If you’ve been online or caught some late-night TV in the past, oh, 36 months or so, you’ve no doubt noticed all those advertisers talking about gold—outfits that either want to buy yours or sell you theirs. And why not? With billions in investments having vanished from the stock market, a shrunken U.S. dollar and nagging fears of inflation, gold remains the one commodity whose value is so unassailable as to be nearly sacrosanct. The ounce of gold that cost 300 bucks at the turn of the millennium now goes for $1,456. Between 1999 and 2009, gold’s value grew by 238 percent. Show us a mortgage-backed security that’s done that.
But gold’s popularity has, quietly and steadily, produced a curious secondary effect: Its renewed cachet has influenced the branding world, too. Recently, a glittering array of marketing efforts have been using gold (as both symbol and product) to turn the heads of fickle consumers—from Continental Mobiles selling gold-plated iPhones to limited-edition gold bottles of Coke inspired by the band Daft Punk. “Gold’s resurgence in the marketing world could stem from causes deeper than its recent spike in financial value,” adds business futurist Faith Popcorn. “In this time of terror, financial collapse, global warming and shrinking resources, we anchor ourselves in the traditions and symbols of the past. We crave the stability that gold represents.” And, as this sampling of marketing efforts shows, gold has also come to represent an awful lot of stuff we can buy.
To celebrate its 18th anniversary and spotlight farm-fresh ingredients, Chipotle is currently wrapping its burritos in gold—well, gold-colored foil. “The foil was actually a little difficult to obtain,” communications director Chris Arnold says, “but it’s a way to get people’s attention.” The company hopes to sell 35 million gold-wrapped tortillas before the promo ends in June.
One of many companies that asks consumers to send in their unwanted gold for cash, Gold Promise needed a celebrity endorser with a solid-gold reputation. “It didn’t take a genius to think of Mr. T,” says company president Keith Weinberger, which signed T late last year—and has enjoyed 17 million media impressions since. “Mr. T. doesn’t wear as many chains as he did in the ‘80s,” Weinberger adds, “but gold is part of his persona, and he gets that.” So, apparently, do consumers.
Just what the thirsty world was waiting for: Gize is the first mineral water to be filtered through gold. “It results in a deluxe water with an unmistakable flavor,” says a rep for the Canadian brand. “Gold has a fascinating effect on our customers.” Like, say, a willingness to drop $7 on a 200-ml bottle of H2O.
The 50-year-old Franklin Mint is better known for collectible dolls than this 2.2-pound Taj Mahal gold coin with 68 Cartier diamonds (it’s $160,000, but they’ll toss in the $12,000 Goyard case gratis.) So, how are sales? “The public response has been tremendous,” says a spokesperson. (The Mint sells a 1-ounce version of the coin for $3,299, just in case you don’t have the money of a Maharajah.)
When Gold to Go unveiled the world’s first gold vending machine in the United Arab Emirates last summer, the marketing folks at Las Vegas’ Golden Nugget casino knew they had to have one, too. Installed in January, the 992-pound machine sells 10 types of gold, from $60 bricks to $1,400 coins. According to vp of player relations Gerry Del Prete, “The machine has exceeded everybody’s expectations”—both as a tourist draw and as a revenue source. “Sometimes we refill the thing several times a week,” he added.