The definitive personality brand Oprah announced today on her season preview a personal contribution of $10 million to Katrina Relief. She did not specify how her donation would be used. This is an attention getter people. It's significant and that's the point. It will get PR attention and thereby propel the both the Oprah hurricane relief efforts and the Oprah brand itself.
The Oprah brand masterfully knows her customers fans. She also announced a program through here charity to furnish "Katrina Homes." Designed like a wedding registry this allows her fan base to "shop" for household items to sponsor for Katrina Homes.
This is a potentially powerful relief fundraising model as it taps into the interest that many Oprah fans have in shopping and allows them to tell themselves a story about how their monetary contribution is being used. If you read the site carefully it includes a disclaimer saying that funds donated will be used to meet the greatest needs. While you can tell yourself that you are sponsoring x number of toasters for Katrina relief the reality may be that your funds are used differently.
I think there will be a parade of companies donating "stuff" for the Katrina homes as product placements on the Oprah show this year. The Oprah brand is a powerful entertainment/marketing force and they have found another vehicle to connect Oprah to her customer fan base and advertisers products. Without the marketing connections there isn't the money that fuels the entertainment.
Regarding Katrina relief efforts we are seeing the presentation of different stories that appeal to different world views. Paging Seth Godin. Relief fundraising is being tied to all sorts of products and celebrities. Whatever your world view or interest there's a relief effort that is tailor made for you. From environmentalists to faith based efforts. Musicians are appealing to their fans with benefits and sales donations. Soap opera TV stars do telethons. Jay Leno does his celebrity signed motorcycle thing again. Even the big charities offer a choice of story that you are contributing towards. Are you supporting the secular Red Cross or the Christian Salvation Army? Are you saving sick, scared puppies or are you volunteering your time as a medical first responder?
In a long tail world even disaster relief has fragmented into into multiple channels designed to appeal to different world views.
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