Brand Health Check: Gordon Ramsay

Gordon Ramsay
Gordon Ramsay

LONDON - Have allegations of an affair done any damage to the fiery celebrity chef's brand

With a business empire comprising more than 20 restaurants worldwide, an endorsement deal with Gordon's Gin and a series of hit cookery shows on both sides of the Atlantic, walnut-faced Scottish chef Gordon Ramsay has built up a brand of considerable power.

In the presentation of the latest financial results from his company, Gordon Ramsay Holdings, earlier this year, it was revealed that total revenues would be in excess of £80m in 2008, a figure that was predicted to grow to more than £100m in 2010 as his restaurant empire expands into Doha and Melbourne.

However, if reports of his infidelity are true, it seems unlikely that Ramsay will be toasting his year as he sits down with his wife Tana and family to enjoy his Christmas lunch.

Aside from the damage to his assiduously cultivated 'perfect' family life as a father of four, 'The F Word' could be pretty apposite description of Ramsay's predicament, given that his business partner - and chief executive of Gordon Ramsay Holdings - is his father-in-law, Chris Hutcheson.

Diageo's decision to use Ramsay as its brand ambassador for Gordon's Gin was based on the premise that the brand's positioning of 'Doing things properly' complement-ed Ramsay's attitude and 'my way or the highway' style of cooking. If the recent allegations are true, it wouldn't be hard to argue that Ramsay does not seem to extend this approach to his private life, so whether he is still a good fit for the brand is open to debate.

Will Ramsay need to rehabilitate his image, or is sitting tight and saying nothing the best strategy? We asked Rune Gustafson, chief executive, Interbrand, and Ben Southgate, planning partner at CHI & Partners.

 

Rune Gustafson chief executive, Interbrand

Brand Gordon has cooked up a healthy business empire over the years. The recent scandal over his alleged affair has created a bit of a stir because, even though we know Ramsay as the foul-mouthed, arrogant, say-it-like-it-is type, all insights into his family life have given the impression that he is a family man.

We don't know the story behind what happened, or why. More interesting is how celebrities' brand personalities are so intricately connected to their actions. Unfortunately, similar scenarios unfold all the time.

Dabbling in a few subtle jokes on the Cookalong Live show, Ramsay demonstrated a sense of jest around the subject, which at first glance was some-what difficult to stomach but, given his brash personality and style, it was certainly on-brand.

The timing is also good for Gordon. There are enough world-changing events going at the moment to ensure that, while consumers were initially a little surprised by the story, they have already moved on.

Have the allegations impacted upon our decision about whether to eat at a Ramsay restaurant this week? I'd say that the answer is probably no. The credit crunch, however, may be the bigger determinant.

Remedy

  • Don't try to evoke a squeaky-clean image. This simply won't gel, and rising to the stir will just attract more attention to it.
  • Focus on the core competency of cooking and entertaining. The expertise and entertainment factor is the reason consumers buy into the Ramsay brand.
  • Tana should perhaps consider how the attention might boost her own career.

 

Ben Southgate planning partner, CHI & Partners

Gordon Ramsay is the ultimate firebrand, but as a consumer brand, is he nothing more than Jamie Oliver's poodle?

First to YouTube, where we find a paltry 610 'Gordon Ramsay' videos versus a mildly more impressive 1010 for 'Jamie Oliver'. On Facebook, 'The Gordon Ramsay Appreciation Society' has 6477 members and 'The Jamie Oliver Appreciation Society' has... 6545. F**k it, as Gordon might say. Perhaps it was these numbers that stirred him into raising his profile further by employing that old British media staple, the sex scandal?

Any publicity is good publicity, it seems, as his recently-released Hell's Kitchen video game is out of stock on Amazon. Having not yet played it, I'm unsure if his extra-curricular activities are included in the gameplay, but to be honest I'm not sure my Wii controller could handle it if they are.

Of course, any TV chef worth his salt knows brand extensions into video gaming are not where the money is. That's all about cookbooks, and Gordon is still riding high in the top 10. But who's that at number one? You guessed it - that bloody Oliver.

Remedy

  • Kiss and make up (no tongues) with Mr Oliver and try a partnership that builds on the equity of both names.
  • Everyone loves a comeback, especially if it can be followed on a reality TV series, so a live cooking show from the same sex addiction rehab clinic that David Duchovny went to in August seems the perfect vehicle.
  • Start writing a 'cooking for one' book now to capitalise on any divorce coverage. After all, free media space will provide a great boost to the bottom line.

 

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