Fool Me Once Shame On You, Fool Me Twice You Must Be A Double Glazing Salesman

A few years ago I wrote a post on another blog about Celebrity Endorsement. I asked the question, is it better to believe that a particular product is superior to another because someone you admire promotes them, or would you do better to place your trust in an internationally-recognised certification like ISO 9001 to give a better indication of a consistently well-manufactured product?

There’s no doubt that word-of-mouth is a great way of building a reputation. The personal experience of someone you trust, or perceive to be an expert, can be a great recommendation.

Of course, it is important to pick a celebrity we can all trust.

Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong

But it works both ways, how much can the celebrity trust the product or service they have been asked to endorse?

I found an example of poor judgement in an article on the website of At Home Magazine the self-styled “Premier UK celebrity and lifestyle magazine” (not my regular read)

It appears under Sarah Beeny’s name, and is entitled “We’ve survived the recession.” On reading it, and following through with some research, I was pretty disappointed that one of my favourite TV presenters had been taken-in so easily.

Sarah Beeny

Sarah Beeny

The article was an interview with the chairman of a family-run firm in the window industry, the introduction reads, “It’s been a tough time for small businesses of late – we find out how one family-run firm has got through it. Clement Windows has been going for 150 years. Here, Chairman Peter Clement, tells At Home magazine how he has weathered the recent economic downturn and about his plans to crack the American market.”

At the bottom of the article, underneath some adverts, there is a solitary comment from Mr Jeff Pope – “They are con artists. Check the ASA website and you can see that they have been prevented from claiming that they have a history going back 100 years.”

Well, what was I to do but immediately go to the Advertising Standards Authority website to have a look… refers to an adjudication on Clement Holdings Ltd.

The ASA had received a complaint that the Clements website homepage refers to “a history of steel window making dating back over 100 years” and that there was a web page headed “Clements 100 Year Heritage”

The complainant, who believed the company had only been recently established, challenged whether the claim “100 year heritage” and other references to their heritage were misleading.

The company’s response said “their website promoted the four companies within the group, Clement Holdings Ltd (est. 1991), Clement Polska (est. 1999), Clement Windows Ltd (est. 2010) and Clement Windows Projects Ltd (est. 2010). They said that a previous company within the group, Clement Steel Windows Ltd had gone into administration in 2009. They said that a restructured Clement Group had established the two new companies in 2010 and that the group acquired from the administrators of Clement Steel Windows, the general trade of the company and some of the assets.”

The ASA stated “We understood that Clement did not have a continuous trading history over the past 100 years. We also understood that one of the Clement group companies had gone into liquidation in 2009 and that the new companies established in 2010 had not taken on all of Clement Steel Window’s debts and liabilities, and therefore considered it was misleading to trade on Clement Steel Window’s reputation and trading history.

So, what does that all mean?

In short, Clement Steel Windows Ltd did not “survive the recession.”

New companies formed in 2010 acquired the general trade and some assets of the former business. Interesting then, that in April 2010 the demise of Clement Steel Windows seems to have slipped Peter Clement’s mind when he says the company has been “going for 150 years.” Actually, Clement Windows Ltd hadn’t been going for 150 days!!

If his memory is that bad, it’s little wonder that his company went into administration.

Sarah Beeny has allowed her name to be associated with this article, and her endorsement of one of the Clement companies is quoted in the interview.

The warranty-less customers, unpaid suppliers and ex-employees of Clement Steel Windows probably don’t share Sarah’s enthusiasm. What a pity she, or her representatives, didn’t do a simple check.

Perhaps Sarah needs a gentle reminder from Casablanca

I don’t know the details of the Clement Steel Windows case, so can’t make a specific comment, but it jogged my memory that I have always intended to write an article on Phoenix Companies: the scourge of the window industry – watch this space.

Disclosure: I work for Crittall Windows Ltd manufacturers of steel windows and doors, but the opinions expressed here are my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of Crittall Windows Ltd..

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