Skip to main content Skip to local navigation

Schulich Professor Robert Kozinets on Oprah's marketing legacy

Schulich Professor Robert Kozinets on Oprah's marketing legacy

With The Oprah Winfrey Show poised to air its final segment on Wednesday, the Toronto Star examines the five overarching aspects of being Oprah May 19:

[One of them is] Marketing Maven: Authors, small business owners and President Barack Obama can attest to "The Oprah Effect". The term was coined to describe how sales of everything, from pyjamas to the classic novel Anna Karenina, skyrocket after her endorsement. Winfrey’s imprimatur is credited both with helping to sell 30 million books since the launch of her book club in 1996 and electing the first black president.Conversely, she was sued by the cattle ranchers because they claimed that her comments about never eating another burger during a segment about mad cow disease lost them $11 million in business.

“There’s never been a product placement or a PR phenomenon like Oprah before and we may not see her kind again,” said Robert Kozinets, professor of marketing at the Schulich School of Business.

“But the most remarkable part of her legacy is not the economic impact, which everyone knows; it’s the fact that she’s managed to maintain the public trust and have a widespread image of integrity. Considering the amount of product placement on her show, she didn’t ever give the impression that she was a sellout. She managed her image extremely well.”

. . .

With Winfrey only committed to appearing in about 70 hours of programming on [her new network] OWN in 2011, it remains to seen if a behind-the-scenes-role will be the best use of her expertise and energy.

Kozinets remembers Winfrey from his stint at Chicago’s Kellogg School of Management, where she taught a Dynamics of Leadership course with beau Stedman Graham in the late ’90s.

“It was a very popular class,” he recalled. “She brought in Henry Kissinger, Coretta Scott King and Jeff Bezos as guests. But she got tired of it, because she didn’t want to do her own grading and the dean insisted she grade her own papers.”

Posted by Elizabeth Monier-Williams, research communications officer, with files courtesy of YFile – York University’s daily e-bulletin.