By Lucy Meadmore, Account Manager, Clarion Communications
Just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past six months, there’s a Royal Wedding happening this year. Actually there’s more than one, as two of the Queen’s grandchildren are getting married within a few months of each other – and while the second one, between Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall, has slipped by relatively unnoticed, the first one, the important one, has become a major headline grabbing, money spinning, international news phenomenon.
The reason for this might have something to do with the fact that the first wedding is between Prince William and his girlfriend Catherine Middleton – an event that the world’s press have been salivating over since his first year at St Andrew’s University, when he watched her walk down the catwalk at a fashion show and thought she was ‘fit’.
The interest in the Royal Wedding does not limit itself to eager journalists: companies, from massive brands to independent shops, have been biding their time and quietly planning their assault on how to effectively ride on the morning coat tails of the happy occasion in order to capitalise from it as effectively as possible. Finally, on Tuesday November 16th 2010, their patience paid off and the engagement between Wills and Kate was announced.
As second in line to the throne, William was never going to get away with marrying his long-term love unscathed. However, I think that even he would have been unprepared for the levels at which brands and retailers were prepared to go. When his parents married in the pre-internet days of 1981, merchandising and wedding memorabilia was limited to stamps, tea towels, plates and mugs…all ordered from the back page of the Radio Times.
In 2011 it’s slightly different. Within hours of the engagement announcement Asda already had commemorative William and Catherine mugs and plates adoring its shelves, stacked neatly beside piles of paper plates and napkins for anyone wanting to throw a Royal Wedding party. Other supermarkets followed suit by helping shoppers plan their parties for the special day – and soon bunting was flowing down the aisles of Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Tesco. Waitrose, which also holds a Royal Warrant, was one of the first to bring out Royal Wedding-themed food with Heston Blumenthal’s Royal Wedding Trifle (not forgetting the Royal Bride and Groom gingerbread).
And merchandising off the back of the Royal Wedding didn’t limit itself to supermarkets: businesses and brands from the local corner shop to the ubiquitous Cath Kidston have all been trying to outdo one another (with the help of their savvy PRs) as they bring out one more Royal Wedding cushion or key ring…and there’s something for everyone too. If you’re planning on lining the streets during the big day, designer Anya Hindmarch is selling a Royal Wedding kit complete with a W&K Forever tattoo, heart shaped confetti and a Union Jack flag all neatly packaged in an exclusive Royal Wedding tote bag. Fancy a cup of tea? Then use one of Liberty’s William and Kate tea bags. Want to smell like the Royal Wedding? You can with Floris’ London Wedding Bouquet scent. Need some new shoes for a Royal Wedding party? Buy French Sole’s Crown nubuck flats and if it rains on the big day Marks & Spencer is selling a Catherine and William umbrella just so you don’t get wet while standing outside Westminster Abbey.
At Clarion we’ve taken the view for clients that, with so many brands looking to jump onboard the Royal Wedding bandwagon, there’s little to be gained from a PR perspective except perhaps a scathing remark from Harry Wallop via Twitter after he’s received yet another Royal Wedding press release. However, while some products should be carefully avoided, like the William and Catherine bed sheets and sex toys (yes, really), all this merchandising can only have a positive effect on the British economy. The UK is slowly coming out of a recession and this Royal Wedding is kick-starting a big few years’ of events including the 2012 Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – which combined are likely to bring in an extra £750m through tourism alone. This is not to be sniffed at and as such should be seen as a happy occasion.
Nothing brings people together like a wedding, so I say embrace the tat and charge your Union Jack glasses. To William and Catherine.