Thursday, August 14, 2008

What? This Olive Isn't Extra Virgin?

A Case of Unwanted Celebrity Promotions...

The Wall Street Journal published an article yesterday on the case of a rogue brand ambassador. The less than pleased brand? Olive Garden. Their biggest celebrity fan? Kendra Wilkinson, one of Hugh Hefner's girlfriends and a star on the televison show the "Girls Next Door." Needless to say the chain does not appear to be telling Kendra, an adult-entertainment star, "when you're here, you're family."

Other brands have had their share of rogue ambassadors, a promoter, according to the article, who is "genuinely, publicly devoted to a product or service, even if he or she doesn't quite embody the values that the brand's managers may be trying to convey." WPP Group's Grey advertising fim who handles the Olive Garden account stated that this (Kendra's love of the brand) presents a "complicated issue for the brand." Or is it quite so complicated?

In their interview with Kendra, WSJ reported that she calls Olive Garden her "soul food." Wilkenson states "I love the Olive Garden so much because I grew up going there...That used to be the place we would go for Mother's Day, for birthdays. My grandpa just died, and right after his funeral, we went to the Olive Garden." Sure Kendra is known for being in the adult industry, living in the Playboy Mansion, and being on T.V. But anyone who has seen even one episode of the show knows she is very close with her family. Isn't that the core of what Olive Garden is all about? I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on how you think this will impact the restaurant chain. My opinion is Olive Garden should have just ignored it and moved on. You don't want to offend a vocal fan. And most people aren't going to think the restaurant is now going to be crowded with scantily clad Playboy models.
As a side note, Kendra recently launched a competition for Olive Garden waitresses with the top prize being a nude Playboy spread. This isn't the first time "family-friendly" chains have found out their employees had been photographed by the magazine (Home Depot, Wal-Mart, McDonald's). And those brands don't appear to be hurting because of it. I guess time will tell.

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