How To Copy The Celebrity Chef Business Model In Any Industry

Celebrity chefs. Years ago it was a term no one had ever heard of. Today, it’s a phrase that has come to mean a very specific type of chef… and I would argue that, even though it’s an annoying and increasingly-overused term, it’s a business model that other businesses can steal and use to grow your business to a higher level.

What Most People Do (Versus What Celebrity Chefs Do)

Most people get paid to do a thing, whether a real estate investor, a stockbroker, copywriter, an accountant, a dentist, a mechanic, a photographer, etc.

You name it.

Likewise, chefs are known for doing a thing.

They’re known for… well… their “cheffing”. They plan menus and oversee the kitchen staff and they cook. They’re the hardworking staff who make sure that your food comes to your table delicious and just the way you want.

But celebrity chefs? That’s an entirely different animal.

They don’t do as much cheffing (in the strict sense) as they once did.

Compare Gordon Ramsey, Bobby Flay, Guy Fieri, or Anthony Bourdain to… the dude whose name you don’t know but he cooked your meal at Applebee’s yesterday evening.

What’s the difference between the first group mentioned and the poor loser running the Applebee’s grill at minimum wage?

Ultimately, it’s not about talent (the Applebee’s guy is just following company recipes; we don’t really know what he’s like when he cooks without those restrictions… he could be amazing)…

… Ultimately the celebrity chef has moved beyond being paid in dollars for what they do and instead they are being paid in attention for showing others how to do it or how to experience it.

Here’s What I Mean…

A “non-celebrity” chef gets paid to cook and do all the regular cheffery expected of them.

A celebrity chef doesn’t really need to cook anymore. Sure, we see Bobby Flay cooking on Iron Chef America (at least until he quit) but when was the last time you saw Gordon Ramsey, Guy Fieri, or Anthony Bourdain in a kitchen to cook something?

It’s rare.

What are they doing instead?

They’re building media empires that talk about the craft of cooking or even how to enjoy the experience of food.

  • They’re writing cookbooks… and other books
  • They’re starting chains of restaurants and multiple brands
  • They’re creating in and starring in their own shows
  • They’re driving around the country in muscle cars or even wandering around the world sampling food and raving about it

They’re still creating, they’re still presumably doing some cooking, but they’ve scaled beyond that to create a media empire that builds on them and their (often ridiculous) personalities doing something more.

For celebrity chefs, it’s no longer about presenting a plate of food to a customer like they once did when they worked at Applebee’s… rather, it’s about creating a “character” and building an experience for an audience to consume.

And frankly, food just happens to be the main point around which they build everything.

Food is something we all understand and enjoy. And everyone has opinions about what food they love and hate, so there’s a lot of room for people to create emotion around it and to be attracted to some celebrity chefs while being repulsed by others.

But Does It Have To Be About Food?

I don’t think so. I think this same concept can work in other areas and industries.

What if you could become the celebrity chef of your industry?

… of real estate investing?
… of HVAC services?
… of car sales?
… of accounting?
… of dentistry?
… of gym ownership?
… of photography?
… of copywriting?

What kind of personality would you have? What kind of experience would you create?

What would you talk about, to go from getting paid in money for what you DO to getting paid in attention for showing how to do something or how to experience it?

What kind of show(s) would you have? What kind of brands would you create? What kind of books would you write?

The Big Lessons

  1. Guy Fieri is a ridiculous caricature. But he’s a brilliant business person who has created a powerful brand. You don’t have to be yourself to create a brand; you can be a character. (Here’s an old-ish blog post I wrote about building a celebrity brand)
  2. At some point you’ll likely teach people something… either HOW to do what you do or HOW to enjoy or experience the central thing that you do.
  3. Celebrity chefs are not really about cooking; they’re about media empires What can you publish? What shows can you produce? We live in an age where this is so easy.
  4. If someone else is already doing this in your space, that’s okay. There isn’t just ONE celebrity chef. You just need to find your angle. Guy Fieri and Gordon Ramsay are both over-the-top… but in different ways.
  5. This higher level creates “scale” so you can grow bigger, charge more, and build an empire (not just a professional practice).
  6. Of course the benefits of this higher level of business growth brings its own challenges… you need a team; you’ll have haters; you’ll fail more often.
  7. There are also interesting opportunities out there that you might not see right now. Anthony Bourdain was a fry cook; now he basically travels the world and gets filmed eating. There was a point in his life when that was unthinkable.
  8. The secret is to build the “attention machine” and then to keep feeding that machine with new things that support what you talk about. You’re creating sub-brands and shows and content and public relations to elevate your brand.

Celebrity chefs. They give us a template to grow beyond the confines of getting paid for what we do, and they show us how to scale up to something bigger.

The Most Interesting Branding Lesson In The World

When I say “The Most Interesting Man In The World,” what do you think of?

Maybe you think of beer.

Maybe you think of Dos Equis beer.

But you probably think of a well-dressed older man surrounded by beautiful women and adventure.

C’mon. I don’t even need to write a caption and this picture evokes all the images and words, right?

The Most Interesting Beer Campaign

Since 2007, actor Jonathan Goldsmith was the spokesperson for Dos Equis beer, playing the role of The Most Interesting Man In The World. (source)

I loved that branding effort (a lot!) and his commercials continue to be some of my favorite commercials ever made. They are charming, funny, memorable, sharable, and re-watchable.

And here’s anecdotal proof that marketing works: I never drank Dos Equis before seeing those commercials but I spent a lot of money on Dos Equis after seeing them! (I don’t always spend money on Dos Equis. But when I do, it’s because I just spent an hour binge-watching a bunch of Dos Equis commercials.) I know I’m not the only one swayed by this marketing campaign.

(Want to read more about branding, marketing, and beer spokespeople? Check out this blog post I did from way back in the day!)

Even Goldsmith’s sign-off tagline — “I don’t always drink beer. But when I do, I prefer Dos Equis” — has become a meme, which I guess is some kind of indicator of how embedded into our culture The Most Interesting Man really is!

Then something changed…

A NEW Most Interesting Man?

In 2016, Goldsmith’s contract with Dos Equis ended and they chose to replace Goldsmith with a younger Most Interesting Man In The World.

The “new” Most Interesting Man In The World continues to represent Dos Equis in commercials that feel very similar to Goldsmith’s commercials. His replacement does similar things and sounds similar…

Looks familiar, right? The commercial has all the same beats/storylines/messages. On the surface, it was the passing of a baton and we should all continue staying thirsty because of this new guy, right?

But does anyone care anymore?

Look, I’m not trying to be an old curmudgeon by saying that I hate change and can’t tolerate a new face on an old campaign. I get that companies have to do that. There are probably many legit business reasons why Dos Equis chose to replace Goldsmith. And maybe Dos Equis is continuing to see success with the new guy. Awesome.

BUT… Goldsmith was the original Most Interesting Man. Dos Equis assumed that the mantle of “The Most Interesting Man In The World” could be moved from one person to the next, simply by creating similar commercials.

Goldsmith proved them wrong. He proved that HE is The Most Interesting Man In The World.

Want to know the true power of the brand? Want a lesson in being a legend and in brand portability?

Fast forward to 14 seconds into this video to watch Goldsmith say less than 10 familiar words and instantly transport the full cache of HIS brand over to Astral Tequila…

Or go over to AstralTequila.com and skip all that fast-forwarding nonsense.

In less than 10 words, Goldsmith shows us the true power of a brand, brand portability, and how HE continues to be The Most Interesting Man In The World.

(Bonus reading: Does anyone remember in The Dukes Of Hazzard when Bo and Luke Duke were gone for a season? They were replaced by weirdly similar cousins… Coy and Vance Duke… The show sucked and the original actors were brought back on.)

 


Aaron Hoos, writerAaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He’s the author of several books, including The Sales Funnel Bible.

Case study: Writing to create a brand

When you have a product to sell, you sell it once and the client takes ownership of that product. But with software as a service, you are creating a product that you “sell” over and over again. Every time the payment is due, you need to re-sell why you provide the service that you do. And when there are other competing products in the marketplace, you’d better step up with something different of your own.

I had an opportunity to write for a client who was selling financial software as a service. They were a brand new product competing in a space already dominated by several other names.

With a total blank slate, I set out to create the brand. I knew that we’d never be able to compete on an equal plain with the other established service providers in the category. They had already locked up the ideas/concepts/terms that they stood for. So we found our own idea and I wrote all the content around that one idea. I recommended a mascot to be created and presented frequently on all the pages to give the brand its identity. All content — on every single page, as well as the blog — was designed to support the one idea or key theme we chose as the idea for our brand. We even changed the pricing model to reflect the brand that was built.

I couldn’t have been more pleased with the result: The site looked sharp, attracted subscribers, and became a solid player in the industry with a healthy base of subscribers. I wrapped up my agreement with them when they were acquired by another company.

This project was the project that ultimately “sold” me on the value of the subscription payment model. I’d seen other companies do it, of course, but was never on the inside before, and this company put together an offer that worked really well.

And, this project was thrilling to participate in because it truly was a “from-the-ground-up” project in which I started with an entirely clean slate and could build it almost in any way that I thought best.

The ShamWow business model

There was an article in BusinessInsider recently about the ShamWow guy (Vince Offer) and his “comeback”. The article describes his rise to fame as the guy who pushes the ShamWow product, the Slap Chop, and the Schticky, and then his subsequent fall because of a run-in with an alleged hooker.

If you can look past the tabloid-headline shock of the article, or the “let’s-see-what-he-can-do” introspection at the end of the article, you’ll find some interesting gold buried in this article… specifically about the ShamWow business model. All these quotes are taken from the article…

THE PRODUCT

I’ve got bad news for you: Vince Offer didn’t invent the ShamWow or the Slap Chop, but he’s also not just shilling for some corporate giant either. Rather, he takes a regular product, makes some improvements to its brand, and then brings a certain style to the presentation…

[quote]Like most infomercial producers, Vince didn’t invent the products he’s known for pitching. He found them by scouring flea markets, trademarked better names, and made funnier ads.[/quote]

THE PRESENTATION

Vince Offer started pushing his products at flea markets, honing his sales craft. Later, he moved to an infomercial format and then later to the well-known (and much loved and parodied) commercial format…

[quote]By 2002, broke, Vince was selling the ShamWow and Slap Chop at flea markets… He bought time from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. on Comedy Central. It made money, he said, and something clicked. With direct TV marketing, he didn’t have to please the gatekeepers of taste to make a sale.[/quote]

[quote]Because Vince owns his products, he can “push the envelope” more than other pitchmen, delivering “schticky” jokes and sexual innuendos with “cocky confidence,” said Kevin Harrington, chairman of infomercial clearing house As Seen On TV, Inc.

While most demonstrators focus on function, “what he tries to come up with are demos that will make you laugh,” said Harrington.[/quote]

Here are his three big commercials.


(I love the arrest reference at about 1:05!)

BRINGING THE PRODUCT TO MARKET

Vince isn’t just pushing some big corporation’s products and then letting that corporation fill the order. He owns the products. That means he’s also doing all the other legwork involved in creating the product and bringing it to market. As the article tells us…

[quote]Infomercial producers have to find a reliable factory, get them a mold or drawings, and hire a fulfillment facility, a telemarketer to take orders and a media buyer to purchase air time. Then there’s packaging, shipping, returns, customer service, an Internet storefront and more.[/quote]

PROFIT POTENTIAL

Vince doesn’t invent his own products. He takes existing products and rebrands them and adds his unique pitch. He’s honed his pitch for years on the flea market circuit and in infomercials. Not surprisingly, that legwrk has paid off…

[quote]He refused to answer questions about how much money he raked in, but the chamois cloths can be bought wholesale in bundles of three for $.50. Vince sold them in packs of eight for $19.95, plus shipping and handling.[/quote]

Even with overhead…

[quote]A product that sells for $20 usually costs $2 to $3 wholesale. After overhead costs, the hope is to squeeze out a $4 to $5 profit.[/quote]

And then there are other distribution channels…

[quote]A producer can also sell a commercial to a distributor, who then can sell the product to a retailer such as Wal-Mart. The per item profits for the producer are smaller, typically up to a $1 commission, but the volume can be massive. In some rare cases, royalties can add up to the millions.[/quote]

THE BUSINESS MODEL

The business model is simple: Find a useful product and add some flavor — better branding and a more effective presentation.

Even though I describe it as simple, it isn’t easy. You need the right product, the right brand, the right presentation, and then the willingness to do the hard work of putting together the distribution. That’s why there aren’t more Vinces selling more Slap Chops.

However, those things are all out there. Good products are being invented all the time. Smart marketers can develop compelling brands. Sales skills can be honed. Distribution channels exist and just need to be contracted.

Don’t expect me to be pushing a clever household product on a 3AM infomercial any time soon but the business model is sound and very compelling.

Aaron Hoos’ weekly reading list: ‘Branding, e-newsletter value, and video marketing’ edition

Aaron Hoos: Weekly reading list

Here are some of the things I’m reading this week…

  • Does the value of e-newsletters diminish over time?. Larry Keltto writes a very interesting blog post about e-newsletters, and then he performs an experiment on his own list to determine the answer. I love that he brings in some real metrics to support his conclusion that (spoiler alert) the newer the subscriber, the more active they are. This is true in other forms of selling as well. The lesson here: Make more offers at the beginning.
  • The ABCs of branding: RCD. Brand Insight Blog delivered a really compelling post about three key components required for a great brand — Relevance, Credibility, and Differentiation. (You know I love writing about differentiation!). What struck me about this post was that each of these components have an attraction quality and a retention quality to them, which means you need to really build an “RCD” brand if you want to effectively attract new customers and keep current ones.
  • Video marketing via Facebook. I have been paying attention to videos, video production, and video marketing because I see it as a key trend that will continue to rise for the near future. But how do you use it effectively? This case study by Marketing Sherpa outlined how one company in Dallas is combining video marketing and social media and saw a 30% increase in the results they were measuring. Impressive!