Oscars 2014: Business lessons from Ellen DeGeneres

It was Hollywood’s night of nights, as stars flocked to the Dolby Theatre for the 86th Academy Awards.

Australia’s Cate Blanchett took home the award for Best Actress for her performance in Blue Jasmine, while Matthew McConaughey was voted Best Actor for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club and 12 Years a Slave was awarded Best Picture.

Hosting the night was actress and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres who entertained the crowd by cracking jokes, ordering pizza and taking selfies.

DeGeneres is well known as a stand-up comedian and host and executive producer of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, as well as starring in popular sitcom Ellen between 1994 and 1998.

She has built a loyal following of fans, has also been a commercial spokeswoman for a number of brands and has an estimated net worth of $56 million.

A personal branding expert, here are three business lessons from DeGeneres:

1. The power of social media

You may not know which movie won Best Foreign Language Film (it was The Great Beauty) but chances are you’ve seen DeGeneres’s selfie from the night.

In the middle of hosting the awards, DeGeneres sent what’s become the most retweeted tweet in history. The tweet was a picture of herself with some of the night’s stars including Jennifer Lawrence, Brad Pitt and Bradley Cooper.

The tweet took only 35 minutes to surpass the previous record held by Barack Obama and created a surge of traffic to Twitter which knocked out the service for a few minutes.

The photo has currently been retweeted more than 3 million times.

The Oscars audience and the world-alike were completely unaware yesterday, but it turns out the move could have been a marketing stunt.

According to The Sydney Morning Heraldthe fine print revealed it was posted “via Twitter for Android” and the photo was taken on a Samsung Galaxy, which was an official sponsor of the event.

2. Celebrity endorsement

Anyone who has ever watched The Ellen DeGeneres Show will know DeGeneres regularly hands out Ellen merchandise to celebrities who appear on the program.

It is generally custom-made for the celebrity and it will feature a large, prominent photo of DeGeneres.

The merchandise comes in practically any form, from t-shirts to baby pyjamas and underpants and regularly piggy-backs on special events like the Super Bowl.

This year at the Oscars, De Generes handed out pizzas to the front row, giving a local pizza company an incredible celebrity endorsement.

3. Clear values

After coming out as a lesbian in 1997, DeGeneres’s career took a hit – she was deserted by advertisers, constantly pursued by the tabloids and experienced depression.

But when DeGeneres was cast as the voice of Dory in Finding Nemo her fortunes began to shift and now she’s become a well-known advocate for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender rights.

DeGeneres has been a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign’s Coming Out Project and a member of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

Her openness and support for the community has gained her many loyal fans, regardless of their sexual orientation.

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