Brand Extension Series: OprahAugust 17, 2018 - by Taylor Getler
Few brands have seen as much success with diverse extensions as Oprah. While she herself may not be a company, her name has been attached to several brands that produce everything from magazines to mashed potatoes. As a warm public figure who is both relatable and aspirational, Oprah is able to get away with her involvement in such distinct product lines because at the core of each of them is one unified story.
Each extension of Oprah’s brand has come from some well-known factor of her public persona. For example, the women who watched Oprah’s show became invested in her point of view and the life experts that she was able to curate, which made a magazine that heavily featured self-improvement advice a seem like a natural extension. Similarly, her public battle with her weight made her a fitting face for Weight Watchers, and the success of her campaigns later allowed her to develop her own line of veggie-based comfort foods with Kraft Heinz.
In 2015, Oprah told an audience at a conference that the key to her brand success has been consistency and being true to her intentions. In effect, she was the first real celebrity influencer that the world has known, and many branding practices today that rely on spokespeople and sponsored Instagram posts can be traced to Oprah putting her powerful name behind things like books and bakeries.
Oprah’s production company, HARPO Inc., has been involved in television and film production, magazine publishing, and online media. Oprah was also one of the founders of Oxygen, a network that focuses primarily on true crime programming. O Magazine, Oprah’s monthly magazine that she developed with Hearst, is one of the most successful publications in the modern day. Oprah.com is a leading women’s lifestyle website, generating tens of millions of hits each month. It’s also the home of her book club, which is still plays a major role in books becoming bestsellers. Nearly every time she has explored a new media avenue, it has felt right – of course, she has a website; of course, she has a production company. It always fits with what she has already done before, making it easy to get people on board.
In addition to her line of soups with Kraft Heinz, Oprah’s magazine partnered with retailer Talbots on a fashion line in 2017. Oprah has long been considered a fashion icon, and women have been able to see themselves in her in ways that they have not been able to with more distant celebrities. Women are able to trust that Oprah wouldn’t let them look bad – if her name is on it, it will work.
The major lesson that brands should take away from Oprah’s success is that there is immeasurable power in having a good brand story. People have been following Oprah’s story for over 30 years, which has lead to the deep well of consumer trust that she has accessed. The public feels like they know Oprah – her struggles, her triumphs, her likes, her fears. When brands are able to develop such a story and connect with shoppers, it inspires loyalty, which is becoming increasingly difficult for brands to come by. When brands have a great story, it is also an incredible tool for pivoting into seemingly fragmented categories. No matter what endeavor a brand decides to explore, if it can somehow be connected back to their story – as Oprah has successfully demonstrated – it can be positioned in a way that makes sense for consumers.