25 July, 2009

What’s the shelf life of a Master Chef medal?

Melbourne Herald Sun 25th July, 2009

Having won the Australian Masterchef contest, Julie Goodwin can rest assured that the award will last her for life and she will never be short of work or sponsors.

But for the rest of us just how long is the lifespan of an award? And in cool marketing terms, what’s it worth?

No doubt Julie’s win will sell lots of her cookbooks once she publishes, and draw a stream of customers into her restaurant. So yes you would call it bankable and worth much more than the prize on Sunday night.

Think about sports stars. An Olympic medal has no shelf life. Herb Elliot is still an Olympian even now he’s pushing 70, his wins as highly regarded as the recently minted medals of Stephanie Rice. They have both been able to make hay from the glint of the gold.

But what about advertising? A great deal of fuss is made about awards, whether the local ones like Award or Caxton, or the big international ones like Cannes or Clio.

Agencies proudly display them behind the reception desk as a hallmark of quality - “Look at how good we are”. However winning the gong does not always mean that the advertisements generated spectacular sales for the clients.

They are also time-sensitive. After a very few years the gloss pales. Let me confess that in my own case, introducing myself to new clients, I will mention Clio and Penguin awards - then quickly move the conversation on before someone asks me how long ago I won them. In this regard I know I’m not alone.

Contemplating this subject I read the label on a Dewar’s scotch (an aid to contemplation) to find that it displayed 14 gold medals from great international exhibitions. London to Paris to Cairo to Zurich and more. But they started in 1886 and ended in 1930.

Presumably anyone involved in the creation of those award-winning brews is long gone (one would hope). So how does that recommend today’s tipple?

Looking in my pantry I found a bottle of Lupi olive oil boasting a gold medal from somewhere in Italy - in 1880. Our own Cobram Estate olive oil is at least current, with Perth 2008 on its label.

Another honour used in marketing is the royal warrant. This is where a product is allowed to display a crest and “As appointed by...” on the label. Some companies, like Schweppes and Twinings, have had them for centuries.

Contrary to popular belief they don’t pay for them with truckloads of free tea and soft drinks - they are paid like any other tradespeople. These days a warrant needs to be renewed every five years and ends after the death of the grantor. So you cannot legally claim: “By appointment to King Edward VII”, and the Queen Mother’s favourites expired five years after her.

To get the nod you have to be pretty classy. The Queen includes Rolls Royce and Bentley, Aston Martin, Burberry, Royal Doulton, Jaguars, Steinway and Range Rover. Hm, obviously has a very large garage.

But it’s not only big-ticket items, the list includes trades like dry cleaners, fishmongers, and these days even computer software. In Australia Hardy Brothers the jewellers have showed off their crest for 80 years.

But the Royal Warrant can be lost too. Harrods were proud holders of appointments by the whole Royal Family. But in 2000 the Duke of Edinburgh had had enough of Mohamed al-Fayed’s accusations about “the murder” of his son and Princess Diana, and rescinded his warrant.

Al-Fayed blew a raspberry and removed all the royal coats of arms on his store, including those that had not expired. Prince Phillip blamed a "significant decline in the trading relationship" for the spat.

He’s not wrong - no royal has shopped in Harrods since Princess Diana’s death in 1997.


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