“What is in a name?”

18 November 2019, 09:33 am
Fine Food by Charles Campion

It has become fashionable for marketeers to revise their view of brand identity.

Not so long ago the brand name was sacred and safe-guarding it was a fulltime job. In the 1990s I toiled in the creative department of a large West End advertising agency, and amongst the clients I made television commercials for was the formidable Mars group. We had been tasked with making a commercial for a perky little chocolate, caramel and peanut bar called Marathon. Our commercial was very much of its time and featured four bright young things playing ping pong on an all white limbo set and backed with a sound track of irritating pop music. Frivolous and fluffy, clear branding, just the job. When we were happy with the commercial we presented it to the Mars marketing team. They solemnly shook their heads and revealed that the Marathon bar was to be brought into line with a global plan to rename this particular UK bar Snickers. Which is why my commercial never got shown to the public. At the time there were plenty of readers’ letters protesting the loss of the Marathon name in favour of that American interloper Snickers, but even the staunchest chocolate fan cannot hinder progress. This autumn, guess what – the Mars folk have decided to bring back the Marathon name for a limited run in celebration of Mars’ 85 years making chocolate confectionery in Britain.

There is nothing more entertaining than to catch up on squabbling French chefs, and it is even better when the chefs take a pop at the Michelin Guide. This autumn’s gastro shock horror will be played out in the courts. Chef Marc Veyrat runs a number of highly-rated restaurants including La Maison des Bois near Grenoble. Here he showcases ‘botanical cooking’ – ingredient-led and based on the wild herbs of Haute Savoie. After only a year at three stars his restaurant was docked a star and demoted from three to two, Veyrat took umbrage and announced that he would sue Michelin. He went on to assert that the inspector from the Red Book who visited his restaurant was mistaken in the matter of the cheese soufflé. Cheesegate suggests that the Michelin inspector thought the dish was made with Cheddar rather than local cheeses like Reblochon, Tomme or Beaufort and that such heresy was punishable by demotion. Veyrat on the other hand suggests that the yellow colour of the dish is due to his use of saffron in the recipe, and he is prepared to let the courts decide. The chef is broadening the fight and his lawyer asks that Michelin clarifies “the exact reasons” that they took the star away. This show could run and run, and probably will as long as both the chef and the guide book can milk it for all that valuable publicity. Michelin are keen to keep the principle of secrecy: “Our first duty is to tell consumers why we have changed our recommendation. We will carefully study his demands and respond calmly.” Meanwhile, decent Cheddar is not necessarily yellow and makes a very fine cheese soufflé.

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