Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Oprah Sees Obama in Trouble?

It's safe to say that Oprah understands that her marketing authority, like political authority, is strongest when it does not even need to be actively exercised. Her decision therefore to permit (and make no mistake, no story touching Oprah/Harpo Productions gets Harpo cooperation without her tight control) stories like the one in today's Post ("The Magic Touch?
Winfrey Lends Her Brand and Her Empire in Support of Obama's Presidential Bid
") indicates that she senses that her nascent lifestyle-engineering political franchise, now under Obama's banner, is in trouble, and that she needs to up her investment or cut her losses, and has decided, for now, to double down her bets.

Oprah can mobilise a significant number of women to buy novels, and some of those novels are actually read, but there is a significant marketing difference between selling ten dollar paperbacks--visible affiliation markers, really--and turning out the vote in the primaries. It is likely that the harder Oprah pushes an agenda, rather than providing the tepid bath of "we-right-minded-women-all-feel-the-same-way-about-mean-people" self-validation in which she typically trafficks on her talkshow, the more she will fragment her following, creating a vicious cycle of polarisation and alienation which could very well reduce her to merely another product-hawker, rather than the role of numinous validator of suburban mores she currently portrays.

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