If you aren't living in a cave in Afghanistan you undoubtedly have seen the news about Oprah and the author of A Million Little Pieces, James Frey. Oprah recommended the memoir as part of her book club. Later it came out that much of the book was fabricated. Oprah has recently called James Frey to task face to face on TV.
So what's the big deal?
Oprah is not only a person, but Oprah is a brand. Her brand is worth somewhere in the range of a billion dollars. Anything that carries the name Oprah on it influences millions of people worldwide.
When Oprah's name appears on a magazine,or a book she's lending her name, worth a billion dollars. If it turns out that something she puts her name on is not up to par - it can tarnish the trust people have in that brand. It can effect people's decision to buy Oprah branded products later.
Truly Oprah's recent on-air confrontation with James Frey might be referred to as "damage control". After Oprah defended Frey on the phone live on the Larry King show, the grits hit the fan. I'm sure the people that advise her knew that she was at risk of losing people who lost faith in her book recommendations.
I personally believe that Oprah's confrontation and direct handling of this will build even more trust with those that already love her. I have written before about confirmation bias. People will look at evidence that confirms their beliefs as being more valid.
Right now Oprah.com has information about the James Frey controversy front and center. This is a good strategy. Put it out front and deal with it head on - most people trust that.
You brand is about two things. 1. The explicit and implicit promises you make to your customers. 2. The assumptions your customers make about you. If people assume that you are untrustworthy - they are not going to do business with you.
Branding is not just some high-concept fluffery that consultants get to charge millions of dollars for. Branding is very important and, when done well, operates at the very core of people's psychology. It's about creating associations in people's minds that make them want to buy from you.
Last year Procter & Gamble bought Gillette for $57 billion dollars becoming the largest manufacturer of household goods in the world. Did Procter & Gamble buy Gillette because they couldn't figure out how to make razors? No. They did it because the combined companies control over 22 brands that generate over a billion dollars a year, as well as many smaller brands.
P&G now controls Tide, Pampers, Duracell, Gillette razors and lots of stuff people worldwide use every day. Their business is not making stuff. Their business is creating, positioning, and profiting from brands. They are a branding machine like no other on Earth.
As a small business owner, it may seem that Oprah and P&G are so big they have nothing to do with you. However, you can learn valuable branding lessons from both.
J D Moore - Marketing Comet