Magazine article Marketing

Celebrity Branding Offers Food Ranges a Head Start

Magazine article Marketing

Celebrity Branding Offers Food Ranges a Head Start

Article excerpt

Claire Murphy's reports on how prepared-food brands are using stars' names to achieve an instant rapport with consumers

Imagine launching a brand that consumers are already on first-name terms with, a brand with a positioning and values that they understand without you having to communicate it by spending your precious advertising budget.

This sounds like an impossible dream for anyone who has had to introduce a totally new brand to a consumer's shopping basket. But the food industry appears to have discovered the Holy Grail of instant branding with the current craze for celebrity-branded products.

Last week Marketing revealed that Hazlewood Foods is searching for an ad agency to support its five-month-old range of ready meals, called Rhodes to Home. The brainchild of celebrity chef Gary Rhodes, the brand has already taken off and gained listings in most of the major multiples. The company believes that with the support of advertising, the brand could lead the market.

Rhodes is not the only TV chef to have been snapped up by marketers. Indian chef Madhur Jaffrey signed up with Tilda in 1996 to lend her name to a range of Indian cooking sauces, while American foodie Loyd Grossman launched Italian cooking sauces with Chivers-Hartley.

McVitie's Prepared Foods has already embraced the technique with gusto, selling a range of luxury frozen desserts under the name of actress and cake maker Jane Asher, plus meat-free ready meals branded under the name of the late Linda McCartney.

Loyal following

All the products have earned themselves loyal, if still small followings. The Madhur Jaffrey brand has doubled in value over the past year and is now worth almost [pounds]4m (IRI). Likewise, Chivers-Hartley's Loyd Grossman brand is growing at around 25% a year and is now worth about [pounds]6m.

Are consumers simply desperate to buy anything slightly out of the ordinary, or is there more to the appeal of celebrities as brands?

David Goudge, a marketing consultant who specialises in the food industry, thinks that the "high degree of boredom in shopping means that consumers actively seek out a product which offers variety and entertainment".

But he also believes that the endorsement factor cannot be underestimated. "These personalities have come into our homes via the TV and people feel warm toward them. …

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