January 7, 2016

“You get a car!” Oprah: The Content Marketing Queen

Having a loyal following of millions of people all over the world, Oprah Winfrey can teach us a thing or two about content marketing.

Oprah is one of those people whose name can conjure many things in your mind immediately. She is instantly recognizable. Her publicity stunts make headlines around the world and many believe that without her backing, Barack Obama would not have been elected to his first presidency; such is her reach into the hearts and minds of millions of people. Her television show became the highest-rated daytime talk show in history. Her empire now includes her own television network, a very successful production company, a radio show, and a magazine. Oprah’s website, www.oprah.com, averages 43 million page views, has close to 7 million members, and 6.5 million unique users per month.

Oprah’s fame, and more than that, her following, is largely due to the fact that she and her team understand content marketing and use it smartly to further her brand. With her recent speaking tour of Australia completed, we look at a few lessons content marketers can learn from Ms Winfrey during the height of her Oprah show success.


Embrace storytelling

There’s no doubt that Oprah took a genuine interest in the guests on her show; however it was when she opened up, shared her own experiences and stories that the audience felt a deeper connection. Oprah used the power of storytelling to promote messages that were ‘take-home’ lessons for her in-studio and at-home audiences. Oprah’s audiences were captivated by her; they embraced her and empathized with her. When Oprah’s fans connected with her, they also connected with her brand.

To use this same kind of approach to your business, you need to put yourself in the shoes of your customers and consider what they want to know or what questions they might have. Once you’ve done this brainstorming, it’s time to develop great content and to tell the story. You need not rely solely on written stories. Many successful businesses with already wide-reaching brand awareness like Vans, Budweiser and GoPro are using unique videos, memorable infomercials and engaging imagery to further captivate the public with their stories. Sometimes, images and videos tell an entire story more effectively than words.

Consider all the options available to you regarding how to get the message out there, but be sure to keep the story centre stage, as it’s the most important part.

Promote and support others

Once the talk show took off in the ratings, Oprah was a celebrity in her own right; along with the famous faces she had appear on the stage. Whether it was a topical discussion, new product or movie being promoted, she always made sure her guests had their time in the spotlight so that her audience and viewers could connect with them as well. Her book club, for example, would pluck a book from obscurity and turn it into a bestseller almost overnight, such was her endorsement. The titles that feature in her book club that still runs today, share messages that align with Oprah’s brand which is important for a cohesive approach.

Another famous segment from the talk show was “Oprah’s Favourite Things”. This iconic annual segment featured items or products that Oprah thought were noteworthy or would make a great gift. Many, if not all, had been tried and tested by Ms Winfrey herself. The overwhelming impact on the sales volume for the businesses whose products were featured in the segment became known as the Oprah Effect. Oprah genuinely wanted to share these items with her community, and the effect on the brand awareness of these partnered businesses was invaluable.

To translate this to your business and your content marketing, once more you need to think about your target audience and what their interests might be. In a bigger picture sense, your brand’s values may overlap with another brand (not necessarily a competitor, perhaps a community organization or charity). This may create an opportunity to partner up, endorse and support each other’s business or venture. This is not to say you shouldn’t keep an eye on your competitors, but why not explore the possibility of expanding your network by finding a like-minded brand to partner with. This will open up your audience to a community of valuable and unique content, therefore giving them an opportunity to interact, share and become ambassadors for not only your brand but that of your partners.

Everyone is a winner

You’ll be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t remember the time Oprah gave cars away to everyone in her studio audience. It was epic and is often referenced today in pop culture 11 years later.

Everyone loves to score a freebie. The high that you get when you’ve won something is addictive. Instant validation can be achieved these days in the form of push notifications. Users can get an immediate response to your posts on social channels; and many would get a kick out of it if you shared, liked or re-tweeted their interactions on your social media platforms.

The aim of your game is to get your audience’s attention. A lot of companies focus on sweepstakes or similar giveaway events with the hope that it will translate to ‘likes’ on a page. You may find, however, that the level of engagement from the followers drops once the competition or draw is over. One of the aims of content marketing is to keep the target audience participating and interested from the beginning, throughout the campaign and after the conclusion of an event. Loyalty programs are popular for a reason, and can be the winning strategy not only for product or treatment sales but also for the development of a community that is loyal to your brand.

Oprah’s ‘you get a car!’ history-making giveaway was a standout, but there were countless others throughout the talk show’s 25-year run. Oprah’s audience may have come for the freebies but they stayed for the content. The success of her ventures into publishing and production of film and television proves that Oprah’s global audience is fiercely loyal to her, even after stepping out of the daytime TV show spotlight.

The take-home message

Your content marketing needs to focus on the desires and needs of your prospective customers and target audience. During its time on air, The Oprah Winfrey Show consistently provided the audience and viewers at home with a great experience and content that could help them in everyday life. Your business and brand can do that too, and build a loyal community that is invested in your success.