If you're Oprah Winfrey, you're worth $2.5 billion, your brand is recognized around the world, your television show is seen by over 40 million people every week, and you also publish magazines, own half of a cable channel, and so on. What do you do next?
You work on developing a relationship with your viewers. Heard that one before?
Oprah Winfrey began as one of several daytime talk-show hosts who specialized in "What I Found in My Husbands Sock Drawer Made Our Marriage A Living Hell" kind of stuff. Over the years, as her company has grown, she's branched way, way beyond that. Her tagline now is "Live Your Best Life" and her website's content includes sections on "Spirit and Self", "Mind and Body", "Food and Home" and "Beauty and Style".
Obviously, as side projects like Oprah's Book Club, which makes any author lucky enough to be selected an instant best-seller, and her Soul Series of webcasts, demonstrate, Oprah doesn't just want you to watch her on television. She wants to be part of your life.
And now, she's seemingly taken another step towards the center. She has partnered with author Eckhart Tolle to teach a ten-week online course based on Tolle's book "A New Earth". As an exercise in relationship marketing, this is absolutely fascinating.
Tolle is a German author and teacher. His website describes his teachings as follows: At
the core of the teachings lies the transformation of consciousness, a
spiritual awakening that he sees as the next step in human evolution.
An essential aspect of this awakening consists in transcending our
ego-based state of consciousness. This is a prerequisite not only for
personal happiness but also for the ending of violent conflict endemic
on our planet.
Clearly, this is not someone who simply wants to attract attention and boost ratings.
By partnering with Tolle, and helping him teach, as a marketer Oprah is doing two really interesting things. First, she's taking on and becoming involved in the most essential, basic issues and questions in her viewer's lives. As pharma marketers, we are concerned with people's health. Oprah is concerned with their spiritual development — literally, with the state of their souls. It doesn't get much more basic than that. Incidentally, there are already blog posts and videos on YouTube claiming that Oprah is the AntiChrist because of this.
Second, by using technology, particularly the Internet and Skype (viewers can, apparently, interact with Oprah and Tolle, ask questions, and so on) she is creating a highly-leveraged platform for a relationship with her viewers. There is genuine dialogue, including an online workbook for taking notes, a syllabus, and so on.
This is relationship marketing at its absolute best. It will be interesting to watch.