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4 Marketing Lessons from Oprah

Photo courtesy of hang_in_there via Flickr.

After 25 years, Oprah’s influence remains unparalleled. She has the ability to turn everything she touches in to gold. From a marketing perspective, Oprah is the jackpot. If she mentions your product, expect to see an increase in sales. However, if Oprah criticizes your product, it just might have the potential to take you down.

This week marks a turning point for Oprah. She’s ending her long-running, multi-award winning TV show and beginning a new chapter at The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). As she signs off today, consider the lessons we have learned from her.

Communicate –  The Oprah Show is the longest running daytime television talk show in the U.S. There is no doubt that Oprah knows how to communicate with her guests and her audience.  She attempts to “make the connection” every afternoon on TV, and also through Oprah’s Book ClubO, the Oprah Magazine; and her philanthropic efforts worldwide.

Marketing takeaway: Create customer-centric campaigns where your audience feels connected to the brand. Tell your audience what you’re doing and invite them to get involved.

Be honest and transparent – Oprah stayed true to herself and was honest to her audience through ups and downs. She also held her guests to this rule as well. Remember when she called out James Frey on his memoir, A Million Little Pieces? Her embarrassment at the dishonesty marked her as a transparent person intent on honesty.  In marketing, that is not an easy feat.

Marketing takeaway: Honesty is the best policy. Create a memorable brand experience by being genuine, human and transparent. Today’s social media channels demand authenticity and being transparent is something you can’t ignore. Brands make mistakes, but failure comes from not admitting those mistakes.

Humility is Key – Oprah has always been brave about connecting her private story to her public work.  She has shared her constant struggle with weight and her sometimes troubled past. These are some of the characteristics that make her human or “one of us.” One of my favorites is Oprah’s Hair Through the Years, where she shamelessly shares her do’s and don’ts!!  She also is famous for giving gifts to her audience, and those gifts have ranged from the extravagant (diamonds, cars) to the bizarre (Sparkle Uggs, herb rub?!).

Marketing takeaway: Show personality and your willingness to listen to what your audience has to say. Let your audience know that there is a personality behind your brand. Also, thank your customers and fans for their support. Offer perks or surprise gifts for customers to show your appreciation. Conduct surveys to ask for input and demonstrate how that feedback is reflected in business changes.

Don’t give away the secret too earlyOprah’s Live Final “Secret Show” was finally revealed on Wednesday. Up until then, no one knew who her final guest was going to be. Was it going to be a celebrity or newsmaker? Turns out, it was Ms. Winfrey herself.

Marketing takeaway: When you think about creating buzz for your company, give a date when you will make an announcement. Also, give yourself enough time to generate buzz and look into ways you can satisfy your audience’s craving to create more word-of-mouth buzz.

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