Favorites and Personal Branding

Oprah WinfreyYesterday, I happened to catch Oprah’s yearly Favorite Things show. If you’re not aware of this particular event, Oprah uses her show to highlight the items she finds particularly useful/lovely/exciting/fun. She then gives every audience member everything she identifies as a favorite.

Out of curiosity, I kept a running tally of the retail prices as supplied by Oprah. Yesterday’s total came to approximately $7,552. Yes, that’s not a typo—every audience member received over $7,000 of free gifts, courtesy of Oprah and some savvy companies, like LG, Samsung, and Williams & Sonoma to name a few. Here’s the list of everything she gave away.

FedEx also got its name mentioned more than once. It supplied transportation from Chicago to the show site in Macon, Georgia, for all the gifts. Then, FedEx employees played the role of elves, handing out the gifts to audience members.

Other syndicated shows have followed in Oprah’s footsteps, but not on her scale. For example, The View provides guests with one free gift at each show, ranging from DVDs to jewelry. However, these shows do not offer the cachet of Oprah.

Think about what Oprah’s managed to accomplish: she’s created a global brand, based on her, that companies value enough to spend thousands of dollars supporting. Although companies get the good karma juice that an Oprah mention brings, consider how much Oprah receives for “giving away” all the free gifts.

Even though Oprah clearly indicates that the favorite things are supplied by the companies themselves and not her individually, I suspect people say, “Oprah gave me…” versus, “LG gave me…” By the way, LG’s contribution was its new refrigerator with a built in TV (retail $3795), the most expensive favorite thing ever.

Oprah’s Favorite Things often end up among her highest rated shows each year. At a time when people are using DVRs, and fast-forwarding through commercials, the potential marketing power of ending up on Oprah’s show is huge with a comparatively small cost. With Black Friday less than 48 hours away, I tip my hat to Oprah and the companies who looked outside of traditional marketing, especially for that very first show, and found a format that reaches an interested audience.

What are you doing to create a powerful, personal brand?


photo courtesy of Joy Garnett


5 Responses to “Favorites and Personal Branding”

  1. November 21, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    Wow you’ve done it again. You should install a “relevance meter” widget, because I’m sure it would be registering “high” for most posts.

    I’m going to forward this to my marketing round table at work and we will then be discussing several aspects of the “Oprah method” as potential “out of the box” possibilities for 2008.

    Thanks for all the good stuff and keep it coming.

  2. November 21, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    Oprah recently declared that she’d start making personal appearances in New Hampshire and Iowa on behalf of her favorite presidential candidate, Barack Obama. I’m not sure of this, but my gut instinct is that this would have only a marginal effect on winning over voters. True, anytime a celebrity of Oprah’s magnitude appears anywhere to endorse anything, it draws attention and crowds. But I just don’t understand the thinking that voters will trust her political advice. To me, there’s almost no transferability from being a talk and lifestyle diva or guru (or whatever she is) and bread-and-butter political decisions. Not that I dislike Obama at all – he’d make a million times better president than the “resident” we’ve got now. I just don’t see how bringing Oprah in will persuade many voters.

  3. 3 Britt
    November 22, 2007 at 9:31 pm

    @ Shannon: I think you give me too much credit. I just enjoy dissecting our world. As always, thanks for the kind thoughts.

    @ Joe T.: I’m inclined to agree with you. Very few have managed to combine personal brand in pop culture with politics or vice versa. People may trust Oprah’s opinion on loving certain gadgets, but I don’t believe she has the same credibility in the political realm. I think we tend to be skeptical about celebrities and their political opinions. While some people might pay attention to Obama that didn’t before, I’m not sure even Oprah can convert that attention into votes.

  4. November 23, 2007 at 12:04 am

    I have to agree that celebrity endorsements aren’t exactly blank checks of goodwill. However, I’d also submit that, at least since the mid 20th century, celebrity can often be leveraged into political success.

    Three examples: Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Tom Osborne. Ronnie leveraged his success on the silver screen to become leader of the free world and one of America’s most popular presidents. Arnold became the “Govinator” in California after his wide recognition as the Terminator and various other roles in movies, and he announced his intentions to run for office on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Tom Osborne, the long-time and utterly successful coach of the Nebraska Cornhusker football team, turned his wide name recognition into a congressional seat, running a campaign on a shoe-string budget and beating all opponents with very little money or effort.

    These are hardly the only examples (see also Jesse Ventura, Minnesota Governor and pro wrestler; Sonny Bono, actor and can’t remember the political office; Clint Eastwood, mayor of Carmel By The Sea and actor; etc.). Is this due to our seeming constant need for entertainment and our continually decreasing attention span? Is it because we are familiar with one candidate and unfamiliar with the other? Is it a combination of the two, or something totally different?

    By the way, regarding Obama: He is coming here, to my hometown of Dunlap, Iowa, this Saturday to address the voters of Iowa at our livestock auction arena. It will, of course, be widely covered by news crews, so keep your eye on CNN for a look at where I live. I may try to attend.

  5. 5 Britt
    November 28, 2007 at 11:45 am

    @Shannon: It’s not so much a question of whether celebrities or politicians can move between the worlds. My question is more about the difficulty of maintaining credibility in the original world and establishing credibility in the new world.

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