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Oprah: The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned About Branding

Nov 06, 2015 Marie Davis

Oprah Winfrey used to insist she was not a brand, until she realized what a brand really was, the talk-show host and media mogul told an audience of thousands at theQuickBooks Connect 2015 conference Tuesday.

The change came after an interaction with a woman at a grocery store who told Winfrey that watching her show had convinced her to stop hitting her child. The first time she listened to one of Winfrey’s lectures on the evils of physical punishment, she said, her reaction was, well, Winfrey didn’t have kids. What did she know about how to discipline them? But by the third time the woman heard Winfrey, she decided to try not to hit her child for a week. Then she tried it for another week.

Then she stopped beating her child for good. She told Winfrey, “You were consistent.” Hearing that, the concept of branding clicked for the talk show host.

“That to me is the definition of what a brand is,” she said. “That’s when I shifted.”

For Winfrey, being a brand is not only about being consistent but about being true to your intentions as well. Over time with her talk shows, she started asking guests what their intentions were in appearing on the show, and she would tell them what her intentions were in hosting them.

When a couple came on to talk about their 16-year-old daughter, who had been murdered by her boyfriend, they told the host that they wanted the audience to know their daughter’s life was bigger than her tragic death.

Winfrey took that into consideration, but also told the couple, “My intention is to exploit your daughter’s life for those in same situation and hiding it, letting them know they have a way out.”

Intention plays a key role in effective branding. A florist might have the intention of simply selling flowers, or of selling creativity, or of selling passion. The manifestation of that intention becomes the brand identity of the florist to consumers and beyond.

“Your true work on earth is what you’ve been called to do in some way or another,” said Winfrey. “Your fullest, highest expression comes, obviously, when you do what you love.”

Not everyone thinks doing what you love and following your passion are effective business strategies. Winfrey views the approaches from a particular perspective. To her, running a business is about more than day-to-day operations or profits — though she maintains that when she developed a strategy that more clearly aligned with her values, her national talk show grew in popularity dramatically.

“Your business is an energetic force in the world,” she said.

 

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