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Oprah Winfrey's endorsements have translated into instant success for book sellers and makers of specialty foods, and now Research In Motion Ltd. executives are hoping the "Oprah effect" will put the BlackBerry on more holiday shopping lists.

On her extraordinarily popular talk show this week, Ms. Winfrey hyped the BlackBerryas one of her "favourite things," including it in an assortment of goodies that she extolled and handed out to her studio audience in a show timed for the U.S. Thanksgiving week's kickoff of the shopping season.

She specifically mentioned the BlackBerry 7105T, which RIM launched last month with T-Mobile USA Inc., as an easy-to-use phone and e-mail device.

The high-profile plug comes at a crucial time for RIM as it attempts to broaden the appeal of its iconic BlackBerry beyond the busy professional to the general, tech-friendly consumer.

T-Mobile experienced an immediate spike in interest after the show, when on-line hits to the BlackBerry page of its website more than doubled.

However, a company spokesman said it was too early to say how that activity would be reflected in sales.

Ms. Winfrey promoted another BlackBerry carried by T-Mobile on her list two years ago, when the device had a much smaller following among technophiles.

That year, retail sales doubled the first week after the show and remained strong through the holiday season. "We anticipate similar activity this year," the spokesman said.

RIM executives weren't available for comment.

Allen Adamson, managing director for Park Avenue's Landor Associates, said Ms. Winfrey's endorsement is exactly the kind of endorsement the Waterloo, Ont.-based company needs to broaden its appeal, and that it wouldn't be limited to a specific model.

Landor participates each year in a major consumer survey of leading brands.

Last December, consumers predicted the biggest brand winner would be BlackBerry, which they rated ahead of NASCAR, Google, iPod and ABC's Desperate Housewives.

At the time, Mr. Adamson said RIM's biggest challenge was making the BlackBerry more of a mainstream product, rather than one favoured primarily by people in business and politics.

"This could be a big boost on that journey because Oprah is so mainstream," Mr. Adamson said. He predicted the BlackBerry would become the device of choice for busy parents trying to keep track of their families.

"As e-mail becomes more of a connecting tissue among families, which it is, the BlackBerry is going to be the tool of choice because it is the established brand in the category. And Oprah, as an endorser, is a huge legitimizer."

On Monday, Ms. Winfrey surprised her audience by giving each a full complement of her favourite retail items.

The goodies ranged from a Burberry jacket and purse (each retailing at $695 U.S.) to a Philip Stein Teslar diamond watch (worth more than $1,295) to a $299 Apple iPod and a $299 BlackBerry 7105T.

For those viewers looking for something a little less expensive, she included a pair of Pure Color corduroy pants, Hope in a Jar skin cream from Philosophy and oatmeal-raisin cookie dough from Chicago's gourmet store Fox & Obel Market.

Inclusion on the list was a marketing coup.

Pamela Fitzpatrick, executive baker at Fox & Obel, said yesterday that Ms. Winfrey's praise for the store's oatmeal cookies on her list instantly prompted orders from across North America.

When Ms. Winfrey's producers confirmed that they would be including the cookies on her favourite things list, the store geared up to produce the dough and refurbished its website to await the onslaught.

"Every time she has mentioned us on her show, which has been a couple times now, we get huge spikes in business," Ms. Fitzpatrick said.

"After the show aired in the afternoon in New York [and the rest of the United States] our website was getting, like, an order every minute."

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