The Brand Genius of Oprah

With the news that Oprah will leave her show in 18 months, the 44 million people who tune in weekly will have to find another daytime love. The effect of The Oprah Winfrey Show on the business world is staggering. Coined the “Oprah Branding Effect,” CNBC launched an entire show last spring on how she turns no names into brand names.

Perhaps one of the most successful businesswomen ever, New York Times columnist David Carr wrote in his Nov. 22 column that “her longevity and success (Forbes estimated her net worth at over $2.3 billion) probably has more to do with what she did not do.” Carr’s examples include never taking her company public and never putting her name on merchandise.

The show may be ending, but her Harpo Productions media empire will live on through other TV shows (Dr. Phil and Rachael Ray), her book club, films, radio and her top-selling magazine.

Her ability to move ordinary people to buy and to think is unmatched. Perhaps the strongest lesson here for marketers is the power of authenticity. Whether her love life, waist line, latest read, politics or burger distaste — her transparency attracts people. And above all, she has always listened to her audience.

Can you think of a leader or celebrity even remotely close to her shoe size?