Oprah Winfrey NetworkThis month’s BMA Chicago luncheon featured Harriet Seitler, CMO of OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network). With over 15 years of experience managing brand reputation and revenue growth, Harriet helped guide the decades-long success of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” launched key brand extensions and brand-positioning campaigns, and oversees all marketing and social media strategies for OWN and other Oprah brand–related businesses. She launched some of the most successful promotions in “Oprah Show” history, including the famous car giveaway, Oprah’s ChristmasKindness Tour and Oprah’s Australian Adventure. She has helped develop and build Oprah.com, key strategic sponsor partnerships and Oprah’s far-reaching social media platforms. Harriet is behind one of America’s most compelling success stories in branding, brand reputation and marketing, and she continues to write new chapters today.

At the luncheon, Harriet discussed two main topics: change and content. The marketing process will not remain constant, with rapidly and constantly changing technology becoming the main tool for both marketers and sales processes. Harriet says that, as top-performing marketers, we must be willing to adapt to changing circumstances and be able to “change the game plan on a dime.” She also explained that her consumers’ behaviors are incredibly different today from three years ago, and in today’s content marketing–based world, “marketing is content and content is marketing.”

Marketing Launches Done Two Ways

Drawing on her real-world experience at OWN, Harriet compared two different launch campaigns. She explained how change and content created vast dissimilarities in how these two marketing strategies were prepared and executed.

The first case demonstrated an old-school way of doing things: partnering with one company to push a brand via one form of mass media (in this case, TV). Using her powerful platform on network TV, Oprah partnered with Target during her final talk show episode in 2011 to promote the company’s grassroots initiative of renovating school libraries. Their method of marketing was simple and straightforward. Target provided all the resources to execute the library renovations. For her part, Oprah gave a direct “Thank you, Target!” shoutout during the show, as well as other editorial pieces for press purposes.

The second case was for a new show on OWN, called “Greenleaf.” OWN’s partners for this campaign were extensive, including mass telecom companies, local TV stations and social media channels, as well as social influencers who live the lifestyle OWN is trying to push and who have enough followers to provide significant exposure for the network.

Know Your Audience

Here, Harriet discussed how much more complex and important it is to have multiple touch points. As a marketer, it is critical to know your audience: where they are and how to reach them before, during and after their interactions with your brand. Segments exist within these audiences, and those segments must be identified and treated differently. You must be able to refine what they experience after they’ve performed a specific set of behaviors that correlate with their lifestyles. And to make a lasting impression, you must circle back around to have multiple touch points with them again.

The biggest asset you can have is content. In this case, Harriet’s team decided to interview different cast members from “Greenleaf” and have them discuss their roles in the series. This resulted in an extensive amount of footage that could be edited time and time again for promotional purposes on various social platforms. Facebook, which began as a small social campaign with less than 1% of the team’s marketing budget, became the core function with a 15% increase in budget. This allowed Harriet and her team to test out various creative ideas and to identify their consumers’ behaviors after she saw significant traffic from that social platform.

Adaptability and content rule the day, but the unspoken gem in all Harriet had to offer lies in what underpins all that she shared. The insights that pushed Oprah’s marketing team to evolve and grow came out of the gathering, refining and analyzing of…yes, you guessed it…data. With access to the right data, marketers are perfectly positioned to respond to change, grow with their audiences and create branding success stories of their own.