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OWNership: Oprah’s New Cable Network Brand

By Mark Skoultchi

November 9, 2010

A few weeks ago there was a brouhaha over the launch of Oprah’s new cable network logo. The critics claimed it was too juvenile and that it looked like something a child drew with primary-colored crayons. A majority of respondents in the Huffington Post survey deemed it an “eyesore.”

Indeed, the logo is a bit simplistic and could serve as the neon signage for a Toys ‘R Us competitor. But that’s as much as I’ll say about the graphic identity — I’ll leave that debate up to the visual experts.

Let’s talk about the name for a second: The Oprah Winfrey Network, or OWN.

At first I was ready to hate it. “Oh sure, Oprah’s just reminding us that she owns everything in sight.” Some have even argued that she handpicked the President in 2008, cementing her ownership stake in America. But then I started to dig around the site a little bit, and I realized the true branding potential of this name.

The network has done a great job of turning the “ownership” message into one about the viewer’s ownership, not Oprah’s. It promotes itself as being a network for the people, by the, well, by Oprah. Nonetheless, the message is very clear that this will be an entire cable channel filled with stories and shows about real people, just like Oprah’s talk show. But now instead of an hour per day, we get Oprah and her real-people stories 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Some of the clever ways that Oprah has used the “own” message include:

  • It’s your life. OWN it.
  • Finding OWN in your area.
  • Your OWN channel.
  • Our OWN makeover
  • “From submitting video questions to Ask Oprah’s All-Stars, to creating Your OWN Channel we invite you to dive in and make it your OWN!”
  • There’s even a TV show planned for the channel called Your Own Show!

I’m happy that Oprah didn’t just name it the Oprah Network or simply O like her magazine. Adding a layer of meaning is always a good thing, but especially when it’s a message that resonates with your target audience. I wonder how far she’ll extend the viewer ownership theme. We know she’s in the habit of giving audience members cars and vacations. Will she give OWN viewers their own shows? Or will some of her shows travel from town to town, home to home, awarding people their very own cable TV show, a la Publisher’s Clearinghouse?

The possibilities are limitless, but alas Oprah’s bank account is not (quite). Of course, if the personal ownership theme is overdone it could get hokey. But we’re certain that Oprah owns, er… employs some of the best branding people in the biz. So we have no fear that the OWN brand will be launched, managed, and extended brilliantly.

What about you? What’s your own personal opinion of Oprah’s new brand name? Masterpiece or eyesore?

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