This past August, I attended the New York International Gift Fair (NYIGF), which happens twice a year at the Javits Center here in NYC. The NYIGF, which I attended with a bunch of friends, is meant for creators to showcase their new housewares and gifts to buyers of stores. I’ve been going to the show for many years, and I had a client on the floor, who was selling her wares. The tradeshow floor was quite large, two full floors, about 60 aisles of “stuff,” some handmade, some which looked the same as the booth in another row, and every now and then, there was something unique and different that caught my eye.
As usual, I (and my friends) decided to walk the floor to see what else is out there and up-and-coming in the marketplace. This year’s wares were not really different than years past. What was different is where they were written up or who endorsed their products. “O” (yes, Oprah) was EVERYWHERE! I couldn’t believe how many products she put her stamp of approval on. It was almost as if every other booth had some sort of “look at me, I’ve been written up in O Magazine” (or have been featured on Oprah’s TV show) piece taped to their booth to create their own sense of credibility. And some products were virtually identical. What happened to the “specialness” or category exclusivity that the endorsement used to bring?
Don’t get me wrong, I think an endorsement by “O” herself is great, if you can (legitimately) get it (and I have), and “The Oprah Effect” has been incredibly powerful. But as I got to the end of the first floor (about 30 rows of booths), I began to wonder if Oprah really endorsed the products or if some of the businesses Photoshopped themselves a nice cardboard piece, knowing that if a potential buyer sees Oprah’s endorsement, the buyer might be more apt to make a purchase for his/her store, believing that he/she bought something that every person on earth is going to want to buy from him/her. (Clearly, it’s a psychological and marketing gimmick.)
Yes, we’re all out to make a buck and pay our rents. But do we have to make something up that isn’t necessarily true? Maybe (several of) these businesses truly had Oprah’s seal of approval (and maybe not), but there were soooooo many of them, it became hard to distinguish what products were really great and what wasn’t. Even my friends agreed with me. They didn’t want to look at another Oprah-sanctioned product. The “oooh-aaah” factor was burned out.
In fact, as soon as I got home, I posted something about my experience to my PR newsgroup to see what they had to say. The responses I received were fascinating! Most people AGREED with me that Oprah is no longer the tops in creating marketing magic. It’s the clients who are still stuck on “getting Oprah.”
About two weeks after the show, I found out that Oprah (and Dr. Oz) had filed several (40+) lawsuits against companies that were using her image without her permission to promote their products. From teeth whitening to beauty products, her name was all over these products. And I’ll bet some of them were also on the tradeshow floor.
Again, I’m not saying that it’s a negative thing to have Oprah’s approval on your client’s product, but as PR’s, let’s take a step back and see a) if it continues to work or b) if it just makes your client one more in a line of similar products. I’m beginning to think that there’s going to be a new definition for “fabulous, must-have” products but I don’t know who or where it’s going to come from...yet. Do you?
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