The chef’s special

Britain’s appetite for TV food programmes has put huge opportunities for lucrative marketing deals in the way of celebrity chefs. Emily Gosling looks at how their personalities are converted into branding

The start of 2011 has already seen several celebrity chefs extend their reach beyond the television screen and into new commercial ventures. Last month Heston Blumenthal opened a new restaurant – Dinner – at London’s Mandarin Oriental hotel, with branding by Seymour Powell and interiors by New York consultancy Tihany Design.

Plans are also under way for the opening of TV chef James Martin’s restaurant in Leeds, with consultancy Cloud Nine Design adapting its James Martin branding for the new venture and interiors by Carolyn Parker Interior Design.

While the chefs’ individual personalities undoubtedly inform the branding for their various spin-offs, be they apps, books, restaurants or kitchenware, ultimately, as with any other range, the branding must help to convey the products’ quality and functionality.

Seymour Powell worked closely with the Dinner by Heston Blumenthal team to create the restaurant name, brand identity and collateral.

Alice Boardman, designer at Seymour Powell, suggests that while the branding of other celebrity chefs, such as Jamie Oliver or Nigella Lawson, has to be consistent with their personalities, Blumenthal’s is uniquely focused on the food itself.

’Personality does drive a set standard but from there you can explore and have fun and do different things’, she says. ’Heston is not a huge fan of food photography, so he uses illustrations and more black and white, keeping the colours very simple.

’The design didn’t rely on anything other than the information and the food – that’s the key thing. The design created itself.’

Boardman adds, ’Other brands are more led by character. Nigella [Lawson] comes across as very female and touchy-feely, but to be creative with that and keep her personality you’re already narrowing down your options.’

Peter Sellers, creative director of Cloud Nine Design, which created the James Martin branding, feels that, while character informs the branding, ultimately, creating an adaptable and functional identity is the primary consideration.

’We need to concentrate on the brand itself,’ he says. ’You want [the branding] to stand out for [James Martin] as an individual, but also be something that fits with the industry.’ He adds, ’James is quite direct – a strong Yorkshireman – so you need bold colours and a strong graphic.’

With cooking, it’s content that sells – beautiful food and photography… it is difficult not to design something good around that

Ian Wharton, Zolmo

Zolmo created the identity, branding and technology for Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Recipes and 20-Minute Meals apps. Ian Wharton, creative director of Zolmo, says that, despite Oliver’s multiple ranges, the apps were designed as an entirely standalone prospect.

Wharton says, ’With everything Jamie does in the kitchen, there is loads of texture. It all looks very rustic, welcoming and friendly, and so we pulled those things from different aspects of the brand.’

He adds, ’It’s all very traditionally British and homely. It’s stuff we know and love that is very comforting and approachable. That’s the way he has evolved his brand over the years.’

However, Wharton believes that, despite Oliver’s personality heavily informing his brand’s evolution, it is the content of the products themselves that ultimately defines their success. He says, ’The two apps are the most visually rich thing he has done with his brand. With cooking, it’s content that sells – beautiful food and photography. The rest falls into place and it is difficult not to design something good around that.’

Last year Pearlfisher rebranded Oliver’s entire core range, including food, kitchenware and crockery. The consultancy had previously worked on Oliver’s Jme range of lifestyle products. Natalie Chung, creative director at Pearlfisher, says, ’Each range has a very individual style. The Jamie range is very much about his personality, but the Jme range is all about what has inspired him and the individual products’ personalities. They’re both about his knowledge and passion, but in different ways.’
She adds, ’For a lot of ranges, the key is selling it as the chef. A lot of people really buy into that, as it reassures them that it’s a great product.’

In 2009, Williams Murray Hamm created the Jamie Oliver Recipease store and Food Kits. The consultancy created the store’s identity, packaging and collateral, using illustrations of an Airfix-style kit to communicate the sense of meal assembly.

Garrick Hamm, creative director of Williams Murray Hamm, says, ’With Jamie Oliver, the identity needed to come out of his mission to get the nation passionate about cooking, so we led with that. The “Jamie” bit is about being very simple, straightforward and “getting stuck in”. It’s very much brand-led rather than personality-led. We all felt the brand shouldn’t be carried with his face or his food.’

Williams Murray Hamm also worked with Gordon Ramsay on the Comic Relief packaging for his Italian and Indian cooking sauces.

Hamm says, ’One of the biggest problems with celebrity endorsement is getting the product to match the expectations of what that chef is like. You can’t sell the consumer short. If [a chef has] just stuck his name on it and it’s rubbish, you’ve got a brand that’s going to bomb.’

Table for two

  • Springetts created the packaging for Marco Pierre White’s collaboration with Bernard Matthews, which launched last month
  • Dusted Design overhauled all of celebrity chef Aldo Zilli’s restaurants in a renaming, rebranding and interiors exercise ahead of the opening of Zilli Green in Soho in February 2010

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