Our Foodie Friday Fun this week isn’t directly about food
at all but about one of the most entertaining people ever to prepare it. That would be Julia Child, about whom I’ve expressed my admiration before. I’m not sure if you’re following what is going on with her estate and the Thermador people but it instructive on a number of levels.
Let me say at the outset that I own a Thermador oven. Two of them, in fact, and I’m quite happy with them, so there’s no axe to grind against the company. That said, they’re behaving badly. You see, they’ve been using the fact that Julia Child had a Thermador ovens in her home and TV kitchens as the basis for an implied endorsement. So much so that magazine ads that showed photos of Julia and two of the brand’s ovens with the caption, “An American Icon and Her American Icons.”
Well, you say, sounds like a typical celebrity endorsement. As we all know the notion is that people who like the celebrity will like the product the celebrity likes too. There’s only problem. Julia Child NEVER endorsed products. Nothing. She always felt she was a teacher, and anything that wasn’t of the highest quality could undermine her reputation. The foundation that owns her intellectual property has sued since they were never approached in advance of the use and turned down a license when they were since they won’t license her name or image for endorsements. Pretty straightforward so far.
Here is what’s interesting. Thermador is claiming it’s not an endorsement. As the L.A. Times reported, they:
filed a suit in Boston on Friday asking a federal judge to make a legal declaration that they had the right to use Child’s connection to the brand in its marketing materials. In its complaint, BSH’s lawyers wrote that the company’s use of Child’s photo and name “do not state or imply any endorsement” but “reflect on the long history, significance and influence of Thermador products on American society and culture.”
Right. It’s a statement of fact. So if an athlete is photographed drinking a Coke, it’s fine if Coke uses that statement of fact in an ad. I don’t think so. More importantly, to those of us who admire Julia, this is having exactly the opposite effect as an endorsement. You can’t force people to endorse your products, you can’t use their likeness without permission, and you can’t rationalize your way into it being OK. This is a good lesson on why bad behavior seldom works out in business. I can’t imagine anyone who has ever done anything in marketing wouldn’t have known that this is wrong.
Thermador, I use your products and like them – feel free to use that endorsement. But stop behaving badly, please. You’re better than this, or at least your ovens are.