Earlier this week, I attended an afternoon tea at the Oprah retail store. It was beautiful, sort of grown-up version of Urban Outfitters though not as crowded and, of course, a little more civilized given the purpose of the gathering. I didn’t know very many people there, so while my schmoozing time was limited I did get to walk around quite a bit and take in the Oprah brand—around 900 products!
She’s got t-shirts (galore), mugs, picture frames, stationery, you name it. In one corner is Oprah’s Closet, a collection of clothes she’s worn “or treasured” that can be purchased for less than you might think. Not surprisingly, the proceeds from that particular area of the store go to Oprah’s Angel Network.
So, I walked around a few times, marveling at the brilliance of brand marketing, but mostly, and this is slightly pathetic, I know, I really liked the vegan treats from Karyn’s Raw Cafe—bread pudding, squares of chocolate that seemed to be a delicious cross between brownies and truffles (two decadent desserts that I love), and raw cookies (I should’ve taken a few home . . . ). I also loved the cupcakes from Art Smith, chef, author, and former personal chef of Oprah’s. I didn’t actually have a cupcake only because the vegan treats really filled me up. But they were gorgeous! And he was there as well to sign books. Maybe I should’ve asked him to sign a cupcake . . . And the tea—which was excellent—from Talbott Teas.
So why was I invited in the first place? The publicist there is a friend, but mostly it was because I blog and write in Chicago, which of course meant that I got to meet lots of other bloggers and writers. For me, that’s like being in a sorority house. I guess I say that since most of the people there, the bloggers anyway, were women.
So what exactly is the philosophy behind the free-standing retail store? According to the Web site, “THE OPRAH STORE is a specialty store full of merchandise that represents the style and taste Oprah celebrates and shares on The Oprah Winfrey Show and in the pages of O, The Oprah Magazine and O at Home magazine.
But back to the event and its obvious success. One of the nicest aspects of the get-together was the way people interacted. Clearly, we were there to see the products, but if you can make people comfortable while they’re looking at something, even if the something is in the background, then you’ve succeeded. While I didn’t know many people (understatement: I know the woman who organized the event and I happen to have bumped into another individual who I’d met a week or so earlier at my daughter’s sorority house; it was a big coincidence that happened to have made my experience there even more fun), but I loved watching the mini reunions occur—people who hadn’t seen one another in a while catching up, etc.
What can we learn from something like this? First, we can see how a master has branded herself. Second, we can take away some lessons on how to bring those who can publicize our clients in a way that’s sophisticated, fun, and a little different than what can become simply too comfortable.
P.S. By the way, if you’re interested in purchasing anything from the store, here’s a free shipping code good through this Friday, May 7th: OStoreTea2010.