By Katie Craig, planner, Publicis Dialog
Unless you’ve been hiding in a remote log cabin for the past few months, you’ll probably have clocked the media splash created by Prince William and Kate Middleton’s impending nuptials. Just twenty-four hours after the happy couple announced their engagement, publications such as Hello! and the Daily Mirror had already rolled out their ready-in-waiting special editions to mark the occasion. Meanwhile, the web was alive with chatter about this seeming gift to the marketing and media world.
So, with the big day now just four weeks away, how easy is it for marketers and brands to benefit from the wedding and extended weekend? A report from Verdict Research predicts that the wedding could inject as much as £620m into the retail sector, and, that sales of commemorative merchandise alone could be worth up to £44m.
Good news then for purveyors of traditional china and giftware, who are no doubt gearing up to emblazon the smiling faces of Wills and Kate on an impressive array of kitsch collectables. But how can marketers take advantage of the royal wedding beyond the predictable range of engagement-related memorabilia?
One thing’s for certain, times have changed since the jubilant public took to the streets for Prince Charles’ 1981 fairytale wedding to the teenage Diana. Now brands and agencies will have to work harder and be more innovative in their approach if they want to harness the public interest and achieve an uplift in awareness and sales. Creative thinking, forward planning, plus the ability to judge the public mood and swing into action at a moment’s notice are vital for those hoping to jump on this most regal of bandwagons.
With Kate-related tweets already trending on Twitter and extensive live media coverage on the day itself, the wedding promises to be a huge talking point online. The potential for brands to join or instigate online discussions or digital activity around the wedding is enormous. Themed competitions, promotions and online games are sure to prove a hit amongst consumers. How about challenging wedding-obsessed fans to ‘Design your own virtual royal wedding’? Or launching a competition to find couples to take part in an open-air mass wedding on the same day (er, hello T-mobile’s ‘Life’s for Sharing’)?
The travel and tourism industries will be some of the first to reap the rewards. VisitBritain has predicted an extra 300,000 visitors will travel to London for the wedding. Special holiday packages for the wedding weekend, plus royal-themed exhibitions and events will draw in tourists seeking out all things monarchy-related. Meanwhile, helping visitors plan their trip - what to see, where to eat, the best place to stand for the procession – could provide the perfect chance for technologically-savvy brands to create location-based mobile apps for visitors to use in the capital.
Experiential or event marketers will also be able to benefit from the carnival atmosphere in the run-up to the wedding. Branded street parties and outdoor stalls will be effective in engaging people in the out of home environment. Equally, by giving away branded samples or freebies, marketers can take advantage of crowds gathering in central London and other outdoor spaces, which aim to screen the event live.
In fact, marketers should be aware that broadcast sponsorship is likely to be one of the greatest opportunities arising from the wedding. ITV has predicted its advertising will receive a 20% boost in April as a direct result of the wedding and the broadcasting industry has claimed that many grocery and retail brands (particularly heritage brands such as Marks & Spencer, John Lewis… the list goes on) will be prompted to advertise during the four-day celebratory window. So get your media plans at the ready.
Another opportunity within the reach of marketers is Kate Middleton herself. The princess-in-waiting, if not quite yet a fashion muse, is all set to become the darling of the fashion media. It is telling that the blue Issa dress that Kate wore for the official announcement of her engagement sold out within hours and inspired a Tesco version, which had similarly dramatic sales figures. Whether channelling her chic image or taking a more playful approach, tapping into the ‘Kate’ brand in a relevant way will boost sales for clothing and beauty brands.
For advertisers willing to risk incurring the wrath of both royalists and the Advertising Standards Authority, the potential for some tongue-in-cheek tactical advertising will probably prove too much to resist. A quick-off-the-mark press ad by Ryanair featured a doctored photo of Kate at Will’s side, accompanied by a speech bubble proclaiming ‘Glad he’s booking with Ryanair’ and the headline ‘Honeymoon Specials’. And no doubt this is just the start.
Yet, while it’s up to marketers to determine whether full anti-royal mockery or light lampooning will be popular with their customers, it is certainly true that there are marketing opportunities to be exploited by recognising that not all the public is thrilled by the prospect of the wedding.
Skilful marketers have a lot to gain. Indeed I have a feeling that we Brits are probably less cynical about it than we like to pretend. The sceptics may well find themselves glued to the TV and indulging in some light flag-waving on the day just like the rest of us.
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