What is the Oprah Effect?

The Oprah Effect refers to the boost in sales that followed an endorsement on The Oprah Winfrey Show, which aired on TV for 25 years. A recommendation from Oprah, the queen of talk shows, turned many fashion and lifestyle products into multimillion-dollar companies.

Key Takeaways

  • The Oprah Effect was a boost in sales for companies and individuals featured by Oprah Winfrey, queen of daytime talk show, on her TV program.
  • Several well-known individuals with talkshows, such as Dr. Phil and health-expert Dr. Oz, received an initial boost to their careers from Oprah.
  • It was considered powerful because of her authenticity.

Understanding the Oprah Effect

Many businesses and people who were lucky enough to appeal to Oprah Winfrey found overnight success after being promoted on her groundbreaking show—which ran from 1986 to 2011, and was the highest-rated daytime talk show in American TV history.

The Oprah Effect was especially powerful because of her authenticity. Oprah chose products she was genuinely interested in, rather than being paid to promote them. And, unlike typical celebrity endorsements, she supported independent family businesses.

Thanks to Oprah, TV personalities like psychologist Dr. Phil, health-expert Dr. Oz, and TV cook Rachael Ray have all become household names with their own TV shows. She also had a huge impact on publishing. Oprah’s Book Club promoted reading and turned books into immediate best sellers.

Today, Oprah is a billionaire and a media mogul. She launched OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, in 2011. And while her 10% investment in Weight Watchers in 2015 has proved that not everything she touches turns to gold instantly—the dieting company faces stiff competition from mobile apps and fitness trackers—she still has millions of loyal fans and high approval ratings.

Examples of Oprah Effect

While his interior design firm had been around since 1995, Nate Berkus received a major boost to his career after appearing on Oprah in 2002. Thereafter, he appeared regularly on her show and his design firm has thrived on the publicity. Oprah's production company, Harpo, also co-produced Berkus's daytime show.

The Oprah Effect was most pronounced for the publishing industry. According to available statistics, 59 books chosen by Oprah for her book club appeared on USA Today's top ten list and 29 reached the No.1 position. Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison's books are supposed to have received a bigger boost in sales from Oprah's recommendations than from winning the prize itself.