Master in Decision Making and Innovation

Hi Gaians!

Now that the deadline of the Personal Branding activity has passed, it’s time to give you some feedback regarding this activity, so you will be able to find out how you should have completed it and what aspects should have taken into account in your analysis.

Throughout this activity, we wanted you to understand the development over time of an enduring personal brand, to evaluate the flexibility of a personal brand- how many different categories the brand can occupy yet still retain authenticity and to explore the importance of timing in extending or transitioning a brand.

These teaching objectives should have been achieved through two parts: In the first part you should have answered five reflective questions about the Oprah Winfrey’s story and in the second part you should have filled out the canvas model provided, completing the Personal Brand Culture analysis from the point of view of two different profiles based on her target market.

The first five questions had the objectives that you searched for information about the Oprah Winfrey’s story, reflected on it and analysed how her brand has transitioned into new categories as a strategy for sustainability and competitive proofing. In this part, the students should have identified how Oprah Winfrey’s brand has broken barriers for a Black American woman, detailing some of her brand values (transparency, self-esteem, perseverance, self-improvement, determination, leadership, positivism…) and how she has focused on the defence of black community rights transitioning into her fight against poverty and protection of children’s rights.

We also wanted in this part that the students mentioned some relevant facts about Oprah Winfrey’s story that enabled her to evolve and reinvent herself, such as her talk show role, her role as an actress in the Steven Spielberg’s film, producer, the creation of Oprah’s Angel Network, the foundation of the Oprah’s Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, her support for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, the creation of her own channel and so on. These details and facts are a good indication for us that the students have done good research and have been able to identify the most important facts of Oprah’s life that have allowed her brand extension.

The students should also have reflected on how well her brand story has transformed through her career by mentioning how her decisions have helped her to expand her brand in gradual steps and connect with more people every time. At this point, we wanted the students to have talked about how she can extend her brand (e.g. enhancing younger generations) and have identified some stages of her life where she has extended her brand and the students explained why these changes made sense. For instance, when the decision of creating the Oprah’s Leadership Academy for Girls, which was in line with her values, identity and story, made sense because she managed to connect with her audience and make her brand stronger in a moment when people wanted to see more about Oprah.

Therefore, at the beginning of the the activity the students should be able to define the different categories that Oprah’s brand has occupied in her story and conclude how her brand has been able to evolve gradually at the correct moments, connecting with more people, always being in line with her values and her “unique selling point”. Transitioning a brand in gradual steps is likely to be more successful than leaping from one radical reinvention to another, at least in terms of bringing along an existing audience while trying to cultivate a new one. This is what Oprah was able to do!

Once the students have analyzed the Oprah Winfrey story and the main facts that have characterized her life, the students had all the information to identify the success factors that have typically been tied to one or more of the several categories Oprah’s brand occupies, including television, media producer, actress and so on. At this point, the student could have mentioned the Oprah’s role as:

  • An empowered black woman.
  • Her ability to break barriers as a Black American woman.
  • Her adaptability as a career woman (moving from former host to chairwoman and CEO of Harpo Productions, for example)
  • Her ability to connect with various audiences.
  • Her drive and discipline (hard-working, self-confidence, self-improvement,
  • Empathy.
  • Learn from failures.
  • Her courage (perseverance, self-esteem, positivism…)
  • Communication and leadership skills.
  • Humility, transparency and honesty.
  • Collaborative spirit and charity.


Regarding the risk in personal branding, the students should have raised the positive and negative aspects of connecting the person to a brand, for instance:


Therefore, you need to have a clear idea of who you are, what you do, what you want to become, so your message should be perceived correctly for your target audience.

At the point of the personal brand culture analysis, we wanted our students to identify the brand elements that have broader appeal beyond any single demographic group.

During this exercise, some students have described Oprah Winfrey as courageous, strong, positive, fearless, friendly and talkative  (“Who is she”); as a celebrity, an actress, TV presenter and a breaker of barriers (“What is she”); as someone to emulate, a role model or someone women felt they could become (“ What do you think or feel about her”); and as someone motivational or who feels like a close friend (“What kind of Relationship do you have with her”).

As you could have seen, all these characteristics are correct and in line with what she wants to transmit and communicate about herself, showing clarity, constancy and coherence.  

But, what made the Oprah Winfrey’s story meaningful? In this question, most of the students mentioned that although she faced difficult situations from childhood, she was able to overcome them and become what she is now.

Her ability to overcome adversity turned her into a role model for many kinds of women (diverse in race, background and body type). This fact has also helped her to establish strong emotional connectivity with her audience and has given authenticity and credibility that reinforces the strength of her brand.

Considering all the information that we have collected about Oprah’s life, finally the students should have identified some of the brand essence components, which are universal aspects of Oprah’s brand. At this point, they should have talked about her persistence, drive, high self- esteem, hard working, courage, generosity and empathy, for instance.

With this last point we have done a complete analysis of Oprah’s life and we have seen how her brand has extended into different categories showing clarity, consistency and coherence with her values. We have also seen how transitioning a brand in gradual steps is likely to be more successful than leaping from one radical invention to another.

In the Oprah Winfrey case, she has managed to develop her brand over time maintaining authenticity, which is an essential component in personal branding.

I hope this feedback has shown you what we expected from you in this activity.

Johanna Arias

Academic Tutor



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