Much like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and other newsmakers before him, Lance Armstrong opted to tell his story to Oprah Winfrey. The interview averaged 3.2 million total viewers in its premiere telecast and achieved new heights for the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). In the wake of Armstrong’s tell-all, there are three crystallized marketing insights that we can all learn from:
1. The power of trial in behavior change. The inflection point in the success of Winfrey’s OWN channel could easily be this high-profile interview. Many of the most loyal Oprah Winfrey fans (myself included) have not watched a single show on OWN since the big move. This interview gave the many un-budging loyalists a compelling reason to try. In addition, as all good marketers know, the period when buyers (in this case, viewers) have the highest receptivity to cross-sell efforts is shortly after first purchase. Very smart that OWN ran ads for other interesting upcoming shows; have to admit I’m likely to now try another.
2. The power of believing in and living your brand. While Armstrong was downing performance-enhancing drugs and partaking in blood doping, he clearly believed it was not only just, but also necessary. Putting right or wrong aside, many of us never believed (for too long) what his detractors were saying, in part because Armstrong deeply believed that he was doing nothing wrong. Moreover, many were inspired by the “good” in his story: the applied passion and discipline, the repeated wins, the personal fight against and triumph over cancer, the Livestrong organization. I came away from the interview acknowledging again that the power of believing in and living a brand cannot be underestimated, that audiences can be greatly inspired by the authentic values a brand represents, but also that what people do will never cease to amaze.
3. The best market researchers interview like Oprah. Clearly well prepared with an insightful list of questions, but gifted in identifying “in the moment” the rich places to dig deeper, Winfrey revealed emotional drivers behind the decisions. One could now argue that what drove Armstrong was a long-held, deep-seated need to win, expressed with singular focus, determination and applied discipline. It will be interesting to see how this drive will play out next and if Armstrong will further strive to win in the courts of public opinion and U.S. law.
Judy Begehr is senior vice president of account planning at gyro