Thursday, October 22, 2009

McDonald's Hispanic Marketing Case Study

Laura Peck & Antoinette Francis

Comm 497B

October 22, 2009

McDonald's Hispanic Marketing Case Study

According to the McDonald's Web site, in 1940 Dick and Mac McDonald opened a restaurant in San Bernardino, Calf. called McDonald's Bar-B-Que. It was a drive-thru and offered car hop service. In 1948, the restaurant was shut down for renovations and reopened with a smaller menu. This consisted of hamburgers and cheese burgers, potato chips, pie and beverages like soft drinks, milk, coffee. At the time, a hamburger cost 15 cents. The french fries and milkshakes were added a year later in 1949. The famous founder, Ray Kroc, visits the McDonald's restaurant and learns that the owners are looking for a nationwide franchising agent. He gives up his job as a multimixer salesman and joins the McDonald team, turning it into the largest fast food restaurant chain in the world. The first McDonald's restaurant opened in Des Plaines, Illinois in 1955. The first day sales on April 15 were $316.12 (McDonald's History). "In 1961, Kroc bought out the McDonald brothers for $2.7 million" (McDonald's Corporation). And by 1965 there were over 700 restaurants, The current McDonald's mission is to "be our customers' favorite place and way to eat." Our worldwide operations have been aligned around a global strategy called the Plan to Win centering on the five basics of an exceptional customer experience – People, Products, Place, Price and Promotion. We are committed to improving our operations and enhancing our customers' experience (McDonald's History).

McDonald's is a publicly traded company (NYSE: MCD) and according to Hoover's "nearly 80% of the restaurants are run by franchisees or affiliates." (McDonald's Corporation). Some of McDonald's competitors include Burger King, Wendy's, Subway, Chick-Fli-A and YUM! restaurants international which runs A&W, KFC, Long John Siver's, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell. According to Hoover's, McDonald's leads the industry in annual sales ($23,522.4 million), employees (400,000) and market cap ($64,149 million). It also leads the industry in gross profit margin (37.55%) and net profit margin (26.87%) (McDonald's Corporation). It is able to stay ahead by offering consistent quality food products at it's franchises, no matter the location. It is also always developing new menu items. It's most recent the Southern-style chicken biscuit in breakfast and sandwich form and it's widely publicized and advertised McCafé (McDonald's Corporation). Unlike other industries, quick-service companies are thriving. According to McDonald's most recent quarterly earnings press release, there was a "10% increase over the Company's previous quarterly dividend rate and brings the total quarterly dividend payout to about $600 million" (McDonald's Raises Quarterly Cash Dividend By 10%).

One of psychological competition facing the quick-service restaurant industry is the criticism of large obese population in the U.S. It is especially true of the value meals which provide extra large portion sizes of unhealthy foods. The nutritional value of quick-service restaurant food have sparked campaigns and legal action. According to New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, On January 22, 2008, the Board of Health approved an amendment to the Health Code that requires certain food service establishments (FSEs) to post calorie information prominently on menu boards and menus (Calorie Posting Regulations). Other criticize of McDonald's occurred after the documentary Supersize Me was released in 2004. The documentary involves filmmaker Morgan Spurlock and his quest to eat nothing but McDonald's for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a month. He has to eat everything on the menu once and has to supersize his meal anytime he is asked. His health is documented and tracked and the results are astonishing. The documentary does not paint McDonald's or the quick-service restaurant industry in a good light (Super Size Me (2004)). One of the biggest outcries was about the soc-economical reasons behind the combination of inexpensive fast food and the obesity rates among people below the poverty line. This is especially prevalent among two targeted publics, Hispanic and black populations, who have a pre-disposition to obesity and heart disease. "McDonald's continues to be a target for critics who charge the company's food lacks nutritional value and may be contributing to increasing rates of obesity, especially among children. In response, McDonald's has introduced healthier menu items and shifted its marketing towards children to show a more active Ronald McDonald" (McDonald's Corporation).

McDonald's provides fast-food products and friendly service to consumers. According to Hoovers, McDonald's is a part of the fast food and quick-service industry (McDonald's Corporation). It was one of the first of it's kind and led the way for other fast food franchising chains like Burger King and Wendy's. And have influenced it's competitors with innovating ideas like the dollar menu. McDonald's is also making strides when it comes to incorporating a diverse workforce. According to McDonald', "more than 55% of [its] headquarters and U.S. company workforce are members of a racial or ethnic minority, and approximately 61% are women. More than 40% of [its] U.S. owner/operators and an even higher percentage of the people in training to become owner/operators are minorities and women." They also "purchase more than $4 billion a year in food and paper products from U.S. minority and women-owned businesses." Because of their diversity initiatives, McDonald's has been awarded a number of awards including Among Top 50 Places for Hispanic Women to work in 2004 by Latina Style, Among 50 Best Companies for Minorities in 2003 by the National Hispanic Corporate Council and Top Company for Hispanics in 2005 by Hispanic Business Magazine (People). Furthermore, "McDonald's Hispanic franchisees, when combined, represent the largest single Hispanic business in the country" (Diversity).

Furthermore, with the Hispanic population growing in size, McDonald's has focused some of it's marketing towards the ethnic group with the campaign "Me Encanta." It is the literal Spanish translation of McDonald's global slogan, "I'm Lovin' It." According the VPE Public Relations, the Hispanic specializing pr agency that works with McDonald's, "In 2004, the country’s estimated 40 million Hispanics are spending nearly $700 billion on goods and services. If this country’s Latinos were a nation, its gross domestic product (GDP) would rank ninth in the world, just below Canada. By 2008, researchers predict that Hispanics’ buying power will be about $1 trillion per year, representing an astounding growth rate of over 450 percent since 1990. Latinos are the largest and youngest ethnic minority group in the United States. By 2050, one of every four Americans will be Hispanic, a number that will exceed 100 million" (Hispanic Snapshot).

According to VPE Public Relations' Web site, "since 1992, VPE has played an instrumental role in strengthening McDonald's standing as the favorite quick-service restaurant of Hispanic families. VPE works hand-in-hand with the company's Communications and Marketing departments to adapt national initiatives in a meaningful way to the Hispanic market. Examples of successfully executed assignments include national concert tours for artists like Enrique Iglesias, Alejandro Fernandez and Molotov; major events like Fiesta Broadway and Calle Ocho; national promotions like Monopoly and Happy Meals; corporate responsibility initiatives like Go Active!; and sporting events such as World Cup, Olympics and All-American basketball. VPE has also worked closely with Ronald McDonald House Charities in establishing its HACER Scholarship Program as the country's largest serving Hispanic high school students" (McDonald's). Alma DDB, an integrated advertising agency specializing in the Hispanic market is also working on the Me Encanta campaign since 1994. According to Alma DDB Communications Manager, Olimpia Del Boccio, they "managed all the communications in terms of advertising and image for the Hispanic Market." The agency has produced many things for McDonald's including TV, print, radio and interactive ads. These campaigns and advertisements have won a number of awards including National Gold, District Silver, Local Silver and Local Gold at Addy Awards. They have also won Silver at the Best of Ad Age, Gold at Ad Age Hispanic, Gold at CRESTA and more (Awards).

One of their services including the entire "Me Encanta" Web site. The Web site is easy to navigate and is in both Spanish and English. Some of the videos however, such as the Tips from Missael Espinoza, from the Mexico Soccer team in only in Spanish and does not contain any subtitles unlike the rest of the videos. The links are relevant and sort the information into four categories: Your Music, Scholarships, Mexican National Team and Latin Pride. The Scholarships tab is the only one that leads to a bigger Web site designed to inform Hispanic students and parents about college and applying for scholarships. The Web site is only for consumer use.

McDonald's slogan or campaign theme of "Me Encanta" is clever and shows that although McDonald's is marketing towards Hispanics, the population is still part of the general population. Sometimes campaigns designed around a certain racial or ethical group will distinguish their differences instead of their strengths, morals and values. The public members (the Hispanic community) will relate to the theme and will enjoy that their material is available in both English and Spanish.Some of the video clips are available in Spanish and then in an accented English. McDonald's also uses the phrase "Mi Lado Latino" which means My Latino Side. This campaign is to promote Latino pride by providing consumers with computer wallpapers, t-shirt iron-ons, stencils, etc. with both the slogan and the McDonald's logo. While the idea is great, there isn't anything behind the campaign. There should be some information about Hispanic organizations, National Hispanic Month and things people could be proud about rather than just brand placement.

From a media standpoint, there isn't any links talking about what McDonald's is doing through its Hispanic marketing (Me Encanta). Surprisingly, the media center at McDonald' did not contain a general McDonald's press kit including a fact sheet or a backgrounder. The only material was pertaining to specific campaigns. And does not have that many press releases and none dealing with Hispanic marketing and campaign programs. It did have information on it's African-American Campaign 365Black and their work for Black History month. There were nothing about Hispanic History Month or the Me Encanta campaign (Electronic Press Kits Archive). The news releases that were found about "Me Encanta" were hosted on Web sites like and were pertaining to scholarships giving to Hispanic students. The majority of these documents concentrated on who received the money and how much money McDonald's had donated so far. There were also a number about college workshops being hosted in a number of high schools across the country. The documents concentrated on the scholarships rather than the restaurant (McDonald's Hispanic news on However, on the general McDonald's Web site there is an electronic press kit for the entire McCafé campaign, and includes an fact sheet in Spanish (McCafé Perks Up Coffee Lovers Coast-To-Coast).

McDonald's also does not release information about their planning or marketing procedures. Attempts were made to contact representatives via phone calls and twitter and both times we were directed to the McDonald's Web site. The contact us student section states, "If you cannot find the information you are looking for on our website, then the information is either not available or it is considered proprietary/confidential. As such, we would not be able to answer your questions. And it went one to say "oftentimes, students ask very specific questions about McDonald's sales, business strategies and product information. However, due to the highly competitive nature of the quick-service restaurant industry, we simply cannot respond to questions of this nature" (Contact Us: Students). Contacting a representative from VPE Public Relations was also unsuccessful and as previously stated Alma DDB would only tell us what type of work they do for McDonald's. Therefore it is hard to find what particular planning measures that were taken prior to the launch. It is hard to know what type of research was conducted prior to the launch of the "Me Encanta" or "McCafé" campaign. However, because McDonald's is working with an agency and firm who specialize in the Hispanic market, it is general "Me Encanta" advertisement, which are merely the normal ads translated into Spanish. Having the English version of the Hispanic advertising spoken with a Spanish English accent was good move because it shows that many Hispanics speak English and that you don't have to just market only Spanish. It also shows that there are more to Hispanic culture than just the language (McCafé - Your search). And it is estimated that McDonald's McCafé campaign "is expected to receive an outpouring of more than $100 million fanned out across TV, print, radio, outdoor, Internet, events, PR and sampling" (Allison, Melissa). For the execution of the general McCafé campaign, McDonald's offered "Mocha Mondays" where they would give free samples of either their Iced Mocha or Hot Mocha beverage (McDonald's(R) Anticipates Giving Away an Estimated 10 Million Samples). They were also hosting a contest "McCafé Your Day" during the launch of the product, in including a grand prize of a $50,000 Visa gift cards (Perking Up This May, McCafé). Without information provided by McDonald's or the agency/firm, it is hard to tell if any evaluation was conducted after the launch to see if it was a success within the Hispanic markets. However, McDonald's is up for Ad Age's Marketer of the Year and received a lot of press on it's big McCafé advertising push (Vote for Ad Age's 2009 Marketer of the Year).

Overall the "McCafé" campaign was well planned and executed. Some of the strengths of the campaign was that it had it's own interactive Web site in Spanish and English just for the Hispanic market and was able to play off their cultural and societal values. It also created advertising in both Spanish and Spanish accented English just for the Hispanic Market. Some of the weaknesses was that there didn't seem like a lot of articles picking up on the specialized and specific Hispanic marketing initiatives that McDonald's. And other than the Web site or advertising McDonald's didn't appear to have particular promotions or contests involving the McCafé in the Hispanic community. It would have been a good idea to have McCafé sponsor events or concerts centering around the Hispanic community. An opportunity for McDonald's is their upcoming sponsorship of the 2009 Latin Grammy's concert tour. They would have given out free samples and information at these events across the country. A threat for McDonald's is the importance that coffee and espresso products play in Hispanic culture. McDonald's is truly trying to bring society awareness that a fast food company can provide coffee products at low prices without compromising the quality. Strategies and tactics that work well with this audience is making things family and music orientated and quality at a low price. McDonald's does this through it's McCafé section on Me Encanta, where it plays a Latin "Café" song and talks about the quality ingredients that goes into the product (McCafé - Home). Also by creating McCafé coffee shop it is promoting an atmosphere were the entire family can enjoy McCafé products.

Competitors in the quick-serve food industry are also jumping on the Hispanic marketing bandwagon. Burger King is "putting ads in such publications as Poder and Hispanic Enterprise" (Del Valle, Elena). According to the Director of MultiCultural Marketing for BKC, Alexandra Galindez, "Burger King Corp. is committed to engaging Hispanic consumers in a meaningful and relevant way" (Burger King). Burger King's main Hispanic campaign is "Futbol Kingdom" an interactive Web site with games and information about their "Futbol Kingdom" city tour (Futbol Kingdom). However, Burger King has made some "offensive" advertising for the European market, including one depicting a "little bit" Mexican man wearing the Mexican flag and promoting the Texican Burger. (Mexico protests Europe Burger King Texican Whopper advertisement's use of Mexican flag). Another quick-service food industry competitor is Wendy's. However, their site offered even less than Burger King's even though it references Vidal Partners for handling their Hispanic advertising (News). At the top right hand corner you could change the Web site from US English to US Espanol. However, this just translated the already present material and cut down on some of it's content. It removed the news & offers, ads and about us sections (Wendy's). Out of the three quick-service restaurants, McDonald's definitely not only had the most available for Hispanics when it came to advertising and interactive Web sites but also researched the market so not to offend the Hispanic market and community. Neither Wendy's nor Burger King had Hispanic oriented social media. Although they both had a general twitter (@theBKlounge, @therealwendys) and a facebook pages. This is the same as McDonald's (@McDonald's) and perhaps a spanish-only assumed that not much research had to be conducted for this particular campaign and that the agency/firm were familiar with Hispanic culture, society and values. As for the tactics, the goal of the campaign is to increase awareness and sales of McDonald's new coffee line, McCafé. And furthermore, to create positive attitudes of Hispanic consumers towards fast food coffee and espresso products. For the "Me Encanta" and "McCafé," McDonald's hosts interactive Spanish-English Web sites. According to the Alama DBB Web site, "Hispanics have a cultural relationship with coffee; they can sense when it isn't fresh or when it's been watered down. They trust their senses and know when something is real because they can see it, feel it, hear it, smell it and taste it. That's why our ideas was to take consumers to experience McCafé coffees with their 5 senses. We createdé, a site with a great variety of activities that give consumers a space to interact with the product while stimulating their senses, using their webcam, microphone, headphones, mouse and keyboard" (McCafé).

Also the advertising for McCafé are made specially for Hispanics compared to the

facebook and twitter account will be soon implemented by the fast-food giants.

McDonald's currently has a website specifically tailored to the Hispanic community in both English and Spanish: On this website, viewers will see a colorful display with interactive features to keep them enticed. Within that website, viewers will find a page for the McDonald's "McCafé." It also has an interactive display with Hispanic-styled music; the website is in both English and Spanish.
Through McDonald's Electronic Press Kit for their McCafé, viewers will see their mission statement, stating, "McDonald's McCafé espresso-based coffees are available nationwide, giving consumers a variety of customizable beverages that can be enjoyed any time of the day, as morning pick-me-ups or indulgent afternoon treats... McDonald's McCafé beverages include espresso-based coffees such as cappuccinos, lattes, mochas, iced lattes, and iced mochas, as well as hot and ices Premium Roast brewed coffees and hot chocolate." (“McDonald’s Electronic Press Kit.”) On this website, there are press releases, and promotional images and videos, specific to McCafé. The images they place on this site, not only include the product, but the images are of where the products are from with photographs of coffee farms and coffee beans. This goes to show consumers and the media that McDonald's McCafés are fresh and natural.

Upon entering the Hispanic McCafé website (, viewers will be first see the eye-catching layout and then hear the McCafé music, modeled from Hispanic beats. The lyrics to the short music bit repeats: "cafe, caliente, soloso, my cafe," translated to coffee, hot, alone, my coffee. As the view moves throughout the site, they will experience all 5 senses of the McCafé: touch, taste, hear, smell and sight. The first link will bring the viewer to an interactive page where they can "touch" coffee beans by playing around on their keyboard. The second link will bring the viewers to another interactive page that explores the "taste" sense by putting the viewers face within the coffee's reflection. The third link will bring the viewers to a music bit that explores the "hearing" sense through aromatic sounds of brewing, pouring, and drinking coffee. The next and fourth links will bring viewers to a page that allows them to play with coffee foam, which represents the "smell" sense. The final and fifth link that explores the "sight" sense will bring the viewer to two commercials for the McCafé.
In "The Seattle Times" article, "McDonald's outspends Starbucks 4:1 on new ad campaign, reporter Melissa Allison describes how McDonald's is bringing in heavy competition for Starbuck Coffee Company. She says, "Now Starbucks is trying harder, with a brand campaign that launched this week as McDonald's begins an ad blitz for its espresso drinks, which have been rolling out for years but finally reached more than 11,000 stores." ("Coffee City McDonald's outspends Starbucks 4:1 on new ad campaign Seattle Times Newspaper.") The articles says how McDonald's will probably bring in more than $100 million through this new advertising campaign, using television, print, radio, internet, events, PR and sampling means of promotion.

"It’s cornered the market on Big Macs, fries, and shakes. And now McDonald’s is riding a massive marketing campaign to make gastronomic gains in premium coffee," states "The Boston Globe" in a June 18, 2009 article. ("McDonald's gains ground on coffee rivals Dunkin', Starbucks - The Boston Globe.") Reporter Jenn Abelson describes how with the introduction of the McDonald's McCafé, there is going to be a increased competition in the coffee industry. "McDonald’s is 'like a 9,000-pound gorilla,' said Dennis Lombardi, executive vice president of food service strategies for WD Partners, a restaurant and retail design and development consultancy. "They have made a very strong push to build share with its McCafé brand and to show it is an alternative to coffeehouses.'" ("McDonald's gains ground on coffee rivals Dunkin', Starbucks - The Boston Globe.")
ABC News states, "McDonald's Corp. on Tuesday began a more than $100 million marketing campaign including TV, radio, print, online and outdoor ads for its McCafé line of espresso drinks. The drinks are now being rolled out to the chain's 14,000 U.S. locations." ("Coffee Retailers Heat up Advertising, Cut Prices - ABC News.") This article talks about the drop in prices advertising prices as the competition to advertise goes up.
In a blog on, Manny Gonzalez describes in detail the four "P" of advertising within McDonald's McCafé Campaign. He states that within the product domain, the McCafé has contributed to about 2.8% increase in McDonald's U.S. sales. He goes on to say that the cause of McDonald's success is their diverse pricing strategy. Within the place domain, what also contributes to this success is the direct relationship between franchises and corporation. Through this direct relationship, McDonald's helps franchises become well-represented ethnically, as the most prominent and successful franchisees are in LA and NY, where many Latinos reside. He then examines McCafé's promotions and concludes that McDonald's marketing is centered around the multicultural aspect. They realize that they need to be marketing to a diverse population. (
In "McDonald's Mobile Campaign Targets Hispanics," reporter Mark Walsh says that 10 million samples of the McCafé will be given away on "Mocha Mondays" "as part of its broader push behind the new McCafé coffee line." Working with a mobile ad network, McDonald's, specifically targeting the 2.3 million New York Hispanics, created a mobile text messaging system that will remind users to take part in the "Mocha Mondays," where they will receive a free 7 oz. Iced McCafé Mocha or an 8 oz. Hot McCafé Mocha. ("MediaPost Publications McDonald's Mobile Campaign Targets Hispanics 08/06/2009.")

On May 5, 2009, McDonald’s released their “McDonald’s McCafé Perks Coffee Lovers Coast-to-Coast press release. It examines the new McDonald’s McCafé beverages. In the press release, the slogan “McCafé Your Day” is introduced as well as a contest and sweepstakes where “consumers are invited to visit to submit a story and photo about why they or someone they know deserve a chance to be one of two grand prize winners, each taking home a $50,000 Visa gift card and $500.” ("McCafé Perks Up Coffee Lovers Coast-To-Coast.") The news release goes on to explain the enormous launch of the McCafé:

In 2006, McDonald’s successfully introduced Premium Roast dip coffee. In 2007, the company introduced iced Coffees to the menu and began testing the full-line of espresso-based specialty coffees in selected U.S. markets. The national introduction of McCafé marks McDonald’s largest product launch in 30 years, since the introduction of the Egg McMuffin sandwich to its national breakfast menu in 1977. ("McCafé Perks Up Coffee Lovers Coast-To-Coast.")

The July 9, 2009 press release, “McDonald’s Anticipates Giving Away an Estimated 10 Million Samples during the ‘McCafé Mocha Monday’ Nationwide Sampling Event Starting July 13,” introduces the McCafé Mocha Monday, where consumers can get free (specified) coffee each Monday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at participating restaurants from July 13 to August 3. This press release states that this is the largest sampling initiative McDonald’s has ever taken. Like in the previously-mentioned press release, this release goes over the McCafé Contest and Sweepstakes, as well as a brief overview of the McDonald’s brand coffee. (McDONALD’S® ANTICIPATES GIVING AWAY AN ESTIMATED 10 MILLION SAMPLES DURING THE “McCAFÉ® MOCHA MONDAY” NATIONWIDE SAMPLING EVENT STARTING JULY 13.)

Found on Hispanic PR Wire, a press release, “Gavina Coffee Helps Put the Accent on McDonald’s New McCafé Brand,” goes into a detailed overview of coffee supplier behind the McCafé. It talks about how a family-owned company, known as Gavina Gourmet Coffee of Los Angeles “helped formulate the company’s successful line of McCafé specialty coffee drinks recently launched on a national level.” ("Hispanic PR Wire - Gavina Coffee Helps Put the Accent on McDonald's(R) New McCafé(R) Brand.") The press release goes into a history and ends with a quote from the owner of the supplier; he says that “McDonald’s has given [the company] an opportunity to prove [themselves.]” ("Hispanic PR Wire - Gavina Coffee Helps Put the Accent on McDonald's(R) New McCafé(R) Brand.")

Overall, the media coverage seems to be similar to McDonald’s messages. There have not been any controversies around the new McCafé beverage, so there are not different in messages. All the media coverage seems to center around how McDonald’s is new competition for other coffee brands and how McDonald’s has invested so much into their McCafé campaign. The press releases typically talk about what McCafé is and how it came to be. They also illustrate the different events to help promote the McCafé. The media seems to use this same information about the fact of McCafé in their coverage.
When compared to McDonald's competitors the brand is far ahead when it comes to Hispanic marketing but furthermore, it's outreach allows Hispanic consumers to connect on a deeper level with the brand. It shows effort to produce Hispanic oriented commercials in both Spanish and Spanish-accented English. And their Hispanic oriented Web site, Me Encanta, is impressive along with their specific product interactive Web sites. Hispanics should be proud to know that their consumer buying power is being taken seriously and that companies are specifically adjusting to meet their needs, culture, values and norms.


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Friday, April 3, 2009

The Big O: How Oprah Winfrey Built Her Brand

By: Katherine Matz and Ellen Leto

Through the use of media and an uncanny honesty, Oprah Winfrey has created a powerful brand for herself. Winfrey has been connecting with people around the world for the past two decades as supervising producer and host of the award-winning The Oprah Winfrey Show. Her accomplishments as a global media leader and philanthropist have established her as one of the most respected and admired public figures today (Oprah Winfrey’s Biography). Winfrey does not simply befriend her viewers, according to Jennifer Harris and Elwood Watson; she “transforms them into loyal consumers.”

Situation Analysis

Influenced by Barbara Walters on the Today Show, Winfrey began her media career in high school, when she worked at WVOL radio in Nashville. At the age of 19, she became the youngest person and the first African-American woman to anchor the news at Nashville's WTVF-TV (Oprah Winfrey’s Biography). At times, Winfrey struggled with the detached nature of news reporting and was criticized by her colleagues for being too emotional (Famous Entrepreneurs). Next, she moved to Baltimore to co-anchor the six o’clock newscast on WJZ-TV and was later appointed co-host of the station’s People Are Talking morning show. This program helped Oprah to find her niche. She said, “I felt comfortable. I felt like I could be myself. All of those years I was on the news, I was always acting” (Koehn and Helms). Unfortunately, her bosses at WJZ-TV wanted her to change everything about her appearance, which was traumatic for her.

In 1984, Winfrey’s charismatic broadcasting style attracted the attention of Chicago’s ABC affiliate station, WLS-TV, and she was invited to host its half-hour morning show that had been struggling to maintain viewership against The Phil Donahue Show, an extremely popular, nationally syndicated program. (Koehn and Helms). Dennis Swanson, vice president and general manager of the station was not concerned with her appearance—he let Oprah be Oprah. With Winfrey as the host, AM Chicago became the number one local talk show just one month after she began. Due to the positive and progressive results of having Winfrey, the show expanded to one hour and was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show. In 1986 it became the highest-rated talk show in television history and entered national syndication (Oprah Winfrey’s Biography).

Her success, as a woman and a minority, is a testimony to her innovative hosting style. At the time, the roughly 30-year-old talk show industry was dominated by The Phil Donahue Show. Donahue established the “sympathetic model” of talk shows: rather than entertain, the host consoled and educated guests about previously private issues. However, Donahue did not possess the relatable nature that Winfrey exudes. Winfrey opened herself up to her viewers, and, in turn, her viewers followed suit (Harris and Watson). Though Winfrey was never expected to out-perform Donahue (she was hired only to marginally improve the ratings numbers for AM Chicago), her viewership exceeded Donahue’s by nearly 2-to-1 within two months of her arrival (Koehn and Helms).

Winfrey realized early that because of her swiftly mounting success she would need an agent to manage contracts and offers and hired Chicago entertainment lawyer Jeffrey Jacobs to represent her (Koehn and Helms). According to Patricia Sellers, while Dennis Swanson, WLS-TV, taught Winfrey to be herself, Jacobs convinced her that she could run an empire. An important part of this empire was the eventual ownership of her company.

Due to Federal Communications Commission regulations, WLS-TV, an affiliate of ABC, could not distribute the program to non-affiliates. So by July 1985, after The Oprah Winfrey Show received offers from several national syndicators, King World was finally chosen for distribution. Jacobs negotiated a deal in which King World was required to obtain distribution rights from both WLS and Winfrey. By the first day of syndicated distribution, an unprecedented 138 local stations had purchased rights to her show (Koehn and Helms).

That same year, Winfrey played the role of Sofia in the motion picture The Color Purple, sparking an interest in production. In May 1986, she established Harpo, Inc. The company was established to oversee publicity for her show, answer fan mail, and manage developing projects, including purchasing the rights to Toni Morrison’s novel, Beloved (Koehn and Helms). Jacobs was given a 5 percent share of the company. Three years later, when he was named president of Harpo, Inc., he was given 5 percent more (Sellers).

With the help of Jacobs, Winfrey negotiated effective deals with King World and ABC, and Harpo, Inc. was able to claim a substantial portion of the shows profits. WLS-TV gave up its ownership after a short time, and with each renewal of King World’s distribution agreement, its share decreased (Koehn and Helms). By late 1988, an estimated 11 million viewers in the United States watched The Oprah Winfrey Show each day, and licensing fees for local stations brought Harpo, Inc. around $100 million. Harpo’s current president, Tim Bennentt, says that this period “was a seminal moment when Oprah took control of herself. And by taking control, she opened up the door to getting the lion’s share of the profits for the show” (Koehn and Helms).

King World and Harpo, Inc. continued to negotiate distribution deals for The Oprah Winfrey Show for about a decade. With each contract, King World’s share of the program’s revenues decrease and Winfrey’s share of King World and licensing fees increased. In 2002, King World relinquished its remaining portion of the show and full ownership was given to Harpo, Inc. At this point, annual revenues from The Oprah Winfrey Show were nearly $300 million, and Winfrey’s net worth exceeded $1 billion (Koehn and Helms).


Winfrey is a multimedia mogul who has produced film and television programs and launched the most successful magazine start-up in history. Everything flows from her talk show, which she has used as a platform for sharing her struggles. She also uses her show to build a deep, personal connection with her audience, most of whom feel her values and aspirations reflect theirs. Winfrey has built her brand around her desire to build, produce and promote worthwhile projects. Her book club has become a key marketing force in the publishing industry, and it promotes undiscovered authors. In building an empire, she has become admired as an example of what a woman can do if she sets her mind to it (Montoya, 91).

Winfrey uses personal experiences, candidly revealing her vulnerabilities, to reach her viewers on an emotional level. Called rapport talk by Time magazine, this uniquely intimate approach of “personal dialogue, confession and compassion” was ground-breaking and her viewers connected with Oprah as they would with the closest of friends. The trust that developed between Winfrey and her viewers set a solid foundation for brand development.

Beginning in the 1992-1993 television seasons, Oprah decided that she wanted to distinguish her program from other daytime talk shows by moving away from sensational topics. She wanted to be known to have a talk show that is more responsible, and would be a benefit and not belittle people. Oprah’s mission became to help her viewers live better lives through self-improvement and self-awareness. Although the show still had episodes where Oprah interviewed celebrities, it focused more on issues of personal importance. According to its official mission statement, Harpo’s goal was “to be a catalyst for transformation in people’s lives, to help them see themselves more clearly and to make the best choices they can using stories, real people’s experiences, information and ideas. Our intention is to create moments in which people can connect to the truest sense of themselves and build from there.”

Self-help books were popular for decades before reaching a peak in the late 20th century. For consumers seeking guidance or inspiration, these books were an easily accessible, affordable and anonymous way to seek personal advice. In the 1980s, Oprah recognized self-help material as a theme for daytime television. Oprah was an active participant on her show and sometimes referred to her own experiences with sexual abuse and food addiction.

In the mid 1990s, as many talk shows focused on self-help topics, The Oprah Winfrey Show introduced a personal growth theme known as “Live Your Best Life.” Winfrey inspired her viewers into action by focusing on physical and mental health, spirituality and self-fulfillment. Her audience was encouraged to exercise, meditate, read and volunteer, and Oprah persuaded them to take control of their lives and appreciate themselves. Her viewers came to associate personal growth less with the self-help authors who appeared on the show and more with Oprah herself. She added a segment called “Remembering Your Spirit,” which featured real life inspirational stories. All of this aided in the creation of a base for Oprah’s unique brand of self-help thinking.


Harpo, Inc., responsible for the production of Winfrey’s program after its separation from WLS-TV, bought a $15 million space to convert into a studio in 1988 (Famous Entrepreneurs). Harpo Studios was designed to accommodate both The Oprah Winfrey Show and other large-scale projects. There, Harpo Fims, Inc. has produced made-for-TV film projects based on classic and contemporary literature, including Tuesdays with Morrie, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and For One More Day. Many of her productions are award-winning. Harpo Studios has also created theater-released films like Beloved and The Great Debaters, which received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture (Oprah Winfrey’s Biography).

The show is seen by an estimated 44 million viewers a week in the United States and is broadcast internationally in 144 countries (Oprah Winfrey’s Biography). Besides The Oprah Winfrey Show, Harpo Productions Inc. has created Dr. Phil, a syndicated daytime talk show, partnered with Rachael Ray in hosting a daily talk-show and created its first primetime series, Oprah's Big Give.

Beside TV producer, Winfrey is a magazine founder and editorial director. Winfrey, along with the help of Hearst Magazines, introduced O, The Oprah Magazine, in April 2000. O is a monthly women's lifestyle publication. It is credited as being the most successful magazine launch in recent history and currently has a circulation of 2.3 million readers each month (Oprah Winfrey’s Biography). Winfrey has also launched international editions of O in South Africa, extending her message to a broader audience. Today, Winfrey uses her Web site,, to provide resources related to The Oprah Winfrey Show and O, The Oprah Magazine. Her site offers advice to Women on everything from the mind, body and spirit to food, home and relationships. averages more than 6.7 million users per month (Oprah Winfrey’s Biography).

The website also includes Oprah's Book Club, which began in 1996. Every year Winfrey chooses works of fiction that she finds interesting and invites the authors on her show. Viewers have the opportunity to join Oprah's Book Club online. There are approximately 1 million members who are offered in-depth study guides, and expert Q & As (Oprah Winfrey’s Biography).

Winfrey also launched a satellite radio channel in 2006. The channel features original daily programming from Harpo Radio, Inc., which includes segments hosted by people from The Oprah Winfrey Show and O, The Oprah Magazine. She also has a 30-minute weekly radio show, Oprah's Soul Series (Oprah Winfrey’s Biography).

Winfrey has used the media to turn herself into a global brand; however, one of the key aspects that has developed her brand is her role as philanthropist. She is a big believer in education, and through her charity, The Oprah Winfrey Foundation, she has supported the education and empowerment of women, children and families from around the world, especially those who have no means (Oprah Winfrey’s Biography.) On The Oprah Winfrey Show, Winfrey encouraged viewers to use their lives to make a difference in the lives of others. One specific show led to the creation of the public charity Oprah's Angel Network in 1998. Oprah's Angel Network has raised more than $80 million, with 100 percent of audience donations going to nonprofit organizations across the globe (Oprah Winfrey’s Biography).

All of Winfrey’s projects have been deemed credible due to her brand. The Oprah brand has been developed over many years, and she has taken careful steps to maintain her brand.


Winfrey went from talk show host to the most powerful woman in America. This evolution occurred as she slowly transformed from Oprah the person to Oprah the brand. Personal Branding is the art of attracting and keeping followers by actively shaping public perception ( It is possible for public figures to control the way they are perceived. Winfrey realized early that talent alone would not take her to the top of her field, so she created and promoted her unique personal brand (

Three components make up the heart of every personal brand: 1) Emotional impact, 2) Repetition and 3)Time (Montoya, 44). Emotional impact determines how someone feels about a person causing them to make a decision about their opinion on that person. A good personal brand triggers strong, positive responses in the people in its domain: confidence, admiration, fondness, trust and fascination (Montoya, 45). Winfrey triggered these emotions in her audience by sharing honest and true personal stories and struggles. A brand also must remain consistent to create an image in the minds of the audience. The best way to accomplish this is repeated exposure to the same brand message. Winfrey used multiple channels to get her message across including television, radio and magazine. Personal branding also takes time. You can’t create strong perceptions overnight. Winfrey’s show has had 23 seasons.

When in the spotlight, everything affects your personal brand including the way you talk and dress, your education, where you’re from, your spouse, car, friends, presentation skills and how well you follow through on your promises (Montoya, 36).

The key to personal branding success is defining yourself instead of letting others define you ( Winfrey struggled in the beginning of her television career with negative perceptions of her image. She was seen as an overweight woman minority, which was unlike most typical television personalities. Her bosses at her first major television job in Baltimore wanted her to change her hair, lips, nose and other aspects of her appearance. She was quick to turn these potential flaws into the basis of her brand by sharing her personal struggles with the public.

It is possible to shape the public’s perception by defining strengths, values, goals and personality and presenting yourself in a compelling, persuasive manner ( Winfrey constantly and consistently expressed herself and what she stood for to everyone she met. Winfrey’s ability to relate to her guests, passion for her subject matter, and willingness to be emotionally open on camera quickly made her known as a distinct persona in the talk show genre. In the image-driven world of television, Winfrey was candid about her flaws and vulnerabilities, one being her lifelong struggle to lose weight.

According to marketing and branding specialist, Peter Montoya, there are eight laws of personal branding: the laws of specialization, leadership, personality, distinctiveness, visibility, unity, persistence and goodwill. When Winfrey was developing her brand it seems that she was aware of these branding principles. Winfrey’s brand coincides with all of the Eight Laws of Personal Branding.

The Law of Specialization has to do with a brand being precise and concentrating on a single strength, talent or achievement. The concentration can focus in on many different areas including ability, behavior, lifestyle, mission, product, profession or service ( Winfrey applied the Law of Specialization by differentiating herself from other talk-show hosts with positivism, ambition and an honest desire to create meaningful projects (Montoya, 92).

The Law of Leadership states that in order for a brand to have authority and credibility, the source must be perceived as a leader by their audience. Leadership stems from excellence, position or recognition ( Winfrey used The Law of Leadership to make herself a mogul through hard work and a strong vision. She has become a voice of power and control in entertainment, media and publishing (Montoya, 92).

A great personal brand must be built upon the source's true personality including their flaws, according to the Law of Personality ( Winfrey applied the Law of Personality by openly sharing her struggles, hopes and emotions with her audience (Montoya, 92).

The Law of Distinctiveness states that a personal brand must stand out against its competition ( With the Law of Distinctiveness, Winfrey set herself apart from the dramatic and extreme talk show hosts. She chose to be a positive force, a promoter of unknown talent and an advocate for women (Montoya, 92).

In order to be successful, a brand also must be seen again and again, until it is imprinted in the minds of the audience. This is the Law of Visibility. This continual visibility leads to an assumption of quality because people assume if they see something all the time it must be better than other offers ( Winfrey’s brand applies to the Law of Visibility by having a daily talk show, a magazine, movies, a radio station, national tours and philanthropic work.

The Law of Unity has to do with the private person behind the brand compared to the public brand. The two identities must be one in the same with regards to morals and behavioral code. Private conduct must coincide with the public brand ( It is clear that Winfrey has applied the Law of Unity to her brand due to the lack of personal scandals that have emerged (Montoya, 92).

The Law of Persistence states that a personal brand takes time to develop. The process can be accelerated but never replaced by advertising and public relations ( The Law of Persistence is exhibited by Winfrey’s consistent message to “live your best life.”

Finally, a personal brand will be more productive and last longer if the private person is perceived positively according to the Law of Goodwill ( Winfrey’s adherence to the Law of Goodwill can be seen in the amount she has given back to society through her charity organizations.

Beyond the eight principles, another key aspect of branding is control. In the unique case of her brand, Winfrey is the actual content herself not just the content creator. Given that Winfrey’s life is the essence of her brand, it is not surprising that she has been reluctant to cede control of her brand. Winfrey has not licensed her name for the use on products or taken her company public. She also keeps tight control over her employees, who could essentially affect her brand. Everyone who works at Harpo must sign a lifelong confidentiality agreement.


Winfrey’s strategy in building her brand was clearly a success. The Oprah Winfrey Show has remained the number one talk show for 22 consecutive seasons. It is seen by an estimated 44 million viewers a week in the United States and is broadcast internationally in 144 countries. Winfrey and The Oprah Winfrey Show have received more than 40 Daytime Emmy Awards. Her magazine currently has a circulation of 2.3 million readers each month and has international editions. Winfrey is considered one of the most influential women in the world. She has won numerous awards for her business and humanitarian accomplishments. Due to her tight control of her brand and message content, Winfrey’s message to “Live Your Best Life” has remained consistent with her ideals. A list of honors includes:


· Time Magazine—100 Most Influential People in the World

· The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity—2007 Humanitarian Award


· Time Magazine—100 Most Influential People in the World

· The New York Public Library—Library Lion 2006


· National Civil Rights Museum—2005 National Freedom Award

· National Association for the Advancement of Colored People—Hall of Fame

· Time Magazine—100 Most Influential People in the World

· International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences—2005 International Emmy Founders Award


· United Nations Association of the United States of America—Global Humanitarian Action Award

· National Association of Broadcasters—Distinguished Service Award

· Time Magazine —100 Most Influential People in the World


· Association of American Publishers—AAP Honors Award


· 54th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards—Bob Hope Humanitarian Award

· Broadcasting & Cable—Hall of Fame


· National Book Foundation—50th Anniversary Gold Medal


· National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences—Lifetime Achievement Award

· Time Magazine —100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century


· Newsweek—Most Important Person in Books and Media

· TV Guide —Television Performer of the Year


· International Radio & Television Society Foundation—Gold Medal Award

· George Foster Peabody Awards—1995 Individual Achievement Award