Monday, September 13, 2010

Oprah's Marketing 101 Class

This morning, Oprah kicked off her last season as talk show diva extraordinaire.  Love her, hate her, read salacious gossip about her, she knows how to captivate an audience.  Regardless of your personal feelings, her longevity really can't be denied.  After all, Oprah toppled Phil Donahue, my mother's 1970s talk show hero and, at one time, a beacon of daytime TV.  Remember Rolonda, Ricki Lake, Jenny Jones???  All relegated to the dustbin of talk show history.

Which is why today I scheduled my daily futile battle with the elliptical at 9am local time to see what she had in store for us.  There I was, captive to the elliptical with my iPod at the ready.  As the minutes wore on, I forgot all about it.

My friends, today was Marketing 101 presented in all of its captivating glory.  The show opened with her and John Travolta.  She surprised a circle of Boston area women with a road trip to Chicago based on the one she took with BFF Gayle King.  Oprah surprised a manly fan with a personal invitation to the show via NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson.

And the fun continued: Oprah announced she was taking all of them with her to Australia.  Yes.  Australia.  An 8 day trip complete with side trips to wine country, Great Barrier Reef, Sydney shopping and a special Oprah show at the famous opera house.  Here's the clip...  watch the audience go bonkers:

So why am I, sharing this and calling it Marketing 101?  Because she just gets it.  Oprah understands that engagement and buzz are shared in concentric circles.  She understands that both engagement and buzz come from the unexpected, the unthinkable and the creative.  She understands that to be distinctive, to make a mark and to get people to talk about you is to make connections in ways that are meaningful and special to others.  Proof: the news hit the airwaves and here I am typing away about it.

Oprah understands that for longer term relationship building and loyalty, you have to find new ways to "surprise and delight" your clients, or her audience in this case, to keep the magic alive.  I can hear some of you scoffing and suggesting that it's the unlimited money that creates these over the top surprises.  To that I say...  Duh.

To that I also say that it does not absolve us from getting at the basic point by understanding scale.  What Oprah has done can be scaled down.  And to suggest that it can't be done along with an unwillingness to listen suggest that we have no imagination.

There are numerous free/close to free ways to surprise and delight customers.  Send a handwritten thank you card, give them a Starbucks gift card, remember their favorite brand/product and let them know when a new shipment is in...  the list is endless.  These are activities we can do very easily and quickly that generates engagement and buzz that can travel in concentric circles.  Let's not use money as an excuse for not generating buzz.

Oprah made every single one of her audience feel special and lucky today.  We absolutely have that same capacity to make our customers feel special and lucky, too.  So why aren't we doing it?  I'll leave it for you to ponder.


Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef


  1. Back-end software is not conducive to making customers feel "special and lucky" - but your message is true, so let's see what the subconscious comes up with that we can produce and provide that'll create engagement. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Publius... And the mistake we make is to rely too much on software to create authentic experiences. :)