The star power of the prince and his bi-racial American actress bride prompted consulting firm Brand Finance to estimate a US $ 1.4 billion (GBP 1.03 billion) positive impact on the British economy due to the royal wedding earlier this week. Of this, a GBP 300 million uplift will come due to enhanced tourism in the UK. GBP 300 million is the gain in public-relations value to ‘Brand Britain’ as a result of all the hyper coverage related to the royal wedding. A GBP 250 million up-tick is expected in retail and restaurant sales. The fashion industry is expected to gain GBP 150 million. Last but not the least, merchandising is expected to balloon by GBP 50 million. The royal wedding has surely got cash registers ringing in the UK!
‘Royal-watching’ has historically attracted much of the citizenry in what is now known as Great Britain. But royalty associated events of the recent past have shown that the brand of the British royal family doesn’t belong to Britain alone. Even as the world has seen a marked decline in the number of crowned heads, especially in Europe, since the beginning of the 20th century, Queen Elizabeth II and her family continue to attract worldwide fascination. In 2011, millions of people in 180 countries watched the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. During the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics the following year, 900 million viewers worldwide watched Elizabeth II play herself in a skit delivering secret orders to the British spy James Bond (played by Daniel Craig) before parachuting with him, via stunt double, into the Olympic Stadium. During the late spring of 2012, you would have been hard-pressed to avoid the image of Queen Elizabeth II in London, or for that matter most of the world, as the Queen celebrated her ‘diamond jubilee’, that is 60 years of her being on the British throne. She was literally ubiquitous: photos taken at different stages of her life beamed from souvenir shortbread tins, coffee mugs, tea towels, and miscellaneous tchotchkes were being sold like hot cakes at souvenir shops. Such is the obsession with British royalty that tabloids and online media beam royal missteps and debacles around the world all the time. The Harry-Meghan wedding is therefore a god-sent opportunity for a royalty starved public.
Also read: Harry weds Markle: 1.9 bn people, a third of humanity, watched the wedding
On their part, the British royalty has tried to ‘connect’ itself better with the lay public. In 2005, after the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles in Windsor, many guests in their tails, top hats, and ‘fascinators’ dined at the bistro chain Café Rouge in Windsor & Eton Central train station—at tables alongside more plebeian spectators who had stood behind the barricades, waving as the couple’s limousine sped off. So, the lines are blurring somewhat, but the aura stays.
So extreme is the fascination with British royalty that even when Charles, prince of Wales, and his wife Diana divorced in 1996, and the resulting negative public sentiment led many to assume that the future of the monarchy was tenuous, manufacturers of merchandise responded with commemoratives of that event. One souvenir plate even satirized the divorce by sporting an image of the couple with a large black crack down the center! Reports say sales were brisk.
Back to the Royal Wedding that took place over the weekend. Keeping with Royal Wedding tradition, memorabilia manufacturers have rolled out a slew of Royal Wedding merchandise - from the tasteful to the downright weird. There are wooden spoons, featuring the couple’s heads, jars of British food spread Marmite featuring a ‘Harry’ or ‘Meghan’ label, and, naturally, ‘Crown Jewels’ condoms - with a photograph of the couple on the packaging.
Also read: From chicken to condoms: Marketers cash in on Prince Harry's royal wedding
Under normal circumstances, the British royal family fiercely defends its intellectual property rights. In fact, 1994 trademark legislation protects against “the use of Royal Arms, Royal Devices, Emblems and Title” in “connection with any trade or business” or in a way that suggests the authorization of royal family members. Violating the act is a criminal offence. Likewise, the U.K.’s advertising standards offer specific guidances on using royal symbols in ads. Generally, members of the Royal family should not appear in marketing materials without prior permission. Prince Harry himself, however, agreed to a temporary relaxation of these rules to allow the use of royal photographs and insignia on souvenirs commemorating his engagement and marriage to Markle. That means commemorative goods featuring approved photographs of the couple and Harry’s coat of arms are allowed so long as they’re in “good taste, free from any form of advertisement, and carry no implication of Royal custom or approval.”
A Royal Wedding has its own magic and appeal. The maximal royal swag is visible in the creation of Royal wedding china. Such an event spurs the sales of teacups, saucers, plates, and trays, all made of fine bone china, manufactured by heritage British tableware brands and sold at a steep price. The public are somehow not averse to shelling out US$ 200 for a plate, US$ 49 for a coffee mug, or US$ 67 for a teacup and saucer. One would be right to ask why would shoppers who don’t normally dine with such fancies buy a delicate teacup with Harry and Meghan’s faces on it? It seems this is one category of trinket that actually allows royal fans to feel like they’re getting in on the action. If you can’t live like a royal, at least you can drink like one! Aspects of high-society British lifestyle, like high tea and its accompanying table accessories, have been so romanticized in shows like The Crown, Queen Victoria, and Downton Abbey - to the point that china has become the favorite item of the royal memorabilia. Royal commemoratives of Harry and Meghan are on offer from iconic brands like Dunoon, Emma Bridgewater, Elgate, Royal Crown Derby, Halcyon Days, William Edwards, Hudson & Middleton, Roy Kirkham, Blenheim Co, Milly Green, Herend, and Cath Kidston.
Brands in the US have not really warmed up as much to the Royal Wedding. Some have tried but the excitement is nowhere close to the action happening in London. Hidden Valley Ranch, a brand of salad dressing created an ornate USD 35,000 jewel-encrusted bottle to honour Markle, a “fellow famous American, and remind her of the familiar flavors of her home country as she resides as royalty across the pond”. Strongbow Hard Ciders too is doing its bit to extract value for its brand by associating with the wedding in London. It is tapping into its 125-year British lineage and its coveted royal warrant. The brand is inviting Americans to raise a glass and toast the royal wedding with its new Rosé Apple Hard Cider. Strongbow also created limited edition Royal Rose Teacup Sets in partnership with British designer Stanley Chow.
The euphoria around ‘Markle & Sparkle’ may have peaked over the weekend with the wedding having been solemnized. But the long tail will continue for a few more weeks as the newly-weds are likely to keep the excitement going, especially Meghan. The ‘Meghan Effect’ has kept the fashion industry abuzz over the past few months. Her fashion statements during her honeymoon and in the weeks thereafter as a new Royal, are sure to keep the counters ringing. For the UK, caught in a bearish mood for the past few months due to Brexit, there could not have been a better, and more timely stimulus, than the Harry-Meghan union.
Sandeep Goyal is a marketing and advertising veteran with over 30 years in the business. He is Chairman, Mogae Media. An unabashed fan of the British royalty, he wishes he could've been at Windsor this weekend to witness the Royal Wedding.