After 4,560 shows, the queen of daytime television said goodbye to her legions of raving fans this week. Her last moments on television were marked by surprise appearances by throngs of celebrities, including Tom Hanks, Jamie Foxx, Maria Shriver, and dozens mores. Nielson ratings virtually exploded for her last episode, which generated over 18 million viewers. Few other personalities have ever received such fanfare for an exit, which got us thinking: how do you build a brand like Oprah?
Here’s a few takeaways tips you can learn from Oprah’s international success:
1. Give back to your fans. Like any great brand, Oprah has made her fans feel valued. In her “Oprah’s Favorite Things” segment, Winfrey has given away everything from camcorders, to croissants, to cars. A good lesson to businesses that an unexpected surprise for your customers can go a long way to gaining loyalty.
2. Take risks and get attention. In 1988, Winfrey invited a group of neo-Nazis from California to Chicago to appear on her show. Although Winfrey later said she regretted the controversial decision, the move vaunted her into the national spotlight and showed her viewers that she was not afraid to take risks.
3. Explore new verticals. Winfrey started her career in 1983 with a gig hosting Chicago’s low-rated WLS-TV’s half-hour morning talk show, AM Chicago. Since then, Oprah has scaled her business into new media verticals including her eponymous TV show, O: The Oprah Magazine (which launched in 2000), the OWN television network (founded in 2011), as well as apps for both her magazine and TV show.
4. Reveal your personal story. Some companies put up a shield to hide the entrepreneur from the brand: not Oprah. The talk show host has made a number of very personal revelations, most notably that she was sexually assaulted when she was nine. Though not every entrepreneur needs to share their entire life story, the message is clear: transparency between you and your business offers a sense of trust to your customers.
5. Get celebrities on your side. Besides the Oscars, few events have generated the number of celebrity appearances than Oprah’s surprise farewell. Part of Oprah’s ability to generate support from celebrities has been her tell-it-like-is style of interviewing on her show. “You have given me love, support, wisdom and, most of all, the truth,” Maria Shriver told Oprah during the farewell episode.
6. Become an influencer. Time magazine talked with Craig Garthwaite, a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and a bona fide Oprah expert, about Oprah’s success at marketing. And just how big is her influence? “For example, the novel Anna Karenina sold 11,648 units in the 12 weeks before inclusion in the Book Club,” Garthwaite says. “In the 12 weeks following inclusion, Anna Karenina sold 643,122 units—a staggering increase of 5,421 percent.”
7. Know when to quit. After 25 years, Oprah finally decided it was time to call it quits to focus on her television network, OWN. The message is clear enough for entrepreneurs: don’t be afraid to end on a high note.