Managing your personal brand: Padma Lakshmi and Carl’s Jr.

In: general

28 Apr 2009

Unlike most foodies, I’m not a huge fan of Top Chef. For no particular reason, really. It’s a fine show, and the concept is something that, in theory, would appeal to me. But I’ve never really been able to get into it. I just don’t seem to enjoy the drama of chefs competing (yes, I’m also looking at you, Hell’s Kitchen.)

However, I am a big fan of Padma Lakshmi. Beside having certain qualities prized by the superficial man, she also seems to exude a certain grace and calm that merges nicely with the atmosphere of a competitive reality show. Also, being attached to the culinary world and having authored two cookbooks herself has given her a sophisticated, exotic and worldly image. She seems like the kind of individual you would want at a dinner party.

All of which leads me to question why she would do a commercial for Carl’s Jr. It seems completely out of line with the personal brand she has created for herself. While the copy and voiceover talks of different tastes and traveling the world, the entire commercial is really based on her looks. The upskirt shots, the cleavage, her hiking her dress up, all just comes across as trashy. I assume there is also supposed to be a bit of comedic irony (see, this classy foodie is wolfing down a burger!) but it just seems wrong.

The last time we saw a sexy commercial from Carl’s Jr., it featured Paris Hilton, a celebrity who has the luxury of not worrying if a commercial will cheapen her image (nowhere to go but up!). But for a celebrity such as Padma, it just seems like a bad move. I’m not suggesting this will in any way ruin her career, but it doesn’t seem to do much to enhance it. And to some, it could be downright offensive.

Brands must be managed and tended to with the greatest of care, whether they are a consumer product or a celebrity’s public persona. Each step along the way should fit into the narrative you’ve created for that brand. While sometimes a big step outside that narrative can be successful, more often than not you run the risk of eroding the image you have worked so hard to establish.

The spot is embedded below. Take a look and judge for yourself.

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Mark Webster

About Mark Webster

One of the Co-Founders of SideTour, former TechStar (NYC Summer 2011), ex-NBA'er, and past TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon Winner.