What Oprah Taught Us About Celebrity Endorsements

Oprah Today is it - the Oprah Winfrey Show finale!

I’ve been watching Oprah for as long as I can remember. With an afternoon timeslot it’s hard to catch her live, but when I finally gave into the world of DVR (I don’t know what took me so long!) Oprah was my first recording.

For 25 years, Oprah has changed the lives of people overnight. Her endorsements – through Oprah’s Book Club and the Oprah’s “Favorite Things” show – transformed unknown authors and companies into household names. When Oprah likes a product, it’s a blessing for the companies she touches, but through the years companies have learned to prepare for the immediate surge in website traffic and sales to reap the benefits.

A perfect example is Centerville Pie Co., a Cape Cod company that was featured twice on the "Favorite Things" show (they sell the best chicken pot pie you’ll ever eat). After the show aired, the company expanded production and now sells the pies through Harry & David. Oprah was not paid to promote Centerville Pie Co. She likes the chicken pot pie and simply wants other people to know about it.

This got me thinking about celebrity endorsements. I found an interesting CBC poll that asked readers if a product has more appeal if a celebrity endorses it. Contradicting Oprah’s endorsement success over the years, 84% of respondents (643 people) said an endorsement does not help make a product more appealing. I agree to a certain extent. I don’t want to drink Smart Water just because Jennifer Aniston endorses it.

Here’s the difference between Aniston and Oprah: the endorsement has to be real (without a partnership and without money on the table) to generate the most impact. The celebrity endorsement should also make sense, if it’s forced, it’s not worth the effort.

Oprah’s influence will live on long after her time on TV. I’m excited to see what she does next!

Contributed by Jena Coletti. Follow her @jmcoletti