It pays to have good friends! Oprah Winfrey’s Instagram post promoting Duchess of Sussex’s coffee was ‘a million dollar post in free publicity’ putting Meghan and Harry on path to building a BILLION dollar brand
Oprah Winfrey’s decision to promote Meghan Markle’s new range of vegan coffee to her 19.2million Instagram followers was worth at least $1million and is probably the most valuable piece of free publicity in history, experts told MailOnline today.
PR guru Mark Borkowski told MailOnline the $28-per-pack oat-milk ‘superlattes’ are the first ‘baby steps’ towards Meghan and Harry building a billion dollar brand for themselves in the US.
It came as Meghan and Harry signed an exclusive deal with Spotify for to ‘host and produce podcasts that build community through shared experience, narratives, and values.’ It is not known how much the contract is worth but the streaming service agreed a $100m deal with comedian Joe Rogan in May.
Ms Markle’s coffee investment is the first since she and Harry emigrated to pursue a private life and seek ‘financial independence’ from the royal family in California – but is still likely to ‘raise eyebrows’ at the palace, experts claim.
The record for an advertising Instagram post was $500,000, paid to Kim Kardashian in 2015, but Mr Borkowski said Oprah’s social media video was ‘a million buck post in free publicity’ at least.
He said: ‘Having Oprah Winfrey endorse your product is the golden ticket in global advertising for any company. Oprah is also very choosy about what she promotes and for a new company to launch a new product, reaching that many people, would cost millions of dollars – and the best thing for Meghan is that in this case many people who saw it won’t feel like they are being sold something at all. Having a friend like Oprah is something money can’t buy and it will lead to the product flying off the shelves’.
Oprah, America’s biggest TV star worth $2.6bn, described the beverage on Instagram as her ‘new drink of choice’. While its maker, Californian start-up Clevr Blends, claims it brings all kinds of health benefits, is ethical, environmentally friendly and a brand that is ‘dedicated to giving a s**t’. Its packaging claims it boosts immunity, brain health and digestion while reducing stress and improving focus.
Elton John’s former publicist Gary Farrow, who represents many UK stars, has warned that despite the valuable free publicity, the Sussexes could eventually be hit with a gigantic tax bill because the authorities in the US and UK are looking to claw back some of the huge amounts of cash made by stars using the ‘Wild West’ of online influencing.
Brand experts have said that getting Oprah to promote a product is the ‘golden ticket’ for any advertiser, because she is ‘picky’ about what she promotes and has huge political influence in the US.
Mr Borkowski said that the Sussexes have been ‘clever’ in the way they are focussing on products that reflect their own passions for the environment, education and healthy living.
He said: ‘This coffee brand is the first baby steps of building their global brand. They are still in the foothills – but by focussing on America they are concentrating on the largest and most affluent advertising market in the world. And if they can become a distinct brand with authenticity, say become America’s answer to Sir David Attenborough on the environment, and build a media presence with Netflix, they will be well on the way to becoming a billion dollar brand’.
Meghan has invested in the women-led firm based in Montecito, where she, Prince Harry and their 19-month-old son Archie now live in an £11million mansion. It is understood Meghan contacted the firm, which donates 1 per cent of revenue to ‘food justice’ organisations, after trying its product. It sells the instant lattes in three other flavours – matcha, chai and coffee – at £21 for 14 servings.
PR expert Gary Farrow said: ‘I advise my clients to set aside 50 per cent of anything they make from these Instagram posts. Oprah’s post will be worth at least $500,000 and you can be sure that the tax man will be looking at it’.
He added: ‘It may be Meghan’s project but she is only able to do it because of Harry’s royal name. He’s gone full LA and lost touch with his British subjects. Does he think that people here can afford £21 for some coffee in the middle of a pandemic with 3.1million unemployed? It’s a royal p***take and the Queen should take away their titles’.
Royal commentator and former Editor of International Who’s Who, Richard Fitzwilliams said the investment may cause friction with the palace.
He told MailOnline: ‘Endorsements of this kind by members of the royal family do raise eyebrows and with good reason. Would Harry, who is 6th in line to the throne do this? It would be inappropriate.
‘The Sussexes are independent financially after their hugely lucrative Netflix deal. When the Sandringham Agreement is reassessed however, I suspect this sort of endorsement of a commercial product will be discouraged. However they are, of course, no longer senior working royals and can do more or less what they like as publicising this investment clearly shows’.
Miss Winfrey, a guest at the royal couple’s wedding, wrote how ‘On the first day of Christmas my neighbour M sent to me… a basket of deliciousness!’ In case her 20million followers had difficulty working it out, she added ‘Yes, that M’ followed by a crown emoji.
Along with a further plug, Miss Winfrey, 66, posted a video of her making a mug of turmeric-flavoured latte by adding water, declaring: ‘It’s delicious.’ Fans were left unaware of the duchess’s involvement with Clevr Blends, later revealed by Forbes website.
Meghan, meanwhile, was making her first public appearance since revealing three weeks ago that she suffered a miscarriage in July.
In a video message for US news channel CNN from the gardens of her mansion, she saluted the ‘quiet heroes’ of the coronavirus pandemic, praising key workers and those who volunteer at food banks. Meghan, 39, and Harry, 36, have helped several charities to distribute food in Los Angeles.
Forbes said the duchess intends to invest in more women-led firms as she ‘has made gender equality one of her core causes’.
Clevr Blends has a British CEO, Hannah Mendoza, who co-founded the firm with Roger Coppola, the only man on the team.
In a statement, Meghan, who did not reveal the size of her stake, said it was to support ‘a passionate female entrepreneur who prioritises building community alongside her business’.
She added: ‘I’m proud to invest in Hannah’s commitment to sourcing ethical ingredients and creating a product that I personally love and has a holistic approach to wellness.’
Miss Mendoza said: ‘Entrepreneurs need funding, but they also need advisers who care deeply about what they are building. I’m grateful to have found both in the Duchess of Sussex.’
The Sussexes will be expected to uphold their promise not to bring the Queen into disrepute through their deals. Buckingham Palace declined to comment but one insider said Meghan’s link-up with Miss Winfrey, without making clear her involvement with the product, was ‘not particularly well advised’.
Harry and Meghan already have a multi-million deal with Netflix.
In October Mendoza posted a photo of herself in hiking gear, beaming besides a giant mushroom growing from a tree trunk.
‘Hannah having one of those mushroom-awe moments (a common theme on the Clevr team),’ she wrote.
‘Mushrooms should make you believe in magic – they are ancient organisms that talk to each other, exist on every inch of the globe, and heal our bodies in unthinkable ways.
‘Did you know that the largest living thing ON EARTH is a mycelium network!? Aka a mushroom!
In November, Mendoza showed a photo from one of their suppliers in Santa Barbara, describing Sweet Mountain Top farm as ‘a badass team of female farmers, up on a mountain, growing flowers & medicinal herbs in the clouds.’
Markle is said to have contacted the company after sampling their products for herself in 2017.
Mendoza confirmed Markle’s investment, saying: ‘Entrepreneurs need funding, but they also need advisers who care deeply about what they are building.
‘I’m grateful to have found both in the Duchess of Sussex.
‘Her passion for what we’re creating is palpable, and I couldn’t imagine a more aligned partnership.
‘We’re excited for the road ahead.’
Ronn Torossian, CEO of NYC based 5WPR, a leading PR agency said the Duchess’s investment is worth ‘much more than a cheque’ as the product is now likely to become a ‘household name’.
Jasmine Birtles, Founder of MoneyMagpie.com added that the Duchess’s involvement would be worth ‘millions’ in publicity and that she may have struck a good deal thanks to her star power.
Ronn explained: ‘Add the Duchess of Sussex to the list of high-profile investors in start-up companies. The old saying of all you need is a dollar and a dream often rings true for investors in start-up companies, as success is tremendously difficult to come by in the startup world,’ he said.
‘Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have unlimited earning power via endorsement deals, partnerships and more. Investing in start-ups is just one way they seek to become uber-wealthy. It makes sense as part of a larger strategy in terms of a total brand portfolio.
‘Just as Jay-Z & Beyonce, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have invested in companies it makes complete sense for the Duchess of Sussex also to invest. The company, Clevr also appears to be in line with her social justice platform, with pronouncements that the brand has also committed donating 1 per cent of revenue to organizations fighting for food justice in the U.S., money that is currently going to Santa Barbara’s El Centro SB, a mutual aid and community organization.’
‘Everything about this investment is aligned with the Duchess’s personal brand, which has real potential to resonate with consumers. Her authenticity and endorsement of the product bring an invaluable currency that very few startup consumer brands will ever experience. I see a very promising future for Clevr coffee with potential earnings into the millions,’ he added.
Jasmine Birtles, Founder of MoneyMagpie.com added to FEMAIL that no matter the amount Meghan’s investment in the company her involvement will be worth millions in free publicity.
She added that she wouldn’t be surprised if Meghan got a good deal from the company because of her star-power.
‘A lot of celebrities have invested very successfully in start-ups, Ashton Kutcher has done some really amazing investments. He was an early investor in Skype, AirBnB and Uber. There are some actors who have done very nicely, and others who have lost their shirt, Paris Hilton invested in some cryptocurrency, and lost money. There are lots of these start ups that happen, some do amazingly well and some just drop like a stone very quickly
‘Investing in start ups is a very risky proposition for celebs or ordinary people, it’s something you should be very cautious about, only put in money you can afford to lose.
‘What often does happen is neighbours, friends, family members decide to set up a business and people think it’s going to be great.
‘People can get in at the ground level and I’ve done that, and lost money doing it. I think when it’s friend or family you need to be extra cautious and your natural inclination is to help – but you need to be extra sure it’s got legs, and do extra due diligence. It can cause a lot of bad feeling if something goes wrong – just need to be careful. Having said that, if you’d put £100 in Google as a start-up you’d be a millionaire now.
‘I definitely I suspect that, if Meghan’s got any sense she would have put it to them to get herself a good deal. Given the publicity that she’ll give them, it wouldn’t surprise me if she said I’d like it at half price, i would assume she’d struck a good deal, given her global recognition and PR.
‘Investing in start ups is a really good thing to do, but I wold say it’s good to invest in more more solid things first, pensions, blue chip and stocks and shares and then have a bit of a punt in starts up. I think even if you’re in your twenties it’s a good time to start.
‘Meghan is nearly 40, so I would hope she’s already got some other investments by now too.’
Clevr Blends has a range of powdered ‘superlattes’ that cost $28 for each packet of 14 cups, and comes in flavors such as tumeric and matcha.
They also sell what is billed as ‘organic Colombian arabica coffee blended with oat milk and coconut cream, powered by adaptogens, mushrooms and probiotics, naturally sweetened with monk fruit.’
It also sells an $18 branded milk frother and a sold-out travel mug.
All contain adaptogens – natural substances, typically derived from plants, that supposedly help the body counteract and adapt to stress.
Mendoza founded Clevr Blends after setting up a ‘funky coffee pop up bar’.
‘We traveled the California coast, mixing up adaptogenic lattes and mushrooms coffees out the back of a van. It was awesome,’ she writes on the company website.
‘Our drinks made people feel amazing – but were hard to re-create at home.
‘We needed an easier way to bring these magical elixirs to people’s daily rituals…so we hit the kitchen!
‘We set out on a mission to create the most delicious, nutrition-rich instant latte on the planet.
‘After 1 year of formulation and meticulous ingredient sourcing later, our SuperLattes were born!’
The company says it sources all of its goods in Santa Barbara and makes them there.
It says it only uses organic or non-GMO ingredients, and that they also want to ‘donate a percentage of our revenue to organizations that are fighting for food justice in the USA.’
Before going into the superfood business, Mendoza worked as a volunteer English teacher in Brazil.