In a blog post I wrote some six or so years ago, I wrote about brand extension and used Jamie Oliver as an example. The post was titled: “More on brand extension, let’s look at Jamie Oliver again.”
I just came across an article on new.com.au on Jamie Oliver wand what went wrong with him and his brand.
Looking back at my original post, Let me recall the last line: “Also, by diversifying into other products and business ventures, Oliver has created a platform that allows him to survive in business even his television celebrity status should begin to fade.”
Wow, what if the other brand extensions also fail? Well, looks like you are up the proverbial creek and that is with or without a paddle (which is really immaterial, really).
Jamie Oliver had a relatively meteoric rise to fame, albeit he had some falls along the way. He had a likeable persona and seemed quite easy to relate to. Now, as he expanded his cookery appearances to his own shows, he also diversified his brand (his persona) into: books, cookware, restaurants, etc.
But, what caused his fall? Alexis Carey, author of the blog I referred to, presents several reasons, which we will go through. Here’s the initial thought from the article: “So how did it all go so wrong for one of the world’s best-loved celebrity chefs? According to Aussie public relations expert Catriona Pollard, Oliver’s downfall was caused by a series of classic PR blunders including overexposure, a disconnect between his actions and his personal brand and a failure to address a number of controversies head-on.”
Overexposure. This is always a problem for public figures like actors, TV stars, including celebrity chefs. But, just how much is too much exposure? I’m not sure how to quantify this, but suffice it to say, that such figures have to consider this everytime they are asked to appear as guests on a TV show, asked to participate is an event that will be televised, guest spot on a TV show or feature film and so on.
Now for the other points put up: a disconnect between his actions and his personal brand. One point noted in the article states thus, “Ms Pollard said one possible reason behind those failures was the mismatch between Oliver’s “average Joe” identity and the up-market feel of his eateries.
“You can buy one of his books for $20, or watch his TV show for free. But a lot of his restaurants sold expensive meals … which didn’t really stack up for people,” she told news.com.au.
“She said there was also a divide between Oliver’s relatable image and his staggering fortune, estimated to be around $441 million.”
Having been to one of his eateries here in Sydney, I can attest to the expensive meals. And, to be honest there was nothing in the meal I ate that warranted the price. Mind you, my kids liked it. Well, as the one who paid the tab, I could say I had better for the price. But, I digress.
Also, part of the disconnect mentioned in the article is Oliver’s signing up with Shell, going against his green credentials. But, a 9.1 million dollar contract was probably to hard to refuse. And, according to the article, he did not do any interviews to explain the reason for this signing up with Shell. So, his audience thought he had something to hid.
A really interesting thing, one which Oliver could have really avoided was, as noted in the article: “Oliver also made headlines recently after revealing he had offered to cater for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding, only to have that offer snubbed by the royals…But Ms Pollard said it was a mistake to have gone public at all. “ ‘He absolutely should have kept quiet at a time when people were already questioning his reputation — it was not a very sensible thing to do, to say he was snubbed by one of the most watched marriages in recent history,’ ” she said.”
Wow, this could have been prevented to easily. Better to have not said anything. Mind you, I speak with 20:20 hindsight. Other points made include the public spat with fellow celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsay.
In my blog post, I noted that one of “the golden rules of brand extension is to use the strength of Oliver’s reputation and strength of his brand to extend this. Diversification allows you not only sell more products but also to spread your risks. As whatever you sell when you reach a point of saturation, diversification allows you some protection from that saturation by selling other products.
“Of course, there are no guarantees of continued success. A successful television show may be axed if ratings fall or production companies want a fresh face. (Jamie Oliver’s early setbacks in television attest to this being something that is always back of the mind.)”
So, like anything in life, there are no guarantees. And, one really has to watch his steps in any venture, especially remembering to consider consequences of every action. Every celebrity knows this, but hey, it’s so easy to forget or not think stuff through.
Until my next post.