The image of wideboys with chunky gold jewellery dripping from
their bodies may soon be consigned to its rightful place in stereotype
history, if the pounds 39 million global push by the World Gold Council
to reclaim gold's fashionable image gets its way.
Bartle Bogle Hegarty, which was appointed in January to the task of
halting gold's slide downmarket, has unveiled a campaign positioning
gold as a warm, almost spiritual, experience, far removed from images of
second-hand car dealers and macho men.
However, persuading consumers to take another look at gold will be
tough, and nowhere tougher than in the UK. Gold may have ended the 1970s
as a symbol of prestige, status and wealth, but the era of the yuppie
served to reduce it to a byword for crassness and vulgarity.
"Gold has been tarnished by the 80s and the used-car-salesman image,"
Rosie Arnold, the art director on the account, says. "In the 80s, it was
a symbol of achievement. People started wearing it and it became more
and more ostentatious."
The situation wasn't helped by various products and brands cashing in on
the cheap prestige associated with gold. A spate of credit cards,
breakfast cereals and butter substitutes further distanced the
once-precious metal from its association with taste and style.
Now, with the aid of BBH, The Gold Council is hoping to make gold
synonymous with natural beauty, sensuality and spirituality. The
strategy has changed, and the council is trying to create an
aspirational place where the buyer wants to go. It is hoping to take the
precious metal back to basics by repositioning it as an attitude, rather
than a fashion accessory.
Historically, after all, gold is the original brand with value. It has
been used as a currency for 5,000 years, ever since the Egyptians beat
it into gold leaf. The Incas and Aztecs thought it was pieces of sun
fallen to Earth. "All the civilisations that found gold, revered it. It
became a standard," Arnold says.
To return to this standard, BBH has produced a press campaign that
eschews any cold, black-and-white fashion photography. An eight-page
pullout in Vogue starkly contrasts such uber-cool images with the warmth
radiating from the adjacent full-colour gold ads.
The endline "Glow with gold" sums up the direction BBH wants to
"The warmth thing is a natural truism about the metal," Steve Kershaw,
BBH's group business development director, says, while Arnold adds:
"It's an emotional campaign to remind people how good it can make you
So who buys gold - is it a one-off purchase, a sentimental purchase, or
a fashion statement? "You can't be that specific," Steve Kershaw
It seems it is hard to define a gold-wearer. "Our target audience is the
top end of the triangle," Kershaw says, unsurprisingly. "It's people who
are attitudinally well-educated, affluent, well-travelled and want to
Still, however warm the proposition, there remains the issue of expense
to contend with. And what about alienating the people who make up gold's
existing purchasers? "They already buy it," Arnold responds - she
doesn't believe the softening of its image will deter these purchasers.
"If they look at the ads, they'll identify with people in gold. It's
upbeat and spiritual, and that's where people want to be."