"We know every family has treasured festive recipes with rich stories attached to them. So we went in search of them from all around Australia to bring you an entire issue filled with these family recipes and memories." Coles Magazine
I don't think the Coles Magazine is out yet in their stores, but I downloaded a copy from the web - you just click on the download PDF link or else just peruse the magazine there. I shall be looking out for the paper copy though because there were a couple of recipes in there that I thought worth looking at. I'm just old fashioned - it's so much easier to flick through a magazine than scroll through pages on the computer.
When I opened my digital copy I was at first somewhat disappointed to find that this is an edition whose recipes come entirely from ordinary people from all over Australia - Curtis Stone and the Coles 'expert' contributors have been given a month off. In fact I almost put it in the virtual bin without exploring any further. Well deep down I think I'm a bit of a food snob and generally tend to ignore ordinary people like me and their recipes whether it's on paper or on the net. I always look for the 'names' first - and my very limited range of favourite names at that. And besides I knew there would be all that heart-warming stuff about how wonderful all we ordinary people are, how varied our traditions, etc. Cosy, cosy, cosy.
A few days later, with nothing to do and completely uninispired with respect to this blog - apologies - the last few days have seen an empty brain for me - yes a few days later I had another look, and found that I was a little bit right - well quite a bit right - and a little bit wrong -yes quite a bit wrong there too. Besides, coupled with the current Coles Christmas ad, it was an interesting marketing exercise, so here we are.
The two pages at the top of this post are at the beginning of the magazine - after the introductory page and several pages of ads. And let me say, there are a lot of pages of ads sprinkled throughout the magazine. Some are from Coles themselves covering the whole range of their customer base - from the more gourmet - with their 'Finest' range - note I do not say 'healthy' to the fast food addicts
So whilst we are on the subject of ads - what about that Christmas ad? If you haven't seen it you can see it here:
Marketing is huge for an organisation such as Coles. I tried to discover who was in charge of the whole marketing thing there and I think it's this lady - Lisa Ronson - whose title seems to be General Marketing Manager. Mind you when I checked the credits for the video there were a whole lot of other people there with similar titles. Obviously Marketing itself is a huge department of the company. As it is for any company I might say. Brand is all. For Coles this Christmas that brand seems to be quality and value as it's part of its umbrella campaign "Value the Australian Way." According to their General Manager, Brand, Digital and Design, Samantha McLeod (another lady - it's truly impressive how many high up positions in companies are occupied by women these days):
“So we wanted to make sure that one, we were representing what an Aussie Christmas is and looks like so people could see themselves in there, and we wanted something that delivers a little bit of joy and festivity.
“And then we also wanted to really importantly, reassure our customers that we are going to offer great value solutions and make sure Christmas is affordable because everyone’s really been looking forward to Christmas and we want to make sure that they can have that.” Sam McLeod - General Manager, Brand, Digital and Design
As you can see from the above stills from the ad, the journey is from family gatherings on Christmas Day, out into the streets, the country and the beach - from Christmas into summer as a whole, concluding with Christmas again in the home with Curtis Stone - Coles brand ambassador and representing the quality of their stuff. Well he is a Michelin Starred chef, as well as being very Aussie. A caricature of Aussie almost. Even though he lives and works in America.
In fact the advertising agency who created the ad, (DDB) said of this ad that they actually wanted it to be a little bit weird for anyone who is not Australian.
“We really wanted to create that scale of the opportunity, but in a really distinctly Australian way, filled with insights that belong here. Not in the Christmas land that you often see on TV. That just doesn’t speak to our audience.” James Cowie, Creative Director DDB
I actually think it's a great ad from a filmic point of view. It looks gorgeous and it does manage to convey all those messages, of togetherness, multiculturalism, the beauty of Australia, family, summer - yes all of that. It's a pretty good portrait of an Australian Christmas.
There is even a nod in the magazine to those who do not have the wherewithal to enjoy that kind of Christmas, with their regular 'Local hero' section whereby individuals who do good things are nominated and given publicity. This time it is the turn of a Sydney lady called Sarah Morris who provides food and other things to the needy and who is preparing Christmas hampers for them. Of course projects such as these, and Coles promotes all of them (there are many} in their magazines are there to improve their image. Yes of course it has an ulterior motive - telling the world they are the good guys, but the fact is that they do give money to various worthwhile projects, take a lead in sustainability, promote other people's good works ... so why should we complain?
But back to the initial impulse of this post - a look at what 'ordinary' people cook at Christmas. The creators of the recipes in this magazine are taken from the Coles Cooking Club a Facebook group with 72,500 or so members. Within this group you can exchange ideas with other 'ordinary' people, and also get advice from Coles 'experts' who are on hand all over the Christmas period. One member is always featured in their magazine with a recipe. This one has 32. I have no idea how they were chosen. Presumably within the Cooking Club there was a call for recipes and stories and all the magazines lower level staff sifted through them, passing a 'long list' to the bosses. It must have been quite an exercise. Or maybe they just picked at random. In a way that would have been both fairer and more interesting - well maybe not. I guess the danger is that you would have picked a whole lot of duds. Although I suppose if you did you would have just dropped them and picked another. Who knows. And I'm sure they aren't telling. All they say is that it was a 'challenge'.
I have to say that on the whole the recipes are as good as in any issue of the magazine - i.e. there are a few that I might try, a few that are sort of Ok but not for me and some that are really not much at all. It must have been great for the chosen 32 - their food would have been photographed and styled by the Coles commissioned professionals, and the photo shoots of the 'parties' manage to make them look real. Surely they weren't? I wonder if they were paid, or whether it was all just done for the glory?
So a few chosen recipes - alas they do not seem to be online as yet. Maybe this is because the magazine itself is not yet available. Well when I say they are not online I'm not quite correct because the magazine is online - so just check it out there if you are interested.
Anyway here are my picks: Christmas ham with plum glaze; Marinated olives with pomegranate; Caramelised tomato with burrata; Baked Persian-style orange chicken roast; Jewelled rice and an interesting Indonesian cake called Spekkenkoek.
Of course my choice is not necessarily going to be anyone else's choice. But I shall definitely be trying that chicken some time - together with the rice - they came from the same lady. There were about three or four families who got special treatment with more than one recipe - well they probably were the best ones but lots, and lots of other things from other people. We've probably all got at least one thing worth passing on.
All in all I thought it an interesting venture on the part of Coles marketing machine. Designed to give you the warm and fuzzies and rush off to Coles in support. Of course they do bad things as well - but you have to say they contribute a lot to the economy of the country - think of all the jobs associated with their enterprise, thousands directly and many more thousands indirectly. But just to show I'm not biased - and I'm not - well I suppose I can confess to a slight preference for Coles over Woolworths and Aldi but we patronise them all - to show I'm not biased - I'll look at Woolworths next time and Aldi too. Their Christmas campaigns that is.
"more Aussies are looking forward to being together this year than the same time last year and half of those surveyed are excited about sharing a special meal." Coles survey of more than 10,000 customers
And I didn't mention their Christmas crackers from recycled paper, etc. etc. They make sure to tell you though.