For the first time in her epic career–one that has transcended both gender and race–Oprah Winfrey has partnered with a third party to put her name on a product. The product is Starbucks’ Teavana Oprah Chai Tea, for which she teamed up with her billionaire friend, Howard Shultz, CEO of Starbucks. Schultz has made it no secret that he wishes to conquer the global tea market, which cashes in at somewhere around $90 billion annually.
As it turns out, Oprah was already quite the tea enthusiast, and even has a tea house where she has been recreationally blending loose-leaf tea for her personal enjoyment. Because of her nearly incalculable leverage, she was able to get hands-on with the leaves, and personally helped create the chai tea by choosing the spices, and doing taste tests.
This is an interesting business move–partnering with someone who has openly declared he wants to conquer the market. Let’s explore what it means, and what you can learn from it…
Oprah’s Interpersonal Brand
There’s a lot to learn from this partnership, particularly in Oprah’s brand itself, which is one of the most brilliant stories of community-building in the history of branding itself!
Let’s start by admiring Oprah’s almost saintly ability to connect with people, with her followers, on a deep, interpersonal level. She cries with them and celebrates life with them. She is open, vulnerable and real, which is what people want these days. Her brand is as close to a fusion of one’s natural self with business philosophy as you can get. This is why people take her recommendations so seriously–she’s not marketing to them, she’s telling she thinks something will make their lives better, the same way a close friend or family member would!
While Oprah has endorsed products before–specifically the books in her book club and, of course, her powerhouse 2008 endorsement of the Amazon Kindle–she has never before specifically lent her name to a promotion.
So why now?
The Power of Collaboration
Oprah’s decision to partner with Howard is a sign of the times, but also a sign of how smart she is. Collaboration is a big trend in business right now and for obvious reasons: in a dynamic, real-time global marketplace, it’s easier to get things done when two or more entities pool their talents and resources toward a common goal in a way that is mutually beneficial.
There is actually a phrase for this movement: “collaborative economy” and the beautiful thing about it is that its adding the ‘heart’ into business.
COOPETITION Over Competition
Oprah’s collaboration with Howard is an example of Coopetition, which is basically when companies cooperate with each other to create more overall value than they would if they were competing against one another. This is a complex concept, one which deserves its own blog post for sure.
Coopetition is all about working together to create success within a movement. When companies and individual brands partner to push forward and evolve an entire industry, they all benefit vastly more from newly minted marketplaces and industry niches than they would from toiling individually and competing for slices of a smaller pie. In Oprah’s case, collaboration and coopetition ties in beautifully with her brand–she is partnering not just to push products and sell her new Teavana enterprise. By collaborating and partnering, she is more efficiently pushing forward an agenda of wellness starring one of the oldest, most trusted medicines in the history of the world: TEA!
Once again, she is communicating to her loyal followers in a deep, interpersonal way, that she believes tea is good for the soul. What better business message can you get than that?
Voice for Business Success
Allison Maslan is the CEO of Pinnacle Global Network, The World Leader in Scaling Businesses. Her new book, Scale or Fail is a Wall Street Journal Best Seller that is endorsed by Barbara Corcoran and Daymond John of Shark Tank. Allison’s built 10 successful companies starting out at age 19. Now, she and her team of CEO Mentors pay it forward helping business owners worldwide scale their company while, at the same time, create a passionate life. Allison’s been featured in Success, Fortune, Inc, Fast Company and Forbes magazines is a regular contributor to Entrepreneur magazine and a featured expert on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN across the US. She also hosts her weekly video podcast, Allie & You: The Business Success and Lifestyle Show.