What Makes The Golden Girls Television's Blue Chip Brand

Even four decades since its premiere, the show starring Betty White has impressive clout

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Jan. 17, 2022 would’ve marked Betty White’s 100th birthday.

Even though we lost her on the eve of the new year, we will continue to celebrate her legacy as a great brand steward for a cultural phenomenon that’s resonated for nearly 40 years and will likely continue to do so for generations to come: The Golden Girls.

When the sitcom premiered on NBC on Sept. 14, 1985, the internet was in its infancy, social media and streaming platforms were decades away, and the 65+ age group accounted for only 11% of the U.S. population. While popular with both critics and audiences from its inception, few could’ve predicted that 180 episodes later, the series would withstand the test of time as a powerful, culturally relevant brand for audiences of the past, present and future.

The Golden Girls falls in the same category as beloved brands like Coca-Cola, Apple, Google and Microsoft: It’s globally recognized, often referenced as part of cultural dialogue and remains relevant. The only difference is that The Golden Girls has never once needed to rebrand, reposition or launch a global campaign to clarify or redefine its key messaging.

The sitcom’s success is a lesson in what makes for a powerful brand: allowing your fans—in this case, international and multi-generational—to dictate how it’s integrated into global culture. At its core, The Golden Girls leverages the fundamental tools of brand building, over time turning it into a blue-chip brand. Marketers should take a page out of creator Susan Harris’ book.

Much like The Golden Girls, brands can have a significant impact on shifting and shaping the culture, conversation and perspectives of the world through their relationship with customers.

Brand purpose

The sitcom brought representation to the 65+ generation, which had been largely ignored due to ageism in television and society. A Los Angeles Times article from September 1985 describes the female cast as “a meaningful portrayal of women in their post-middle-age years.” While the series certainly focused on bringing attention to this demographic, what Harris did to broaden its appeal is tackle the challenges the four women faced that feel familiar at any age.

Brand ethos

Not only did the script stay true to its brand purpose but each of the cast members, especially Betty White, embodied the ethos of the show. Each was an advocate for same-sex marriage well before it was legalized—in a 2014 interview with Larry King, White defended the gay community by stating, “I don’t care whom you sleep with. … It’s about the kind of human being you are.” They also lived through the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and battled through the complicated and beautiful process of aging.


Hollywood icon Angela Lansbury’s mystery series Murder, She Wrote premiered in 1984, becoming a ratings darling. The series opened the eyes of network executives—in this analogy, the brand guardians—to the possibility that depictions of the over-65 demographic could be profitable on primetime television and paved the way for The Golden Girls a year later.

Human connection

Creator Harris built rapport between the audience and the characters by tackling progressive topics head-on. Over seven seasons, the sitcom addressed subjects like LGBTQ+ civil rights, drug addiction, interracial marriage, depression and self-acceptance, all of which remain relevant to audiences today.

Viewers each had their own Golden Girl whom they connected with. For White, her character Rose’s Midwestern charm and naiveté endeared her to audiences, leading them to see her not only as a surrogate grandmother but also to recognize a bit of themselves in her.

In this way, successful brands are like relatable characters, transcending their role to find relevance with a wide audience.

The lesson to be learned here. Like TV creators and iconic actors, marketers should prioritize human connection, truth and insights. After all, we have the power and the privilege to shape people’s perceptions and perspectives of the world.

May Betty White rest in peace, and may her legacy and that of The Golden Girls brand live on forever in our conversations, culture and hearts.