so popular that Apple bought it and has released it as a series on iTunes. And now that there have been billions of views, I think we can declare it a success.

Carpool Karaoke is a great feature. It’s not all Corden does, but it’s what the producers want him to be known for. That’s why it’s the first thing people think of when his name is mentioned. Branded features work.

So how can radio personalities find that one thing that can be a version of their own Carpool Karaoke?

First, understand that features are a powerful attraction for all shows, but especially for new and developing shows. Personalities in the Familiarity Stage of the Personality Success Path, features need a one thing to advance to the Growth Stage.

Value of Features

Listeners become familiar with personalities first because of the things they do. It’s a path to becoming loyal fans.

A great feature is a Cume magnet that attracts listeners to a specific time for a specific reason. This allows the audience can get to know the talent.

Features also add structure, which helps listeners know how to use a show. This helps with consistency while developing a relationship with the audience.

Features On Radio

Most shows have at least a couple of features, but most aren’t popular enough to attract an audience. Entertainment News is great and has value. But I’m talking about big, powerful features that listeners look forward to and tune in at specific times to hear.

We’ve seen dozens of research projects where listeners get excited when asked about a popular feature. In dial tests, the audience responds immediately when it comes on. They recognize it, look forward to it and often react positively even before the content begins.

See the response in this dial-test chart for a feature called What Are You Doing At The Courthouse? The green line represents those listeners familiar with the show. The wavy white line is the total audience and the blue line is the station’s cume, but not fans. The solid white line indicates the average score of all content in this research project.

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Notice how the green line rockets to the top as soon as the feature’s introduction comes on. They are familiar with it and look forward to it even before it starts. That’s the sign of a strong brand.

Dial research results provided by Strategic Solutions Research.

By the way, this also gives us information that shows the feature should be heavily promoted. If more listeners knew about it, this could be a driving force for the entire show.

Every show needs a feature or two like this.

How Many Features?

As with most things, the answer to this question varies. There’s no single right or wrong answer. Much depends on the nature of the show and the relationship with the audience.

Some clients that rocket to #1 on the strength of just one great feature. Focused execution of the concept of The One Thing works.

That feature isn’t be the ONLY thing any more than James Corden only does Carpool Karaoke. Yet, a single-minded focus to make one feature famous will improve the odds of success.

After one feature is established and popular, another can be introduced. But remember: It’s not how many features are on, but how strong each feature is.

Focus on developing one great mini-brand. When it’s established, consider another.

How to Create a Feature

The best way to find a feature is to start with the vision for the show’s brand and the personalities on it.

Is it to probe relationship issues? Are you experts on pop culture? Start there.

Then, identify character traits. Are you funny? Edgy? Sentimental? Sincere? Patriotic? These traits factor into possible feature solutions.

Now match personality to a feature. For example, if the show is all about pop culture, don’t do Hollywood News once or twice a morning. Do it every hour, and build in teases and mini-features in other parts of the hour. Make it famous.

If a character is edgy and always taking risks, prank calls may be right. For shows that love stories about relationships, Second Date Update or Love em Or Leave em may be a fit.

Commit To it

Finally, make a commitment to make each feature great. Then execute with enthusiasm every single time.

That sounds like obvious advice, but it’s one of the hardest things to maintain over time. Radio personalities get bored with the feature and soon invest less effort.

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A great feature is like a hit song. Led Zepplin has to play Stairway To Heaven in every concert or the audience is disappointed. A Rolling Stones concert wouldn’t be the same if Mick was tired of performing Satisfaction, and just skipped it.

Country legend Johnny Cash learned the value of playing his hits.

I went through a period that I didn’t want to sing my old songs again. Finally, I decided that I was really cheating the audience, and myself. I started singing all the old songs with gust and lust like I loved them. Those songs, they’re a part of me. They’re an extension of me when I get in front of that microphone.
Those “old songs”? They’re features. Make the commitment and play them with gust and lust, just like Johnny Cash.


James Corden would not be a celebrity were it not for Carpool Karaoke. That one thing has vaulted him into a position to be a celebrity. Good for him.

And good for you for capitalizing on the same concept to become a more prominent personality because of features.

Don’t fear the feature. Embrace, develop, curate, and promote them. Those hits are the fastest path to becoming the radio celebrity you want to be.


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